Carrie Host was just shy of 40 years old when she got the news that many of us fear most. She had cancer—and not just any cancer but carcinoid tumors, which are resistant to both chemotherapy and radiation. Surgery was the only answer, but Host's body was riddled with many small cancerous growths throughout her abdomen and even on her lungs.
Between Me and the River is an almost daily look at Host's 3.5-year journey from pain and misdiagnosis to multiple surgeries and hospitalizations to the news that she was likely cancer free. As we follow her to Mayo Clinic, acupuncturists, nutritionists, and support groups, we learn how cancer, while never welcome, can still provide life lessons.
The river as a metaphor for a cancer-focused life works well and helps us form a clear picture of the steps along the way: being swept up in the current, drowning, going over the falls, and even hitting calm spots when floating comfortably seems possible. Most of the chapters end with a paragraph describing personal insights, finding hope, or coping emotionally. The book concludes with a short list of resources.
It is evident in her memoir that Host was luckier than many cancer patients: She had siblings and parents who could leave their own homes to help with her baby and older children, she had the money and resources to visit multiple doctors in multiple states, and she had the means to hire someone to help out at home. I am not implying that Host's story is not honest, difficult, and inspirational but that she had a head start over many families who must deal with cancer with far less support, adequate healthcare insurance, and money.
Host has a clear and easy style, even when writing about the most emotional and difficult parts of her life. The book, however, could have used a tighter copyedit, I noticed punctuation and grammar errors scattered throughout; fortunately, these did not take away from my overall connection with Host's story.
Published by Harlequin, 2009
Challenges: 999, 100+