Former Norwin teacher opens up about his new book

| Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014, 6:36 p.m.

After Joseph Belan's wife, Sharon, died after a lengthy battle with ovarian cancer, he started writing a book that was to help guide others seeking treatment for the disease.

But the former Norwin High School teacher ended up with what he can best describe as a story of love and inspiration.

“She fought cancer from 2003 until her death in 2009 at age 61,” said Belan, 73, of Erie. “And throughout the process I wrote down everything she was going through — from the symptoms she experienced to the many hospitals we traveled to around the country for treatment.”

Belan, who taught health and physical education at Norwin for 19 years beginning in 1968, recently signed copies of his book “U R Here Always” at the Norwin Public Library.

Belan said he came up with the idea of writing a book about his wife's experience as a way to help grieve “and maybe help others who were going through what she did.”

But the book's concept changed as he began chronicling the couple's experiences.

“When I started writing the book, it was so drab and droll,” he said. “That's when I realized that the story I really needed to be telling was about her energy, the wonderful person she was and how inspirational she could be to others as she faced death.”

Belan first met Sharon, an Erie native, at a leadership conference they both attended in Gettysburg in 1995.

But they did not keep in touch after that first encounter.

“About two years after that, I went up to Erie to play in a golf outing, and to my surprise, I saw this familiar face,” Belan said. “Neither of us had any idea that we would both be at the same event. We started seeing each other and got married in 1999.”

After Belan scrapped his initial idea for the book and thought about chronicling his wife's “courage and spirit” and their relationship, he still was unsure whether he could put such personal experiences into words.

“I had about a 100 to 150 pages written that I gave to some trusted friends to read,” Belan said. “And they told me that I not only had to continue writing it, I needed to find a way to get it published for others to read.”

Belan's book is available through the website.

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