But three times Bobbi de Cordova-Hanks has looked three different forms of cancer squarely in the face and lived not only to tell about it – but to write unselfishly about it.
She also collaborated with her husband, Jerry Hanks, to provide an additional point-of-view – that of the caregiver in their book Tears of Joy: In Sickness and in Health – a Cancer Survivor and Caregiver Share Their Story. (2006, infinitypublishing.com)
The two also speak throughout the United States and Canada about cancer survivorship.
Initially I was drawn to Bobbi because she and Jerry were guest speakers at local writers meeting I attended. Let’s face it, writers like to learn from each other and hear what it’s like from those who are further down the road.
Before I left the meeting, though, I was compelled to buy her book because someone in my family has recently re-entered the cancer battle, fighting for her life for the third time. I wanted ideas and needed them now. I read the whole book that evening.
Page 104 makes a bold declaration – one that the book totally fulfills. Saying that the work “is about life and love and hope and dreams…” is the simple way of saying that cancer and living with it are possibilities. The text, a mere 108 pages, is a casual but informed one where Bobbi and Jerry take you through their personal histories. Jerry had cared for and lost his previous wife to cancer, then married Bobbi, a professional musician and writer – to their thoughts and feelings – when explaining Bobbi’s journey and her 1986 diagnosis with advanced breast cancer.
What makes the 24 chapter book an even more interesting read is its presentation because the chapters rotate in candid first-person style between Bobbi and Jerry. For example, in Chapter 12, “How to be a Good Caregiver,” Jerry discusses the importance of faith, being an informed consumer and the value of obtaining group support. Bobbie, herself, founded the Jacksonville, FL based Bosom Buddies program, which is available today through the Women’s Center of Jacksonville. The program began in 1988 and is “dedicated to improving the lives of women affected by breast cancer.”
In various chapters, Bobbi explains the highs of lows of a time spent in hospital isolation, the challenge of making medical decisions and being comfortable with your care team and her efforts at helping others affected by cancer to know that it’s not necessary that it define their lives even though “it will always be a part of us.”
Inspiring and fast paced, I was left me hopeful knowing that assertiveness, emotional extremes and finding other heroes on their own cancer journeys are part of the experience – one which no one chooses to have.
Bobbi also has the added benefit of speaking fluent Spanish and the ability to connect with Hispanic/Latina women as they also struggle with the cancer while trying to obtain quality care. “Tears of Joy” is available in both Spanish and English.
Its primary languages, though, are love and hope sprinkled with humor and watered with tears – ones of joy that enabled me to envision a new definition of what it means to survive cancer and not simply be its victim.
Just wondering: What unexpected lessons have you learned about living and loving someone with severe illness?
For more info on the book see:
To know more about Bobbi and Jerry and their speaking: