Beaufort author Pat Conroy, who brought the Lowcountry to life with the lyricism of his best-selling novels, has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, he announced on his Facebook page Monday.
The 70-year-old writer will receive treatment at MD Anderson Cancer Center and plans to continue work on his next book.
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“I intend to fight it hard,” Conroy posted. “...I am grateful to all my beloved readers, my friends and my family for their prayers. I owe you a novel and I intend to deliver it.”
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Attempts to reach Conroy were unsuccessful Monday. His personal executive assistant, Maggie Schein, declined comment.
“The Conroy family asks for privacy at this time as Pat fights this challenging illness with the same spirit of courage that has forged his writing career,” Conroy’s publisher, Doubleday, said in a statement. “Pat and his family are enormously grateful to all of his readers for their prayers and good wishes.”
Conroy’s novels depict his adopted hometown and his troubled family life. Among his books that have been made into movies were “The Great Santini” and “The Prince of Tides.”
Conroy had recently embraced a more healthy lifestyle after 40 years “becoming an expert on how to be unhealthy,” he told The Beaufort Gazette and The Island Packet last year. He quit drinking, opened a fitness studio in Port Royal and adheres to a diet set by a nutritionist.
The changes followed warnings from Conroy’s doctor when the writer, by his account, was near death three years ago.
“I’m doing it because there are four or five books I’d like to write before I meet with Jesus of Nazareth — as my mother promised me — on the day of my untimely death, or reconcile myself to a long stretch of nothingness as my non-believing friends insist,” Conroy wrote on his website last year.
At an event at USCB Center for the Arts last year on Mother’s Day, Conroy told the audience that one of his earliest memories was watching from his high chair as his father, Donald, beat his mother, Peggy. It was his mother who later told Conroy she was raising him to be a southern writer.
"I worshiped my mom so much, so that's what I did," Conroy said.
Conroy celebrated his 70th birthday in October. The occasion was part of a weekend-long literary festival in Beaufort.
Among the presenters was Katherine Clark, who collaborated with Conroy on a forthcoming oral biography, and Catherine Seltzer, who wrote “Understanding Pat Conroy” and is working on a Conroy biography of her own.
Conroy is editor-at-large of Story River Books, a University of South Carolina Press imprint publishing southern fiction. Beaufort is central to Conroy’s body of work, USC Press director Jonathan Haupt told The Beaufort Gazette and The Island Packet last year.
"I think of it as his literary muse," Haupt said. "It's not just his home. It's been his inspiration for everything he has done since."
On Facebook Monday, Conroy didn’t offer a prognosis for the disease.
“...I’ve spent my whole writing life trying to find out who I am and I don’t believe I’ve even come close,” Conroy wrote of a revelation he had on his birthday last year. “It was in Beaufort in sight of a river’s sinuous turn, and the movements of its dolphin-proud tides that I began to discover myself and where my life began at fifteen.”