Between Me and the River by Carrie Host (Harlequin; $22.95; 304 pages)
“The closer you get to the gates, the fiercer the lions.” A Buddhist saying about death and life.
Carrie Host has produced what is perhaps the most dramatic account of surviving cancer since Lance Armstrong’s surprisingly moving and candid It’s Not About the Bike. Host had just given birth to a child when she was diagnosed with the highly threatening carcinoid cancer. She was given a shocking diagnosis – a period of only 18 to 36 months to live.
Host’s story answered some otherwise unanswerable questions for this reader. As I was born, my mother received a similar diagnosis because of another form of cancer, and we never discussed what the experience of being given – and surviving – a fatal diagnosis was like. A few of those questions were answered for me in Armstrong’s book, but Host’s account as a woman and a new mother almost literally enabled me to see the events as my mother might have seen them.
“I am feeling more like their grandmother than their mother.”
Host spares few details of what it is like to be deathly ill and reliant upon loved ones to take care of both her needs and those of her children. At times she felt like a bystander in her own life. But Host was a fighter and, like Armstrong, she pursued second and third opinions as to how to best treat her condition. Some will find the candidness overwhelming at times, but Host’s book will have performed a great public service if it helps another cancer patient to retain hope.
Host compares fighting the carcinoid cancer – which can return after being removed and thus required multiple surgeries in her case – with struggling to remain afloat in a fast-moving river. Not all will see this as the best or most appropriate analogy, but at one point Host does compare the cancer to a fierce tiger. That was the analogy that hit home for this reader.
Once you’ve arrived at the end of this unique memoir, you will be quite glad to know that Carrie Host is doing fine now. The nightmarish events in the book are now seven years behind her. Just a few days ago she accompanied William, the male child born when events began to spin out of control, as he went out trick-or-treating on Halloween.
Life goes on. Carrie Host’s life, and this inspiring account of her struggle at death’s door, will serve to remind us that miracles do indeed happen in this life. And that life is well worth fighting for, no matter how fierce the lions and tigers may be.
This review was written by Joseph Arellano. A review copy was provided by the publisher.