Book Review: From Hell to Happiness: How to Heal When Your Loved One is Terminal
For many in the metastatic breast cancer community, fear of the end of life and how the process of dying will affect us – as well as our friends and family – is constantly on our minds. For some, we keep our experiences quiet or contained in private groups, which continues the mystery of what life and death with MBC may look like for those newly diagnosed with metastatic disease and their families. Above everything is the fear of how those who become our end-of-life caretakers will deal with our deaths, both during and after our end of life. Along with that is the question of whether we will die with dignity, in a way that spares unnecessary pain to us and those we love.
Jenny Cooper on Coopdizzle
Jenny Cooper was diagnosed with early-stage, triple-negative breast cancer in 2014 at the age of 31. In 2015, she would experience a recurrence, progressing her disease to stage IV, metastatic breast cancer. Metastatic breast cancer is the terminal stage of the disease with no known cure. Jenny graciously took time out to vlog her end-of-life experiences on her Coopdizzle YouTube page. She was also active in the online MBC community, where I personally interacted [with her] and was able to see her passion for life, including our shared love of music from Rock to Eric Whitacre and her love for her family.
Like many of us with MBC, Jenny worried about her family, including her husband (Chris Cooper) and their two sons, and how they would inevitably react to her death. Many of us were lucky enough to hear her perspective of her experience [directly from her]. Now, through Chris Cooper’s new book From Hell to Happiness: How to Heal When Your Loved One is Terminal, we get a no-holds-barred, raw and real experience of what caregivers and families experience during and after the end-of-life experience of a young adult dying from a terminal illness.
Death With Dignity
Christopher Cooper, author of From Hell to Happiness and widower of MBC patient and advocate Jenny Cooper, graciously and courageously shares with readers both the happy moments and absolute hell of dealing with the death of a young woman with MBC. This is not a book wrapped in a pretty pink package. It’s not the “how to cope” of yesteryear that tells you if you aren’t positive, you’re doing it wrong. It’s not a book that coddles and shields young kids away from the reality of death when their mom is terminal.
Cooper’s book is raw and real, showing the true experiences of what their young family experienced, including dealing with pain, hallucinations, hospice care (and its flaws during their experience), and ultimately a call for something that was near and dear to Jenny during her time here on earth: Death with Dignity. The book tells the story of a family who lost their young mother to a horrible disease and how their children coped and reacted to their mom’s impending and ultimate death. It’s also a book about healing and doing the best that you can after the death of a terminal loved one.
Looking at death though the eyes of a caretaker gives a perspective that isn’t necessarily new. But what is new is that Cooper doesn’t sugarcoat the hard times. Through Cooper’s experiences, we see the disheartening truth that many end-of-life and caregiver literature glosses over. From the beginning of From Hell to Happiness, we know that this isn’t a story about a happy family living alongside someone who is now living in remission. Just like the over 41,000 men and women every year in the United States who die from MBC, Jenny and her family became one of the stories that you rarely see highlighted in breast cancer circles. Cooper also openly shares his [use] of metal health aids for him and his family during this time, including the necessity of grief and emotional support for their two boys.
I highly recommend From Hell to Happiness to those dealing with metastatic breast cancer with a loved one, possibly [read] together with the patient as a part of end-of-life planning. While the book is a page turner, I wouldn’t go as far as to say it is an “easy read” by any means. From Hell to Happiness is a real, raw and emotional reflection, but among other things, it is a call to action for better end-of-life options for patients and their caregivers, and for dignity for all of those dealing with pain and terminal illnesses. It’s hard not to want to find out how we can all personally get involved to make sure patients like Jenny can finally experience peace, comfort, and dignity at their time of death.