Book Review by Dennis Moore
Jamie Reno, an award-winning journalist and an 11-year survivor of stage IV non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, has written a book about the resilience of the human spirit. Hope Begins in the Dark chronicles the lives of 50 lymphoma survivors, revealing their exclusive stories. The book speaks of the frailty of our existence as human beings and the lengths that we will go to in order to maintain a certain semblance of a quality of life.
Lymphoma is the most common of blood cancers. It has taken the lives of such acclaimed personalities as baseball great Roger Maris, former First Lady Jackie Kennedy Onassis, country western icon Gene Autry, and flying legend Charles Lindbergh. Jamie Reno’s book speaks of the triumphs of other noted personalities who successfully overcame this affliction, namely Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, baseball star Andres Galarraga, and sportscaster Ernie Johnson of NBA basketball telecast fame.
As a cancer survivor myself, having overcome a lower-grade of cancer known as leiomyosarcoma, I can certainly relate to the anguished feelings and emotions of Jamie Reno and the other cancer survivors in his book. His is a story of the determination and will to fight and overcome an affliction that invariably leads to chemotherapy, and/or an assortment of clinical trials just to stay alive. Mr. Reno’s book gives a candid inside look at those directly affected by this affliction, in the most human of terms. It speaks of our innate vulnerability to conditions of science and medicine, and our capacity to overcome those conditions.
The people in Jamie Reno’s book all share a strong will to live and have made their own informed decisions about their cancer treatment, just as I did with my cancer, leiomyosarcoma. In my particular case, I was spared the nausea, hair loss and weakness invariably brought about by chemotherapy. It was only by the grace of God that I did not have to undergo chemotherapy.
Although Reno’s book is about the trials and tribulations of those afflicted with lymphoma, it could just as well be about any other life-threatening condition or situation, as it delves into how those impacted are determined to fight and overcome the challenges that they face. Mr. Reno’s book also speaks of the realization of those afflicted with life-threatening illnesses or diseases that life as we know it is precious--and that we should endeavor to live and enjoy it to our fullest.
Perhaps the most poignant of all the 50 exclusive stories of the cancer survivors chronicled and profiled by Reno is that of 9-year-old Maddox Elijah Johnson. Maddox stated in Hope Begins In The Dark, “After I got cancer, I wanted to help Mom and Dad pay the doctor bills. So I told Mom she could sell my pictures in a yard sale.” Maddox was an accomplished painter and artist. Maddox further went on to state in regard to his chemotherapy treatments, “My uncle Shane shaved his head with me so that I wouldn’t be alone and bald!”
Out of the mouths of babes! Maddox spoke of the pain and discomfort of having to take shots in his leg and of the overall impact of chemotherapy treatments. Yet it is clear that he is so very thankful to be alive.
Maddox handled his cancer and treatment much better than I and other similarly situated adults. At my last examination, which included a colonoscopy and an endoscopy, I actually feared the worst and found myself near tears at the prospect of my doctor giving me news of a recurrence of cancer. Fortunately I was actually given a clean bill of health.
We can all learn from Maddox, and from Reno’s inspirational words. Published in close association with Vital Options International in 2008 and made possible through an educational grant by GlaxoSmithKline, Hope Begins In The Dark is a testament to our will to live, which I highly recommend.
Dennis Moore is a member of the San Diego Writers/Editors Guild, and a writer/contributor to the Baja Times Newspaper in Rosarito Beach, Mexico. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can follow him on Twitter at: @DennisMoore8.