Six months following David’s death I was asked to do my first solo public presentation on our cancer journey. I was terrified that I would not be able to manage my emotion, that I would not be able to get my message across, and that without David by my side, no one would care what I thought. I spoke to more than 200 compassionate health care providers and received a standing ovation. Everyone I spoke to suggested I write a book. David had told me I would someday write a book, and so did our hospice nurse. After that success I decided indeed I would.
My reasons for writing this book are simple. First, I dream this will fall into the hands of another person caring for someone they love. I hope that our story will assure them that they are not alone and will give them courage and hope that they can do this and survive. I know they will relate to our sorrow and fears, and I hope that some part of this story will help them find new ways to cope and see the world. If we can ease the journey for even one family, the effort will have been valuable.
Secondly I wrote the book for those professionals who are caring for individuals with serious illness. I hope that through my experience they will see the need to validate the feelings and needs of caregivers. Caregivers should be partners in care, what they see, what they feel, what they can and can’t do can change the path for the patient. My goal is that professionals will welcome caregiver participation, they will attend to the needs of the second patient, and that they will listen carefully not only to patients, but also to caregivers.
Finally I wrote this book as a tribute and a legacy for our family. Cancer is a family disease, and this was a family experience. As you read you will see we each experienced it differently, but we experienced it together nonetheless. Our children and grandchildren opened their hearts and shared their feelings unselfishly, giving me the courage to do the same. Woven throughout our stories is not only our grief and loss but also our pride and love for David. In sharing the legacies he gave to us, we are honoring his desire to deprive death of its strangeness.