Blindsided: a Book You Should Read

Blindsided a book you should read.

A few months ago I received an email from a gal named Arlene Blix. I didn’t know her, she didn’t know me. She told me she had written a book chronicling her husband’s battle with terminal cancer and she wanted to send it to me. I hesitated initially, I’m exclusively a fiction reader, non-fiction is not my cup of tea. I also didn’t want to send an empty promise to read it if I didn’t intend to. But I thought about it, decided I should and she sent me the book.

Blindsided: Not only is this the title of the book, it is exactly how I felt after reading just the first chapter. I picked the book up on Saturday, skipped church on Sunday to read it in a Starbucks (if you happened to be out in Long Beach & saw a girl crying over her coffee & a book, it was me), and finished it that night. It captured my attention for several reasons; it is extremely well written, it is bravely honest but not over-dramatic. It is relatable, rational, wise and beautifully told.

After a beautiful and charming love story and 13 years of a happy & vibrant marriage, Arlene’s husband Glen was diagnosed with colon cancer – a terrible type of cancer that comes with very little hope. But they did hope, against all odds, with every treatment and every ray of light they found hope. I cheered with them and cried for them with each up-and-down – hoping all the time a cure would come even though I knew the way it would end.

After watching my grandpa die of cancer 5 1/2 years ago I could easily picture parts of Arlene’s situation; a hospital bed coming into their home for Glen to sleep in, the IV’s, the delirium, the pain, horror and the sinking feeling of loss.

A big part of Glen and Arlene’s story was the fact that they were both Healthcare Professionals who had dedicated their lives to preventative healthcare and education – their shared passions. Glen’s diagnosis blindsided them. Glen was a vegetarian and had taken good care of himself, it didn’t make sense. But it happened.

Arlene & Glen’s story is incredible. I learned so much about not only about the grief process, but the dying process as well. Arlene offers a deep & emotionally rich window into the horrible reality that she and Glen, along with too many other families, had to face.

What I loved most about the book was the way Arlene discussed her relationship with Glen. What wonderful people! The way their relationship grows and changes, the way they support each other and the ways they say good-bye are . . . precious.

In fact, reading this book was a precious experience. I am so honored to have had Arlene reach out to me and share their story. I’m sharing it with you now because of the perspective it gave me on pain, loss, grief, cancer and survival.

So many families have felt the devastating results of cancer, my dad survived  it when I was just two years old, and my grandpa lost his second battle against it when I was 21. If cancer has ever touched your life get your hands on this book. It is such a special thing to know you aren’t alone, that others have walked this frightening road, and there is community even in the loneliest of situations.

One of the things that stood out to me from Blindsided was a moment toward the end where Arlene commented on how she used to teach that people could “get over” their grief. She doesn’t teach that anymore, she says, “The reality for me is that I may never “get over it” (146). What a powerful thing to realize. In some ways this could feel constraining but as I thought about my sorrow for my grandpa it gave me a great sense of relief. It’s ok that I still miss him, that I’m not completely “over it,” and that I don’t need to be. Such wisdom.

Arlene reflects continually on families who receive a prognosis like Glen’s without the information and resources they both had as professionals and experts. Arlene was able to research and recommend alternative medications that helped Glen when other suggestions had failed. She knew a lot about the “system,” the cancer, and where to turn. She wrote this book with the hope that it would be a place for people to turn. In the wake of Glen’s death she searched for books on how to “cope” and found nothing but false formulas and unrealistic expectations. Her book is an answer to that void and an incredible guide to anyone who has been or is going through the trauma of dying.

I encourage you to pick up a copy of Arlene’s book, you can purchase it here and you won’t be able to put it down.

To learn more about the Blix’s there is a video about Glen’s life featuring an interview with Arlene. It’s a great video that will give you some insight into the sweet & sad pages of her book. You can watch it by clicking here.

What is your story with cancer? What books have helped you through the grief process? Please, be as valiant as Arlene and share your story with us below, we’d be honored to share life with you.

Molly Keating

About Molly Keating

Hi, I'm Molly and I write for the blog here at O'Connor. I grew up in a mortuary with a mortician for a father who's deep respect for the profession inspired me to give working at a mortuary a try. Work at O'Connor has brought together two of my deep passions, writing & grief awareness. In 2016 I earned Certification in the field of Thanatology, the study of Death, Dying and Bereavement. I am honored to be able to speak on these taboo topics with knowledge, compassion, and a unique perspective. I want to sincerely thank you for following & reading the blog, I hope that this is a healing place for you.
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  • What a beautiful review, Molly. I’m going to pick up a copy of the book later today – one click shopping with Amazon. Does enrichment get any easier than that?!

    Regarding my experience with cancer…my mother died of esophageal cancer, after years of alcohol abuse. Her passing was horrible, from what I understand. You see, our relationship was always strained, and in the last years of her life, we did not speak to one another. But, bad news, with all it’s details, spreads like wildfire – as the cancer did, so I hear.

    Make it a phenomenally great day, and know I appreciate you more than words can express.

    • MollyKeating

      Kim, thank you for your kind words! I’m so glad you’re going to pick up a copy of this wonderful book. I know you’ll find power & perspective in it.
      The story of your mom is a sad one but I completely understand why you would set up boundaries against someone with an addiction. I think it is incredibly ironic (perhaps poetic but not in a good sense) that our bodies can turn on us, almost punish us for our actions. But still, I don’t know if we always want that person punished so severely, I don’t want to speak for you but I don’t know anyone I would wish cancer like that on. I’m sorry you had to go through that, even at a distance cancer is still horrible.

      On a bit of a side note: My mom just read about Ulysses S. Grant in the book, Grant’s Final Victory, and he died of the same cancer your mom did. It was horribly painful, but again the consequences of his actions; 25 cigars a day will do that to you.

      Thank you for sharing your story with me, Kim. I so deeply appreciate your openness, your support, and your honesty with grief and loss.
      Thank you for all you do!

      • Ah, you’re a sweetie, Molly. It’s odd; my mother’s biggest issue with her cancer was NOT her impending death, but the fact that she could no longer drink (the hole in her throat prevented her from acting out on her addiction). She actually seemed (from what I hear) to take control of her what remained of her life – made all the pre-need arrangements (for a direct cremation) and settled in for six weeks of hell.

        I sometimes regret not sitting with her at the end. My hospice work was probably brought about by my need to witness and support the terminally ill, in a way that I was not allowed to do for her. Who really knows…what I DO know is that she is at peace now, and far happier than she was when she was alive…and that’s a good thing. 🙂

  • Lisa O’Connor

    Unfortunately I have lost a few family members to cancer and my stepfather is currently undergoing treatment. Fortunately, his treatment and type of cancer has a 95% cure rate. This is a book I will read in the privacy of my own home so nobody sees me bawling at Starbucks.

    • MollyKeating

      Yes, learn from my mistake! I’m glad that the cure rate is so high with the cancer he is suffering from, but we both know that cancer is just not good no matter how “curable” it is. I’m sorry you and your family are going through this Lisa. I hope all the best for your stepfather, for a full recovery and a joy-filled life. Thank you for sharing your cancer-story with us.

  • Molly
    Well written and touched my heart. While many in my family, including my parents died sort of young, it was other things, not cancer.
    Daughter April’s dearest friend Scott comes to mind as the one who touched me so profoundly when he died at about 20 with such faith and joy and hope and love for everyone else.
    There was Tom, our dear friend and neighbor. We thought prayer would change everything. He had such a positive spirit and dealt with so much, but in the end it was not to be.
    Then there was my husband Lou’s brother, long before we knew each other, who died at about 12 years old. I guess he exhibited such love, joy and tenacity in his suffering with leukemia in the 40’s that the family looked back on the experience and wondered if he was real or an angel living in their lives for a time. I watched the video and it was very precious. Thank you. Love you, Anne

    • MollyKeating

      Anne, it seems that no one has been untouched by cancer. And yet, while it’s effects are so devastating upon the body all of your stories tell tales of hope, beauty, courage and faith. I’m always blown away by that – by the Lord’s power to turn the most hopeless and miserable into the hope-filled and blessed. Thank you for sharing all of those stories, for reading this and taking the time to reflect on those precious lives. I think every time we remember them we are blessed a new. Thank you, Anne.

  • Carrie Bayer

    Molly, this brings out such strong emotion in me as I, too have experience w/ cancer. I have 2 grandparents who had it, my dad survived it & my brother-in-law is fighting the same cancer that your grandfather had. Two of my dear friends have it. My mom & I have had pre-cancerous scares. It really seems to be everywhere! Thank you for recommending this book, I will have to read it & see about loaning it to my sister or anyone else who I think might benefit from it. We hear about cancer so often now days that it seems to not even phase us- until it hits close to home. THAT is when it becomes personal & it takes on a whole new meaning. What it has taught me is to live life to the fullest, to make the most of my relationships & to be help those who need or want it. All the day-to-day “stuff” we busy ourselves w/ can wait until later- attend to the important things today because you may not have tomorrow to do so. Thank you, Molly! Carrie

    • MollyKeating

      Carrie, you know better than anyone about the pain that cancer wreaks on families. I think this book will really resonate with you and your sister – you guys are already so familiar with the terrain that this story will be familiar.
      You’ve already learned so many of the lessons that Arlene brings to light. But I think her perspective will shed more light on what lies in store for your family as your brother-in-law continues on.
      Thank you for sharing your history with cancer, I can’t imagine having your familiarity with this scary of a disease.

      Love you, Carrie!

  • Lori

    Molly,

    Praise God I have not had to watch any of my family members battle cancer so far.

    One of my friends battled Non Hodgkin’s lymphoma a few years ago. I went with her to her chemo treatments when her husband was out of town. It was difficult watching her being poked and prodded. It was also hard for her to lose her gorgeous, long, naturally curly hair. Thankfully she came out on the winning end of her battle.

    As you know from my previous post, Jessie Rees is the cancer story that has touched me the most this year. I always have a hard time making sense over the loss of children.

    What resonated most for me is the line you may never “get over it”.
    Occasionally the loss of loved ones from decades ago brings back the heartache as though I lost them yesterday. A song, a fragrance, a season….anything can trigger such memories.

    Thank you for this book suggestion and wonderful story.
    Love you! Lori

    • MollyKeating

      Yes, praise Him indeed!

      I’m glad the not “getting over it” concept of her book resonated with you too. Arlene shares some incredible moments where that “trigger” was set off. I thought her chapter on this concept was incredible. She talks about walking into a friend’s house and seeing red roses on her table – instantly she turned into a puddle of tears as she remembered all the red roses Glen bought her on anniversaries and Valentine’s. Instead of fighting the emotion Arlene said she just went with it, explained to others why she was crying and refused to feel embarrassed. Awesome right?

      Anyway, I’m thrilled that you enjoyed the post & I seriously hope you do get to check out this book. Thanks for reading & writing Lori!

  • Kori Marie Kolstad

    Good job Molly…you certainly inspired me to read this book..and I too am not keen on the non-fiction stuff. Beautifully done.
    Love, Kori

    • MollyKeating

      Thank you so much Kori! It’s always worth trying something new & I’m confident that if you gave this a shot it would be really rewarding! Thanks for reading!

  • Amy

    Molly,
    What an amazing woman to be able to put her real life situation on paper for others to experience. I had the privilege of caring for my ex-husband’s mother during her fight with cancer down to her last days. I have to say it was the best thing I ever did. I really got to know the woman she was. I heard lots of stories and even just sat in silence. As hard as it was to watch her die I am truly blessed to have had the experience.
    I am going to go get the book and read it. It will be interesting to see if there are things that we might have in common.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Amy

    • MollyKeating

      Amy, you know this book. I love that you can say that helping your mother-in-law through dying was a blessing despite the pain of it. I think that about my grandpa, too. It was incredible to sit there and be with him. I knew I was doing something important, valuable and life changing and I don’t regret a second of the time I spent with him.
      Thank you for reading this & sharing your story. I hope you pick up the book & find more blessing inside!

  • Shayna Mallik

    Molly,
    Wow what a story to read. Great recommendation I will definitely look into it. Cancer hits most families hard and I thank you for this blog. Great read!

    • MollyKeating

      Thank you Shayna! I think it’s so healthy for us to be able to empathize and understand the pain other people go through. Not that we should steep ourselves in it but having some perspective and insight into the toll that cancer takes can be invaluable as we meet & interact with others. Thanks for reading!

  • Neil O’Connor

    Hi Molly – This is a great topic most everyone can relate to, cancer has effected most people . I have had friends and family die and survive cancer. It makes me wonder why cancer is so common and there is not a consistent cure for it, yet we can send people to the moon and back. Somethings in life make no sense.

    • MollyKeating

      So true. We all know life isn’t fair but it should never be this unfair. But instead of rationalizing or creating reasons I think your response is the most honest & clear: Cancer will never make sense because things that horrible can’t & shouldn’t be forced to. Thanks for reading, Neil!

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