Thursday, October 01, 2009

Between Me and the River

Between Me and the River
Living Beyond Cancer: A Memoir
By Carrie Host
Publisher: Harlequin
Published: 2009 (Hardcover)
ISBN-13: 9780373892143
304 pages

Page 26: One moment you are spiraling down, sure that you are utterly alone, and then circumstances reveal that you are not. This is where hope comes and puts an arm around you.

This is exactly how the book made me feel as I read the story of Carrie Host, a mother of three, who was diagnosed with carcinoid cancer in Halloween 2003. Her tender story carries the message that not all is lost, but the fear is real. She is supported by her family, her friends, and the doctors who had all helped her go through that dark period of her life. Her husband is an extraordinarily loving and patient man who stood right by her side every step of the way; did so much without falling apart, caring for his family and business.

The author (second from right) with her husband and three children

Carrie’s book absorbs us into her story effortlessly. It reads like she is talking to a friend. In the opening chapter, she describes how the news of her cancer was conveyed to her and how she reacted to it, wishing it was not true. I felt for her, I truly do. She immediately thought about her family and loved ones. As the author puts it, "It [Cancer] is a catastrophic hit with all sorts of details and with invisible pain and trauma that are known only to you."

Carrie first felt pain in October 2003. It was a mysterious stomach ache that appeared suddenly and then vanished just as fast without a trace.

She describes her pain as,

Pain that is so forceful it has me holding on to the furniture, panting and grunting like a woman in labor. Pain that leaves me worn out and beaten, sure that pain cannot possibly be worse. Pain that has most doctors looking at me as if I need to have my head examined.

The excruciating pain had her admitted into the hospital. Various tests were executed to determine the cause of pain. She was suspected of having Crohn’s disease but she doubted it and true enough, test results came back negative, so what could be the problem? She even had her appendix removed but still… Then her husband broke the news to her: CANCER. She felt that a rushing river had swallowed her, spitted her out, crushed her. These seven words from one of her general medicine reference books became her lifeboat: "some people fully recover after surgical treatment".

Carrie not only shares with us her harrowing experience with cancer but also on finding the best medical team (in Fortune Cookie), what to tell the children (in Frozen), and imparts spiritual lessons. The chapter Fear had me in tears because this is when she went to all the bedrooms of her children the night before she headed off for her tumor removing surgery, peeking in, looking at them and wondered if that would be the last time she will ever see them again.

Another chapter that got me thinking is Friendship and the Map. It makes me think what if I am the one struck with cancer? Would I have friends who genuinely care for me? Will we still spend time together like what Carrie wrote: "...friends that you access a camaraderie that can only be gained in the trenches"? Would I be a genuine friend if cancer happens to my friend? It is thought provoking.

All I can say is do not miss this book. It is a powerful story with a powerful message. Hope is a powerful thing.

In the spirit of Carrie's story, I would also like to share something meaningful that I gathered from another reading material: What Cancer Cannot Do,

It cannot cripple love
It cannot shatter hope
It cannot corrode faith
It cannot destroy peace
It cannot kill friendship
It cannot suppress memories
It cannot silence courage
It cannot invade the soul
It cannot steal eternal life
It cannot conquer the spirit.
- Author unknown

Acknowledgment: I would like to thank Lisa Roe of Online Publicist for sending me a copy of Between Me and the River.

Important: Please join me tomorrow in welcoming Carrie to my blog as she talks about books that matter to her. Don't miss it!