Omega Institute co-founder Lesser (Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow, 2005) tells the story of the profound emotional journey that ensued after she became her sister’s bone marrow donor.
The first time the author’s sister, Maggie, was diagnosed with cancer, she beat the disease and went into remission. But seven years later, it returned with a vengeance. Doctors told Maggie that the only way she could survive the disease a second time was through a bone marrow transplant. When Lesser learned that she was her sister’s genetic match, she was overjoyed. But she also realized that donation—which would not guarantee that Maggie would live—would mean examining the tense relationship with her sister. “We [had] spent most of our lives circling around each other,” writes the author, “each of us feeling imperfect in the mirror of the other’s lives.” Both sisters began therapy to sort through the conflicting emotions they experienced in the shadow of Maggie's disease. Lesser learned that Maggie saw her as “the big sister…the smarter one, the one going places,” while she reveals that she envied Maggie for being the lovable sister who lived an authentic life. Realizing that neither was perfect, the sisters forgave each other. This opening of hearts in turn led to a deepening of the bond—made physical through the transfer of Lesser’s stem cells into Maggie’s body—they had with each other. Ultimately, the transplant did not save Maggie’s life. Yet rather than view this outcome as a tragedy, the author chose to understand it as a gift that not only expanded her heart, but also showed her that love was the most powerful “adhesive force” in the universe. Drawing on Zen philosophers like D.T. Suzuki and alternative medicine advocates like Deepak Chopra, Lesser offers a soulful blend of life lessons learned and spiritual wisdom that reads like a balm for the soul.
A searching, compassionate, and uplifting memoir.