How would you cope, if you were handed a death sentence of only eighteen months to live? It doesn’t bear thinking about. And yet that is exactly what happened to Midge Rylander, for she had contracted a terminal form of cancer in the lining of her lungs called Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma, which is caused by inhaling asbestos. This book is the story of her journey through the course of her illness.
When I first started reading, I was a little apprehensive about what to expect, but I needn’t have worried. Midge plunges us straight into her world without any traces of self-pity, self-indulgence or bitterness at her fate. From the daily documentation of her pain, to the detail of her treatment and medication, and transcripts of her doctors’ appointments, Midge leads us gently alongside her as she bravely struggles to cope with living as full, independent, and normal a life as possible, for as long as possible.
Her care and concern for her family is obvious; she writes loving letters to them, some of which are included in her story. It is touching and humbling to see that she is not blinkered by the symptoms of her illness to the impact that it has on the lives and emotions of her children, and others around her, quietly and selflessly taking avoidance measures in so far as she can.
As time passes, Midge becomes increasingly frustrated at the lack of information available to her, and this is what drives her to write her story; to help others who find themselves burdened with a similar fate. But it’s so much more than just a sick person’s journal; it’s a story of hope and inspiration, of grace, dignity and love.
The story ends as suddenly as it starts, with Midge’s last journal entry stating optimistically that although her health had dramatically declined, she was feeling better with hopes of possible remission. Her daughter Rachele then takes up the story, sharing with us a very moving and beautiful letter which Midge wrote to her shortly before her death.
‘Eighteen Months to Live’ will have you smiling through your tears, and full of admiration for this remarkable and courageous woman. I must also commend the narrator, her daughter Rachele Baker, for having the strength and determination to follow her mother’s wishes, and bringing them to fruition.
You can find out more about the author, Rachele Baker, and her writing on her website.