Brian Doyle diagnosed with brain cancer

By Malika Andrews | November 21, 2016 9:04am

Brian Doyle, longtime editor of UP’s Portland Magazine and acclaimed novelist and essayist, will undergo surgery for a cancerous brain tumor Wednesday.

“This is really bad so the surgery is to try to reduce it,” Doyle told The Beacon Sunday night. “And then probably chemo, but there is no healing. But if all goes well, I could get a year or maybe even two. They can’t delete it or fix it or cure it. The doctor thinks that if he can reduce it and shoot chemo at it, then it may be suppressed for long enough for a few more years of reading and writing and being with my wife and kids.”

The tumor is in the back right of Doyle’s brain. He says this is “good news” because doctors told Doyle that it “hopefully” would not affect his reading, writing and speech.

Doyle, 60, found out about the tumor last Tuesday. He had experienced severe headaches for several months and initially was treated for a migraine, but when symptoms did not subside, he went in for a scan that revealed the mass.

“I’m actually not afraid (of surgery),” Doyle said. “The thing I’m really upset about is that I don’t think I will be able to take care of my wife and children. That’s what is really scary. I’m not really going to be able to work anymore and that’s too bad because I love the University of Portland magazine, I really do.”

Doyle is known far beyond campus as a passionate and prolific storyteller. A San Francisco Chronicle review of his first novel, “Mink River,” (2010) said “his narrative ricochets with a wondrous blending of the real and magical.”

A nine-time nominee of the Oregon Book Award, Doyle won this year for his young adult novel “Martin Marten.” His essays and poems have been published in The Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s, Orion, Commonweal, the Times of London, the annual Best American Essays, Best American Science and Nature Writing and Best American Spiritual Writing anthologies, among others.

His most recent book, “The Kind of Brave You Wanted to Be,” was published Oct. 1.

Less publicly but no less profoundly, Doyle has been a mentor and champion of students who have crossed his path at UP over the years, especially members of The Beacon staff.

Doyle said he knows people are praying for him and he has received hundreds of supportive emails and phone calls. What he really wants is for people to keep laughing.

“I’ll hear all laughter,” Doyle said. “Be tender to each other. Be more tender than you were yesterday, that’s what I would like. You want to help me? Be tender and laugh.”

The University is not currently looking to fill Doyle's position.

Correction: an earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Fr. Ed Obermiller will be overseeing Doyle's former responsibilities.