Drawing from his blog posts, a father recounts the life-changing battle waged against his young son’s leukemia.
In 2009, Simkins’ middle son, Brennan, had just turned 7 when he was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia that required a bone marrow transplant and chemotherapy. Sadly, while it at first seemed that the cancer was in remission after Brennan underwent treatment in a hospital near the family’s Georgia home, the cancer crept back. Medical professionals told Simkins and his wife that further treatment would be risky, and they should prepare for their child’s death. Instead, the family relocated to St. Jude’s Hospital in Memphis, where Brennan ended up receiving a record four stem cell transplants. Simkins began to blog soon after Brennan’s diagnosis; this memoir is an adaptation of those chronologically dated entries. He details his son’s fight against cancer and an array of distressing setbacks, which included the emergence of a brain cyst and Brennan being put into a medical coma, as well as how the Band of Brothers story became a resonating metaphor for the family. Simkins also details relationships forged with pediatric cancer patients, their parents, doctors, and most significantly, his own fluctuating moods of faith and despair. By 2012, the family was finally back at home, with Brennan now stable in fourth remission, with Simkins realizing the experience had also unleashed “the capacity to awaken, to seek, and truly experience life.” Simkins, who spent time as a newspaper reporter and now runs an advertising firm, offers an intensely honest account of the horrors and hope that face a parent whose child has cancer. His narrative is a testament to the importance of seeking out additional medical opinions while harnessing the power of family and prayer. Simkins admits in his foreword that his account may be too downbeat and overly detailed, but his memoir is nevertheless an absorbing, suspenseful read, complete with a heartbreaking dramatic crescendo as Brennan recovers but others do not.
A harrowing, ultimately inspiring cancer journal.