Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Fighting Back with Joy

For several weeks, we’ve been reading Fight Back With Joy: Celebrate More. Regret Less. Stare Down Your Greatest Fears by Margaret Feinberg, and we’ve reached the end of the discussion. But not the end of the book, because this is a book that stays with you.

It finishes with “Bonus Tracks” – “5 Things to Say When You Don’t Know What to Say,” applicable not only to a cancer patient but also to any serious situation; “8 Things Those Facing Crisis Can’t Tell You (But Wish They Could);” “6 Lessons I Learned from Crisis;” “A Letter from Leif,” Feinberg’s husband and chief caregiver; and a playlist of music to accompany each chapter.

Each of the tracks (well, perhaps not the playlist) could have been books. Instead, they’re short, succinct summaries, wisdom learned the very hardest way – the wisdom that comes from living an experience that at many points could have ended in death.

It was the bonus tracks, in fact, that punched home something I knew from the beginning of the book but which I don’t think I acknowledged. Books are objects, yes, objects you hold in your hands or view on an e-reader like Kindle. You enjoy them or you don’t; you learn from them or you don’t. Good books become part of you; the best books change your life.

Fight Back with Joy is a giving book. Feinberg gives away a good part of herself in this book. One of the lessons she learned from her fight with breast cancer is that serious illness changes you. She may have been a giving person before it; she is a different giving person after it, a person who gives with God’s sense of giving.

It is a generous book. That’s not a redundant statement. Feinberg is lavish with her giving in this book. Little is excluded. If you want to know what experimental chemotherapy is like, or what to expect when you first look in the mirror after a double mastectomy, you will find it here. Or what you experience when you hair falls out in clumps.You want to know how difficult a cancer fight is for the primary caregiver, you will find that, too.

It is an honest book. Feinberg gets angry. She gets angry with God, with friends who don’t know what to say so they stop coming around, with her family, and with herself. There were days and times when she wanted to curl up in a ball and die.

Margaret Feinberg
It is a courageous book. Even being on the other side of the cancer experience, and having survived the cancer, its treatment, and related surgeries, it is clear that Feinberg never quit, although there were times when she wanted to. She fought, she fought with everything she had, everything her husband had, what friends and family had. She fought, too, with what God had, and what He had from the beginning was no guarantee she would survive. She fought with faith.

And Fight Back with Joy is a profoundly human book. Feinberg made a choice early on in dealing with the disease. She would fight with joy. There were days when there was no joy left, and yet it was still there. One of those days, when she found despair, led her to give away red balloons to fellow cancer patients and their families. She discovered the joy again, enough to continue the fight. And it is often the joy of a child, an adult who learns the joy of being a child of God.

This is a book for those who suffer a serious illness, and those who don’t. This is a book for caregivers to learn what to expect, and for those who are never called upon to be caregivers. This is a book for women and for men. It is about shock, and fear, and joy, and depression, and despair, and faith, and giving in, and fighting on when there’s little left to fight with.

This is a book that will change you.

Jason Stasyszn and Sarah Salter have been leading us in a discussion on Fight Back with Joy. Today concludes the book. To see more posts on the “Bonus Tracks,” please visit Jason at Connecting to Impact.

Photograph by Yiting Liu via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.


Maureen said...

I've enjoyed reading your posts about this book. So much of Feinberg's experience is lived everyday by those with cancer and their family members, caregivers, and friends. Few ever associate joy with so devastating an illness. Feinberg shows us how that change of perspective makes a difference.

jasonS said...

Wonderfully summarized and I couldn't agree more. This is such a beautiful story made from some of the most horrendous things a person can experience. I have so appreciated your thoughts and contributions. Thanks so much, Glynn.