Saturday, January 21, 2012

"The Nurse Stalker" and My Favorite Cancer Related Book

Between Me and the River: A Memoir
2 Great Ladies:  Author Carrie Host and the fabulous president of the SWOH, Susan Rousselle 

A few years ago my boss got a couple of books in the mail.  She took a copy and gave me a copy to read to see if it was any good.  It was a book written by a carcinoid cancer survivor.  I took it to my summer cottage in Maine to read over the weekend.  

Now just because I love my job and love my patients and am usually always interested in reading about cancer related things, on my weekends sometimes I just want to read a good trashy book!!  So on Saturday I spent the day in my hammock and read a trashy book.  On Sunday afternoon I went to my hammock and said (without a lot of enthusiasm), "okay I guess I had better check this out".  A few hours later I had devoured what would become my favorite "cancer related book".  This book just hit me and grabbed my heart and I could not stop thinking about it on my entire 2 hr drive back to MA.

When I got home around 11 p.m.,  I plunked myself down and wrote an email to some PR contact person at Harlequin Books whose name was on the back cover (uh-oh, yes I know what you are thinking, but it is not like that!!) telling her how much the book had touched me and what an important book I thought it was for cancer patients and their families.  My eyeballs were still stinging from weeping uncontrollably in the hammock earlier in the day.  

By the time I reached work the next morning, I had received a perfunctory email from the Harlequin rep thanking me for my email. About 2 minutes later I received an email from the author telling me that my email had made HER weep because she could tell that I "got it" and that she was thrilled that her words had made such an impact on me.

That author is Carrie Host and she is one amazing lady and such a talented writer.  I have met her a few times and became her "nurse stalker"; sending her suggestions about where she should advertise this book to cancer survivors yada yada yada.

My fabulous Ovarian Cancer Support Group members and I started posting about her book on the CURE magazine website, and their editor wrote to us and told us that based on our comments she had read the book and planned to review it in CURE magazine which she did.

A few years have passed and Carrie has graciously come to the hospital where I work to speak with our cancer survivors.  Our group also met up with her and her great husband when she was the keynote speaker at The Stowe Weekend of Hope.

I haven't emailed Carrie in awhile now (a big relief for her I'm sure!!) but whenever I get the chance I suggest this amazing book to patients who I think can handle it.  Some newly diagnosed folks should not read it at the beginning of the journey because Carrie gets pretty sick in the book and it could be too scary.

My recommendation?  Family members and friends should read this book first.  It will help them empathize with the cancer patient and they may be a better gauge of whether the patient is ready to read it or not. 

Here's a brief excerpt followed by the review I wrote about it a few years ago for

"Cancer is like that.  It takes us down to our final moments, then lets us come back, to look at our lives again.  Our will to live is what we have. That will to live is ours to hold on to, so hold on.  Hold on tight.  Cancer develops character in us, the type of character which cannot be had by ease and good fortune.  We learn that love is stronger than fear.  We learn, once again, that we have to be torn down before we can be rebuilt".

5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing Lesson in How to Value Life and a Beautiful Love StoryJuly 22, 2009
This review is from: Between Me and the River (Hardcover)
I am an oncology nurse and this is simply the best book about surviving, coping and recovering from cancer that I have ever read. 

This book is so beautifully written and so amazingly accurate and insightful. I wept throughout the whole thing. It covers so many of the emotions that my patients have expressed to me over the years, and it is exactly how I know I would feel if I were in the author's shoes. It is outstanding. 

I have read so many cancer books with the hope of finding the perfect book to give to my patients, but always find them lacking something. This book is perfect. I loved the "summary" of the lesson learned at the end of most of the chapters. I have read excerpts from this book to two of my support groups this week to promote discussion and it has already touched the cancer survivors in those groups. 

I can only imagine the impact that this book will not only have on cancer survivors and their families, but also on oncology nurses and doctors who read it. This is a must read for any oncology nurse who truly wants to empathize with his/her patients, and all medical students need to be forced to read it to remind them of the emotional toll the cancer journey takes on someone, and to remind them that they are dealing with human beings and not just a cancer "diagnosis". 

This book truly touched me. The part where she describes looking in on her children while they slept before she heads to The Mayo Clinic, not knowing if she would see them again, made me sob. The way she wrote about her baby, her amazing husband, sisters...unbelievably beautiful and loving. The part about her mother wishing she could take her daughter's cancer from her and the whole mother daughter bond....heart wrenching. So perfectly accurate the way she describes the friends who stay and the friends who don't. I can't tell you how many times I have heard this and have seen this when working with cancer patients/survivors. A perfect description of the overwhelming fatigue that cancer survivors feel. 

I have no doubt that this book will be hugely successful and if Oprah doesn't pick it for her book club she is insane. But the most important legacy that it will have is with the thousands of cancer survivors who will totally be able to identify with it and will feel less alone after reading it. 

This is a beautiful book and an amazing lesson in how to value life. Cancer survivors know what is truly important in life and are so much wiser and more powerful than we mere mortals without cancer. This book captures that perfectly. 

For those without cancer in their lives, I also suggest this book, as there is a truly beautiful love story woven into the pages between the author and her husband. Not a romance novel love story, but a story of a true and strong love that is tested through the worst of times and not only survives but is victorious. 

I would like to thank the author for sharing this stunning book with us and wish her many years of "NED" ("no evidence of disease"), good health and happiness. 

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