Saturday 30 June 2007

Sixtyfive Roses: A Sister's Memoir by: Heather Summerhayes Cariou

Sixtyfive Roses: A Sister's Memoir
Heather Summerhayes Cariou

McArthur & Company

ISBN 1552786110

When reading a biography, the hard part is often if you know the end of the story. This book is a powerful take of life, service, and a family that stood and faced a terrible disease and the medical community, and changed the odds, not only for their family member, but also for all families that deal with Cystic Fibrosis. This is a chronicle of a family's struggle against CF for 22 years. Our narrator, Heather Summerhayes, was 6 when her 4-year-old sister was diagnosed with CF, a disease that, at the time, her sister Pam pronounced as 'Sixtyfive Roses'.

At the time of Pam's diagnoses she was only given months to live. Yet the family believed differently and fought against it. Their mother promised that they would do all they could for sick little Pam and they did. The Summerhayes helped to create the Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation with the assistance of the U.S. association and the Sick Kids hospital in Toronto. They set up a Financial Advisory Board as well as a Medical Advisory Board to help families deal with this disease and to raise funds for research for a cure for this illness.

This is a story of true Canadian strength - a story of hope, love and charity. This book, which spans years in a the Summerhayes' family life, will draw you into their struggle with prevailing opinions, medical advances, and always a struggle to love Pam, and seek what is best for her. Pam became one of a first wave of children diagnosed with this disease who lived into adulthood. Now the family and the medical staff were in new territory and 'all bets were off'.

Heather does an amazing job of recalling her family's life, living and dying with CF. She reflects in a sober way on the hard moments and celebrates the victories. The story is told in a well balanced way, not focusing just on the difficulties of living with a terminal disease. Heather tells the story of her cherished sister's life. A life lived to the full.

This book is a powerful story that will give you courage and faith to face the trials in your own life and the lives of the people who are dear to you. Celine Dion writes a moving forward.

The hard part of reading biographies is that you know where the story is going - yet with this one, the journey to get there is so moving and powerful, it will be great read.

(First Published in Imprint 2007-06-29 as in the book review column.)

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