BEVERLY — Holly Simon plans to get the title of her new book tattooed under her breast in the coming months.
The words "I Am Who I Am" are more than just a book title for Simon. The Beverly breast cancer survivor and advocate for the disabled has lived by this motto for since her son, Nate, was born on Nov. 26, 2003.
Her self-published book debuted Thursday and details Simon's life before and after Nate Simon arrived into the world with Down syndrome. It also takes readers along on Simon's recent journey that includes diagnosis, treatment and recovery from Stage II breast cancer.
"Life has thrown me a ton of curveballs," said Simon, who will sign copies of her book from 7-10 p.m. April 2 at O'Rourke's Office, 11064 S. Western Ave. in Morgan Park.
Simon started a foundation named I am who I am in January 2012. The charity was created in response to the way doctors and nurses reacted to Nate's birth. Rather than applaud the newborn and his mother, most hospital staff apologized to Simon for her son's condition.
Lost forever was the chance to celebrate the new baby — the fifth and final child for Simon and her husband Dan, who works as a lieutenant in the Chicago Police Department.
"'He might not amount to much' is the most common thing you hear," she said, adding that the infectious love she would receive from her son was never mentioned early on.
Simon began writing about her experiences with Nate as well as being a South Side mom in her blog called Glitter on the Side. The posts served as a launching pad for her book that took about five years to come together.
For the blogger, the posts proved cathartic, but Simon soon learned her audience found inspiration in her blog. One fervent reader suggested that Simon write a book and offered to financially back the project.
"He was the first person who taught me that words can truly change the trajectory of your life," Simon said of her anonymous supporter.
She had finished the book in summer 2014 but put the project on hold after she was diagnosed with breast cancer that June. She underwent a double mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation.
"It was awful, but I wrote through it," she said, later adding that the experience made her a stronger person and more ardent advocate for children who are born different.
That said, Simon said some of the funniest passages of the book involve Nate. A born comedian, her son is fascinated by "Saturday Night Live" skits, which he often replays for anyone who will listen.
This includes the "Col. Angus" skit, which can be more than a bit embarrassing for his mother, who is confident her teenage son doesn't fully grasp the humor within the words.
"His rawness is sometimes beautiful," Simon said.
With her book now available online through Lulu.com ($20), Simon said she hopes it leads to more public speaking engagements. She is often asked to address elementary school students and others about the importance of inclusion.
In fact, Simon plans to celebrate her upcoming birthday in Downstate Pontiac, giving such a presentation to 800 students.
"There is no place I'd rather be on my birthday than to send this message to these kids," she said.
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