Thursday, October 15, 2009

Between Me and the River

BETWEEN ME AND THE RIVER: Living Beyond Cancer: A Memoir
by Carrie Host
Published by Harlequin/August 2009/Hardcover
ISBN: 978-0-373-89214-3
Author website:


"I do have a future, and the picture of that future is made up of a multitude of tiny dots called 'right now.'"

Carrie Host knows that the diagnosis of a life-threatening illness takes a split second to change your life, as well as the lives of your partner, parents, children and all who love you. Packed with inspiration, advice, comfort and hope, Between Me and the River is Host's candid and uplifting memoir of how she found the strength and fortitude to triumph over a rare form of cancer, and craft a new and meaningful life.

When told at forty, with her youngest child just ten months old, that she had carcinoid tumor, Host felt as if she'd been hurled into a raging river, stripped of all forms of potential rescue. The voyage of this strong-minded, openhearted woman out of that river and onto safe shores is told with uncompromising honesty and respect for the miracles that medicine and love can work.

While dealing with practical issues such as how to find the best medical team and what to tell the children, Host also recounts the many spiritual and eye-opening lessons that made her journey so bearable: how to see what is available rather than what is absent, how to free up energy to heal by letting go of anger and fear, and how to believe in the future.

Host's unquenchable sense of humor in the midst of suffering creates poignant moments of laughter through tears. Bracing, lyrical and deeply moving, Between Me and the River is a tribute to one life, and all lives, rerouted by illness. This remarkably honest book provides a deep sense of insight and understanding for survivors, caregivers, family members and friends.


This is an amazing book. It is so beautifully written. The author's intense transparency and honesty may just be one of the most moving things I have ever read. Between Me and the River gave me my first true understanding of what it means to go through cancer. I absolutely wept throughout the book. Carrie Host has an incredibly gift in the art of communication.

I want to share just a few of my favourite quotes from the book:

"I have to have a way to process the intensity of my situation that isn't a nervous breakdown."

Small children do not rely on words, but instead read all physical messages. Since they can't talk, they pay attention. I've begun to do that, too, in this foreign country of serious illness. William [ her baby ] reminds me through his touch that actions replace all the words I'm looking for but can't find. He presses his head into my next, his face toward mine...the back of his hand is flat against me with his palm facing out, pushing away the world and sealing us together. With his other arm, he holds on to my left shoulder. Then, I feel his little fingers patting me just as I have done so many times to him, with an "It's's okay" in their rhythm. My eyes, two sunken ships, glitter with a treasure of tears for the sweet, uncomplicated love of my baby.

Upon being told to go to the emergency room once again:
"No. No way. I'm too sick for that. I can't deal with that place again," I counter, realizing at once how illogical that sounds. It takes someone really sick, who has been through the worst, to know what I mean. Getting myself motivated to go to the E.R. for help is like trying to convey a relatively easy principle in a foreign language. It's like I'm trying to explain the way I feel in Russian without knowing a single word of the language. Before I even begin, I'm exhausted. The thought of trying to express myself makes me close my eyes and swallow hard. The same is true of trying to explain things that doctors can't readily see. It is too much to attempt, so I don't.

I honestly think this book should be read by everyone. If you work with cancer patients, if you have a friend or family member with cancer or if you have cancer yourself READ THIS BOOK. Seriously. I can't say enough good about Between Me and the River.

Q&A with Carrie Host
Author of Between Me and the River

Q: Do you wish you had more time, energy or money?

A: Time. That’s easy. Because it is the only thing that allows everything else that can come into existence to show its face.

Q: Why did you write your book? What are you hoping to accomplish through it?

A: I wrote my book because I love to write and because I thought I was at the end of my life. I knew things about love and healing, pain and suffering, that I wanted desperately to share. I knew that I might be able to help a ton of people find their own strength through witnessing my weakness in the pages of my book.

Q: If you had access to a time machine where would you go? If you could live in another era what would it be?

A: I would go back to the mid-1500’s, but only to see the unspoiled landscapes and the night sky. If I could live in another era, it would be the early 1900’s…say 1910 to 1949…because of the explosion of music, film and art. I am sure that I would have enjoyed the privacy that the lack of technology supplied. Also, all things had weight and substance in a way that they have lost now.

Q: Do you write on a schedule or just when the mood strikes?

A: I wrote on a schedule to complete the manuscript for Between Me and the River, but being a poet at heart, I always write when the mood or idea strikes. Lots of scraps of paper here and there that I then assemble later.

Q: When you were a little girl what did you want to be when you grew up?

A. When I was a little girl I wanted to be a mother. That is to say that at six years old, I recall deciding that my Madame Alexander Dolls could only be more wonderful if they were real babies.

Then, when I was eight years old, I wrote a letter to President Nixon. It was more of a request, actually. I sent him a small valentine asking him a big favor: to end the war in Vietnam. He wrote me back. And as I sat on the front steps of my house in Denver, Colorado holding his reply in an envelope from the White House addressed to me, all the way from a place called Washington, DC, I knew that I wanted to be a writer. Writing got to people.

As one of six kids getting anyone to listen was a task in itself. It usually amounted to being the loudest or the funniest. But when I heard that my oldest brother Jack was going to be sent away to war, I was speechless. I decided to take matters into my own hands. Being loud or funny wasn’t going to work here. The only way to get the President to listen was to write him a letter.

After that, I began writing stories and poems, letters and limericks, but my dream of being a writer slowly faded with the pages I began collecting in an old leather suitcase, for “someday.”
I also thought about being a nun (since they all seemed to do a lot of writing), but my first wish to be a mother would have been dashed. So much for the convent.

Q: If I wanted to be a writer what would be the first thing I needed to do?

A: Okay, brace yourself for my unadorned answer: You would have to stop telling everyone and anyone that and just sit down and write. You must write, write and write some more. No one is listening anyway because all non-writers think we are nuts to begin with.

Q: Who is your favourite writer and have you met them yet?

A: Oh boy. The list is far too long. If I start with the oldest, then we are back in the Classics reading a man named Boethius. As for the modern world: James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, Isabel Allende, Lewis Carroll, Arthur Golden, Anne Patchett. So many, so fabulous. I have never met any of them. I did meet Bobby Morresco. He wrote the screenplay for the movie “Crash”. An amazing writer.

Thank-you so much Carrie!!

1 comment:

LuAnn said...

I loved this book, too, Tara! Glad to see you agreed with me.

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