Before I Go by Colleen Oakley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This has now become my favorite book, so far, of 2015. Although it is not a “feel good – happy ending” book, I could relate a lot. It is about a young, married woman, Daisy, married to Jack, who is finishing up his dual degrees to become a veterinary doctor and a PhD doctor (a 7-year journey). Daisy is a breast cancer survivor of three years (after going through chemo and radiation), working on her graduate degree, and waiting to travel and have children with Jack once his degree is finished in a few months. Their whole life has been working towards this goal, and then what they will do “after.” She is about to celebrate her 3-year “cancerversary” when she has her annual tests and gets the news that her cancer is back, and this time it’s stage IV, incurable, and everywhere - brain, bones, breast, liver, lungs. She has a six-month prognosis to live. The book is all about her emotions, her fear that her beloved husband, Jack, can’t function without her, and that she needs to find him a second wife for after she’s gone. But then she has second thoughts about it and gets jealous thinking of him with someone else. She shuts her husband out, not wanting him to go to doctor appointments or surgeries with her, and not talking to him about her feelings or his. She literally shuts down. I think unconsciously she was pushing him away, thinking he might as well get used to not being with her, when all he wanted was to be with her. I wanted to shake her and tell her that she’s still alive, not dead yet, and she needs to LIVE her last months with him! The writing is beautiful and the story is so poignant, raw, and moving. I can’t believe it is Colleen Oakley’s first novel! The novel deals with many issues: death, life, love, the mother/daughter relationship, best friend relationship, introspection, letting go, and a host of other themes. I literally felt like I was inside Daisy’s head and could feel what she was feeling and think what she was thinking. Some of the sentences were written so perfectly and beautifully that I just stopped reading and pondered them.
I especially related to this book because I am a 10 year breast cancer survivor myself, and recently I had a scare, fearing that it had returned. Luckily, all my tests (first tests done in 10 years) were clear. But for a brief time I felt like Daisy, scared of a recurrence, but I was so lucky and fortunate that it was nothing. In her case, she was only 27, so very young, so her diagnosis was doubly scary. Also, I have a friend whose husband was recently diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer, and what she is going through I can only imagine. So this book had special meaning for me at this time. It made my throat tighten at certain scenes and I cried throughout; it was very cathartic! Like I said, it is a heartbreaking book, but my favorite of this year. I highly recommend it.
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