A mother discusses the loss of her daughter to cancer and her own emotional healing in the aftermath.
Debut author Dubois’ oldest daughter, Chantal, began suffering from headaches and blurred vision in 2006, at age 18, which were severe enough to warrant medical attention. Doctors discovered a tumor located at the base of Chantal’s brain, which they determined was inoperable but also benign. However, a second biopsy revealed that the tumor was, in fact, cancerous, and Chantal was diagnosed with a Stage IV astrocytoma. She immediately started chemotherapy, which was followed by radiation therapy, and the author arrestingly recounts the debilitating consequences of those treatments: Chantal gained nearly 50 pounds, lost her hair, and was plagued by chronic lethargy. She eventually rebounded enough to take some college courses, but then her tumor grew larger and a second one appeared, and the author was forced to face the grim reality that her daughter would soon die. Dubois also discusses the range of challenges associated with extreme ill health, including the considerable financial toll; Chantal’s last drug regimen, for example, was not covered by insurance, and the costs were astronomical. In the wake of her daughter’s death, the author groped for some sense of spiritual meaning and developed an interest in the afterlife. Additionally, she immersed herself in volunteer work to help others stricken by similar tragedies; she now serves on the board of directors for the Helping Families Handle Cancer Foundation. Dubois writes with notable clarity, given the nature of the grief she relates; for example, her account of her daughter’s passing is heartbreakingly poignant. She also insightfully reflects on her trauma in a way that should be of particular interest to those who have suffered similarly. For example, she finds that her spiritual quest seemed to offer her some support, if not quite consolation: “I have come to fully accept that Chantal had a purpose here, as we all do and that she had to leave early as her time in the physical world was done. I still experience her presence every once in a while, and I receive signs that she’s with me.”
A painful, uplifting, and beautiful meditation on loss and recovery.