A debut memoir chronicles a girl’s battle to survive—and her joy, despite the odds.
The authors tell the story of 11-year-old Taylor’s courageous five-year cancer fight. With three daughters and lucrative careers, Matthews (Taylor’s mom) and her beloved husband seemed to have it all. But in 2003, Taylor was diagnosed with bone cancer. Though she died at age 16, this poignant account—told from Matthews’ first-person point of view—is more about living than dying. A bright, vivacious girl, Taylor often kept her family laughing with her high-spirited sense of humor. By 16, she had undergone 16 surgeries, but instead of dwelling on the negative, feisty Taylor—who lived life to the fullest—advised a cancer patient “to dye her hair pink or a combination of all her favorite colors.” According to Matthews and Cohane (Taylor’s aunt), treatments for the teenager’s type of cancer have not changed in decades. In addition, they assert, all pediatric cancers receive only about 4 percent of the National Cancer Institute’s budget. A creative girl, Taylor founded a nonprofit group called tay-bandz, which has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars for pediatric cancer research. Today, the organization bears Taylor’s name. In this touching memoir, Matthews’ authentic voice is likable, and she gives an honest account of a mother’s desperation (sometimes she screamed at doctors). The smooth prose sprinkles in vivid details that accurately reflect a caregiver’s fear and exhaustion. In one heart-rending scene, Matthews recalls sitting in a bright yellow waiting room, staring at children’s artwork on the walls. She was tired and terrified, but she kept a frozen smile on her face for Taylor’s sake. And though the authors are not highly critical of doctors or specialists, they paint a realistic portrait of human error. According to the book, an anesthesiologist who didn’t check Taylor’s allergies before an operation caused a dangerous complication. The volume, which features family photographs, concludes with a list of practical, in-the-trenches advice, like insisting on being in the recovery room when a child wakes up. Though some of the anecdotes may be horrifying for readers who are beginning a struggle with cancer, Taylor’s short life spreads rays of hope for the future.
A moving, bittersweet account of enduring love.