Friday, November 04, 2011

Don't Ever Look Down-Surviving Cancer Together by Dick and Debbie Church

Reviewed by ~Mary

I’m going to be honest. (What else would you expect from me?) When I received Don’t Ever Look Down, I did my best to put it at the bottom of the “to read” list. I would shuffle it when it made its way back up to the top of the pile, and ignored it until I basically couldn’t disregard it anymore. It’s my problem, this aversion I have to anything related to breast cancer. I was there for the last 18 days of my Mom’s life as she slowly made her way to Heaven, thanks to the uninvited visitor. Even without knowing someone personally that has experienced breast cancer, the statistics and spotlight that the media shines on the disease does little to comfort perspective victims. I know I can’t be the only woman to ask “What if” while watching her children play. The hesitation to read intimate details about how bad IT can be was well earned.

Meet the patient and her husband-oncology counselor Deb Church (yeah, I know. Ironic) and The Most, Good, Right and Very Reverend Church. (You will have to read chapter 4 to get that one!) As they tell an intimate tale of cancer diagnosis, treatment and survival, and although they hold no punches while talking post surgery, cutting her hair and mercy sex (you will have to read chapter 5 for that explanation) this is more than technicalities and hopelessly depressing details.

You will be pleasantly surprised by their frankness and candor related to the emotions they felt along the way. It made me want to close the book many times for fear that cancer would invade my body and harass me in the same manner. Yet, as logic and common sense prevailed, I kept glued to each page, almost in a voyeuristic manner, watching as they experienced each wave of the disease when it challenged them.

Told from both perspectives, the reader sees the impact on the patient as well as the spouse. You not only perceive but feel Deb’s emotions when she discovers the lump, her heart sinking when she knows it’s cancer, and the terror of living with unrelated physical symptoms that she couldn’t help but fear was cancer. The fainting spell that kept her up all night in sheer panic was one example.

I cried when Dick detailed the words she said to him that “broke my heart.” He views her post-surgery body not with disgust; in fact he gives her some of the most compassionate words of encouragement and selfless acts of love ever chronicled. Was he human? Absolutely. But perfect for Deb.

Perhaps one of the most powerful chapters in the book is titled I Believe and written by Dick. He shares pastoral wisdom of how he was taught to approach families in crisis-at least from a seminary point of view-and how that failed him miserably when it became personal and his family was the one in crisis. Did he question God’s existence and why a loving God would allow this? As any other husband in this situation would, he did. But he allowed those questions to guide him to some peaceful resolutions. Not all questions were answered, mind you, but in those cases he was able to agree to disagree with God and move on.

What would those nuggets of wisdom look like if compacted down to their core?

We have learned to celebrate the good days. ~Dick
We have learned not to sweat the small stuff. ~Deb

We have learned it’s okay to cry. ~Dick
Crying becomes a language of love. ~Deb

In fact, I believe the basis of this book is that they have learned a lot about alot along the way. They could have become bitter and angry with God, or rebelled against their immediate future by divorcing. Instead, they write a beautiful book about conquering a deadly disease with truth (don’t be afraid of facing the diagnosis), trust (God is still in control), and time (let patience do her perfect work).

To answer that question you know you want to ask; no, I don’t think I could be fearless facing cancer even after the reading book, but I do believe the process is feasible. The mystery to that particular wrestling match has been revealed. Don’t ever look down.

Meet the authors!
Debbie Church has been an oncology counselor for over eighteen years throughout the Southeast. As a support services director at several oncology centers in Atlanta and Florida, she has counseled thousands of cancer survivors. She is the author of dozens of articles dealing with every aspect of this disease. Now she has become a survivor herself and has a greater understanding and awareness of the impact of cancer and treatment from both sides of the desk. She enjoys reading, cooking and being with family and friends.

As an ordained minister, Dick Church has served numerous churches in Tennessee, Florida, and Georgia over the past twenty-five years. He has written articles for church growth periodicals and has been a contributing author in books on church missions and outreach. Currently he is a national consultant for one of the largest mission agencies in North America. He is an avid outdoorsman and enjoys mountain climbing and hiking.

Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: APG Sales & Distribution; 1 edition (April 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0982483236
ISBN-13: 978-0982483237
Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.4 x 0.5 inches