Survivor since 2003…
I’ve always loved a single daisy, or even a whole bunch. As a girl, I loved that my sister and I could make chains of them into necklaces, or that we could decide if a boy loved us or not by plucking its smooth petals. A daisy is a highly under-rated flower. With its clean white petals and lemon-yellow center, it has often invited me to smile when I didn’t feel like it. Daisies are like Valentines from children, simple.
When I was eight years old, I wrote a letter to President Nixon. It was more of a request, actually. I sent him a small Valentine asking him a big favor: to end the war in Vietnam. As one of six kids, getting anyone to listen was a task in itself. It usually amounted to being the loudest or the funniest. But when I heard that my oldest brother was going to be sent away to war, I was speechless. I decided to take matters into my own hands. Being loud or funny wasn’t going to work here. The only way to get the President to listen was to write him a letter.
He wrote me back. And as I sat on the front steps of my house in Denver, Colorado, holding his reply in an envelope addressed to me, from the White House, all the way from a place called Washington, DC, I knew that I wanted to be a writer. Writing got to people.
After that, I began writing stories, poems, letters and limericks, but my dream of being a writer slowly faded with the pages I began collecting in an old leather suitcase, for “someday.”
Over time I became a tea-drinking, fly-fishing, antique-perusing traveler, as well as a self proclaimed foodie and lover of books, classic films, theater and art. I also became a mother. I loved being a mother and without any fanfare, that became my full time job. Did I mention sailing? That is, whenever I can make it to an ocean, being a mountain girl. I married a captain, Amory Host, and became his first mate.
Three children and roughly 5,800 loads of laundry later, I still hadn’t found the courage to stake my claim as a writer. Oddly enough, it only took three words to change all that. “You have cancer.”
In 2003, five years ago on Halloween, it was discovered; a rare form of cancer called Carcinoid Tumor. With my new ten-month-old baby William, my eleven-year-old son Marco and thirteen-year-old daughter Chanel at home in the nest, I was gingerly told that I could expect to live 18 to 36 months. I became acutely aware of everything that I had and had not done in my life.
Out on the battlefield alone with cancer charging me carrying a pitchfork was the defining moment that helped me to quickly re-prioritize my top three fears. Of course the fear of dying took the top spot, followed by every writer’s fear of rejection, and lastly my fear of running out of pure, sweet-cream butter.
While cancer was busy taking everything from me, including my life, I decided that at the very least I should take back my pen. I quit mingling with “later” and sat down with “right now.”
I wrote a memoir titled “Between Me and the River.” It is a candid love story and an emotional nightlight for anyone living with a terminal illness. It will be released in August 2009. While being a memoir indicates that it is a snapshot of a period of my life, it’s really less about me and more about us. By “us” I mean the collective group of individuals that belong to a club none of us wanted to join: “The Cancer Club.”
I want to inspire people through my book and by giving sincere talks that explore the questions, “How do we do this?” “How do we live our lives without becoming crippled with fear when we are living with a terminal disease?” or “How can we squeeze some happiness from the lemons life may have given us?”
I guess I find it ironic that because cancer rendered me speechless, I’ve found my voice. It’s quieter and stronger than the loud one lost growing up in a large, loving, noisy family. I first recognized it in my Valentine to the President and now, a lifetime later, in the pages of my book.
Isn’t it delightful that a feeling that I left behind on the front porch in childhood could rescue me so many years later in the backyard of my life? Every time I squeeze a lemon or see a daisy, I smile quietly to myself.
A note from PAFOC: Carrie’s upcoming book can be reviewed on her web site: CarrieHost.com It is also possible to download an excerpt from her story by either going to her site, or contacting me here. I promise it will fill you, and make you want more… but we have to wait until August for that… It IS possible to pre-order a copy however. Click on the thumbnail below to preview her cover…
“A beautiful, tender story about a woman who is supported by friendships, love of family and dedication of doctors.
This powerful, thought provoking book never leaves you” Clive Cussler