Maybe because I am older, I have lately gravitated to books with a medical component. This past week, I read two books, Pretty Girls Don’t Get Cancer and A Caregiver’s Journey: Self-Care for Caregivers of Loved Ones with Dementia and Alzheimer’s.
The first book, Pretty Girls, was written by M. Patricia Diaz, a businesswoman with a writing sideline. Her story looked back at an experience in her senior year of high school when she was diagnosed with Stage-Four terminal cancer. As her weight and energy dissipated, a trip to one doctor ended with a bunch of medications and a doctor saying, “Pretty girls Don’t Get Cancer”. A visit to another doctor proved that indeed young girls DO get lymphatic cancer and months of treatments began.
In Diaz’s book, we learn about her upbringing (in the U.S. and Venezuela), her family life (divorced parents), her love life (a supportive boyfriend), her illness and her inspirations. Diaz has a lovely writing style, often bordering on the poetic, and we hurt, laugh and love with her. The fact that this book even exists tells us that a happy ending is to follow, and that is the fortunate truth. Diaz makes the point that her remission was also a remission for those close to her who had spent months as caregivers and worriers.
I loved the title of this book and except for a portion of the book where the author talks about meditative studies that helped with her healing (but which the reader may not understand), the book was great reading and I recommend it…for all ages.
A Caregiver’s Journey: Self-Care for Caregivers of Loved Ones with Dementia and Alzheimer’s was written by a Las Vegas friend: Eric James Miller, a full-time novelist. I knew Eric had spent a good deal of time dealing with his mother’s illness, but I am not close enough to have heard all the details which Miller recounts in the book. I was also not sensitive enough to inquire how Eric was doing; I would just ask about his mother whom I did not know. Obviously as the book makes clear, caregivers have challenges to match those of the patients. Miller’s mother, Sylvia Rose Miller, died at age 94.
I found Eric’s book very like a long conversation in which my friend carefully tells me the story, first, about who his mother was, and then about the progression of her illnesses. His mind and his pen seem to have so many ideas that in one chapter he will refer the reader to another chapter as if he wanted to make sure no information was left out. (In the middle of one chapter, I did not flip to another chapter; I just kept reading.)
Eric’s book is also a story of his frustrations and even anger at the goings on. The journey is heart-breaking and I would suggest this book may be more for people who have not dealt with an ill family member than for those who have. Eric had a number of tips on dealing with a loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia, but he admits he personally did not have lots of answers during the course of his mother’s illness. Miller’s mother was not always the fiercely independent lady he knew. Sometimes she was a stranger saying cruel things to her only child. For me, I had no idea what a tough journey was involved and was very grateful I had read the book.
Both authors, incidentally, are members of writing groups in their respective cities, and other members of their groups had encouraged the writing of these books. Bravo!