5 Stars Out Of 5
A fantastic read for those who love people
April 14, 2011
A person doesn't live long before he or she encounters someone who has cancer. Not saying anything seems easier than saying the wrong thing. But Debbie Church, an oncology counselor diagnosed in December 2008 with Stage IIIA breast cancer who subsequently had a double mastectomy, has something to say about that. "Put your fears to rest and listen, just listen," she writes in Don't Ever Look Down.
At first, the title loosely refers to mountain-climbing, a sport over which Dick, Deb's husband, is passionate. But as the book progresses and this couple learns to face a new normal, the title takes on significance, first as it refers to Dick's protecting words to his wife once the bandages are removed and secondly, as it relates to how to take on cancer and survive it day by day.
Though this is a non-fiction book, its structure immediately brought to mind Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey's fictional, Joanna's Husband and David's Wife, where chapters alternate being written by wife and husband.
In Don't Ever Look Down, whether it's a chapter written by Debbie or one written by Dick, the writer is allowed full expression of points of view with no-holds barred. Dick tackles such subjects as "mercy sex" and what it's like to be a pastor who has wrestled with God about the whys. He writes about questioning God with "Why her?" Dick said, "She has done nothing horribly wrong to deserve this. Would â€˜deserving' even be a good enough reason for getting cancer, anyway?'"
Dick also isn't afraid to say when seemingly well-intending friends have gone too far. One person said that God allowed Debbie to get cancer so that He could get Dick's attention. Dick writes, "Honestly, this is very disturbing to me. I could not believe God would use the suffering of my wife just to get to me _ to teach me a lesson or something." We don't expect that pastors to share their deep sorrows, yet because Dick was willing to walk and talk about being in a hard place, we, as readers, are given permission to, too. His chapters really give a male point-of-view and counsel to a subject that is often not addressed in self-help cancer books.
Debbie's words are a day-by-day guide to what survival looks like. She writes of others under her counsel, who had cancer and how she coached them through each stage of the disease. She is not afraid to say what's she's thinking. When you read Debbie's chapters, she writes in such a beautiful way, that she reaches out to the reader to guide and offer wisdom.
The Churches' children, Scott and Mary, are also given an opportunity to tell what it feels like when a parent gets cancer.
Certainly, the book is for other cancer fighters and for those who are looking to help them. The book tackles telling other family members, gives practical ways for people to come alongside their loved ones and help them. Because Debbie is an oncology counselor, she tells the reader about what to expect and goes a long ways toward alleviating the unknowns and fear. Deb writes in Chapter 11, "Perhaps the best way to combat fear is to take definitive action. Do something that puts you back in control."
But this book is also for the everyday reader. Especially readers who:
- are looking to be more compassionate,
- want to learn how to grapple with fear,
-are a caregiver to someone who has cancer,
-are wanting someone who has been through the cancer trenches to give it to you straight yet in a way that is tender-hearted,
-are a husband and want camaraderie in how to love your spouse,
- want to strengthen your marriage,
-want to know more about how to live, heartfelt and ankle deep in the human condition.