The Right Book at the Right Time
A theme that has run consistently through my cancer journey has been timing. Everything has always happened in timing that has been eerily just the way it needed to happen.
From being admitted to my first hospital the same night, a traveling oncology specialist was doing rounds to my surgeon being the one on call the day, I transferred hospitals and inevitably saved my life. Even little moments seem just to happen right when I need them.
Special messages from friends when I'm feeling down or funny accidents when I feel like pulling out my hair. But one special moment shifted my entire cancer journey, and I still feel like it was something out of a movie. And it all centers around a book.
Reading voraciously during recovery
In the depths of my recovery, I had to stay with my mom because I needed 24/7 care, and my husband needed to work to continue providing. I was incredibly bored but also in enough pain and still so weak that I couldn't do much, so I turned to books.
I read so many books. When I ran out I asked my sister if I could borrow a few from her collection to hold me over. I went to her house and scanned her bookshelf for anything interesting. I grabbed a few I had read before and grabbed a small brown one that I thought was part of a series I hadn't finished.
The little brown book
That little brown book got left at the bottom of my pile and forgotten for a few days until I was back home in Atlanta, fully recovered, and remembered I still had it.
I was intending on mailing it back to my sister, but when I cracked the book open I noticed it wasn't part of the series I intended to finish and in fact was a book I'd never heard of before. It was called The Sender by Kevin Elko.
I rolled my eyes and almost immediately boxed it up to send back. I was in no mood for some inspirational book written by a motivational speaker, but I read the first page. The next thing I knew I was several chapters in and I couldn't put it down.
I could only read maybe a chapter or two at a time because the book's message was heavy. It is about a high school football coach diagnosed with cancer.
He was angry and spent a week at a time inpatient receiving chemotherapy, one day he gets a letter from an anonymous writer named "the sender."
This person sends him words of encouragement every time he is in the hospital. Through these letters, a fellow cancer patient and the nurses caring for him, the coach's perspective on fighting cancer changes, and he starts living life again.
My own diary
Almost every time I read the book I cried. It was like reading my own diary. It was everything I had ever experienced as a cancer patient - all the hurt, fear, anger, and hope. I even read passages to my husband and he resonated with the message as well.
Once finished I called my sister to ask her if I could keep it and she had no idea what book I was talking about. She had never seen it before and definitely hadn't purchased it. So we thought maybe it was my mom's or stepdad's.
Both confirmed they had never heard of, read, or purchased the book either. Que me getting full-body chills.
The right book at the right time
We may never know if maybe someone in the house bought the book or got it as a gift and forgot all about it. I do know that something made me pick it up, and made sure I read it.
I read it not when I was still very sick but when I had turned the corner and almost like it was the right time to do so. I now purchase The Sender for newly diagnosed patients that I meet and include as part of my encouragement packages. There are passages that I highlight which had a profound impact on me and that I hope will give the receiver the same chills it gave me.
I highly recommend cancer patients, and their caregivers read The Sender. It does have some religious undertones, but I am not necessarily a religious person and I still absolutely loved the book. It is a very real telling of a cancer patient's experience and one of the few cancer-themed books I actually didn't cringe reading.
But for me personally, it will always hold the story of being the right book at the right time.
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