This debut memoir follows a father and his family in the Midwest joining the battle against the cancer attacking his daughter.

In 2005, Schnabel and his wife, Colleen, were excited to hear that they would be new grandparents. But before long, their expectant daughter, Stephanie, was racked with serious abdominal pains and some bleeding. While she believed this was cancer, she told no one and refused any medical testing that might put her unborn baby at risk. The 27-year-old sixth grade teacher and her architect husband, Mark, soon welcomed a healthy son. Unfortunately, Stephanie’s pain and bleeding hardly let up, and a doctor finally diagnosed her with colon cancer. She needed not only surgery, but months of chemotherapy at a Kansas cancer research center as well. It was an arduous and often scary fight, but not one that she had to handle alone. Her family became a “Team of Five”—Stephanie with her parents, her husband, and even her baby boy, Caden. They supported and championed her through each of her treatments while getting updates on her condition that weren’t always promising. Friends and colleagues were equally encouraging, including someone at the architectural firm giving his vacation days to Mark and neighbors starting a fund to help cover medical bills. Schnabel had to watch his daughter suffer and sometimes doubted whether she would make it past her illness. But as Stephanie vowed to see Caden grow and be there for his first day of school, she proved she had the strength and fortitude to survive.

Despite Stephanie’s harrowing journey to becoming cancer-free, Schnabel puts a positive spin on events in this autobiography. Periodic “life lessons,” for example, are consistently upbeat and inspiring, even if they’re familiar—“Find joy in simple things” and sincerely apologize after saying something hurtful to “begin the healing.” Although part of a family of devout Roman Catholics, the author doesn’t evangelize, opting to push a more universal message of staying optimistic even in the bleakest times. Humorous bits alleviate the grave subject matter. Schnabel praises Caden’s “job of eating, sleeping, pooping, and providing ongoing entertainment,” and owns up to the “grandparent delusion” that his grandson is the “best looking, smartest, and most talented child ever.” Still, this book provides a lucid, engrossing view of what it’s like to fight a merciless disease. The waiting room, for example, sparked a potpourri of experiences and feelings, from happy moments to restlessness, with the most headstrong individual not immune to an emotional breakdown. Alongside Stephanie’s tumor-removing surgeries and bouts of chemo, the author relates highlights of her life—including memories that just popped in his head at the time. Schnabel evokes sympathy in a sublimely understated way, as he recalls the lackluster driving lesson he gave her and when, as a girl, she first exhibited her lifelong fear of needles. There’s plenty in this candid memoir that readers can apply to their own lives, which the author essentially summarizes in his closing, supplying a series of tips to overcoming a “medical challenge.”

A remarkable, hope-filled account of triumphing over a serious illness.

Pub Date: yesterday

ISBN: 9781956450361

Page Count: 314

Publisher: Armin Lear Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 6, 2023

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