Lessons from the Front Line
Smooth River Book
From the back cover:
The Smooth River is the remarkable story of how a well-known public relations expert and her husband met her stage 4 pancreatic cancer head-on. With vigor and strength, they deployed all they and medicine had to offer. But, in contrast to narrow conventional approaches, the couple developed a far more expansive view of what strength means in response to a crisis for which there are no medical cures. They called this the Smooth River.
This clear-eyed transcendent perspective was so vital that they wouldn’t let anything disrupt it—not cancer’s lethal march, not the strongest chemos and their failures to work, not the frequent episodes of severe pain, not how society expected them to think or act, not the process of dying itself.
The Smooth River demonstrates how to treat one’s life as bigger—and far more important— than any medical condition, any tragedy, any setback of any kind. With effusive warmth, refreshing candor and practical detail, it describes how to personalize Medical and Life Plans that affirm the value of a patient's being and guide their loved ones. Its invaluable lessons show how to face the possibility of dying with sanctity and comfort, to view it as an opportunity for personal growth, finding inspiration and intense beauty in the experience—in life itself. There are lessons in the Smooth River approach for everyone.
3. The Attitude That Is Everything:
The Smooth River
The question is not how to get cured, but how to live.
Attitude is everything, but the attitude Marcia and I adopted was very different from the conventional “fight the cancer” mode that is prominent in our culture. We were not going to let distorted notions define whether we won or lost, whether we were successful or not. No matter what, after gaining a good understanding of our medical options and exercising thoughtful decision-making, our experience would be on our terms. This approach formed the headwaters of the Smooth River. They would quickly advance from streamlet strands of thought into the mature, more potent flow of an all-encompassing perspective as we progressed through Marcia’s illness.
1. The Suddenness of It All
2. The Problem: The Conventional Saying “Attitude Is Everything” Is Not Everything
3. The Attitude That Is Everything: The Smooth River
4. Getting the Diagnosis
5. Taking the Hit: Adapting to the New Realities
6. Stepping into the Breach to Manage Care and Life
7. Choosing Your Doctor Carefully
8. The Medical Plan: Limited Options
9. The Life Plan: Finding Silver Linings Everywhere
10. Managing Pain and Other Symptoms: The Rotation of Pill Bottles
11. Peering Over the Edge: Heart-to-Hearts
12. Keeping Your Eye on the Medical Road and Both Hands on the Wheel
13. Preparing for the End
14. Discovering Spiritual Beauty within the Storm
15. Dealing with Problems That Will Come
16. Beyond the Protocols (After Two Chemos Failed)
17. Making Our Home Safe and Patient-Friendly
18. Room 413: Our Final Home
19. Marcia’s Wishes
20. Making the Funeral, Burial, and Bereavement Holy
21. Carrying Out Marcia’s Legacy
22. Life after Death
23. Smooth River Lessons
Appendix 1: Our Log (Condensed)
Appendix 2: Marcia’s Booklist
Appendix 3: Resources
About the Author