A bone marrow transplant and beyond: an American healthcare odyssey
Having rebuilt his life after a painful divorce, Peter was on top of the world. Recently remarried, a thriving career, living in a beautiful mountain resort, at the peak of fitness and health – life was looking up again. Suddenly an aggressive case of acute leukemia seized his body and turned his world upside down. His only hope for survival was a bone marrow transplant, and at his age the outlook wasn’t good…
In this gripping chronicle, Peter Gordon describes the initial shock of his diagnosis, the ensuing upheaval, the anxious wait for a matching donor, the long hospitalization for the transplant itself, and the surprisingly difficult road afterward. And that’s just part of the story. His wife suffers a debilitating injury, suddenly tossing the couple into intertwined roles of patient and caregiver. For several years they struggle through one challenge after another, helping each other along the way.
Based in part on a blog he kept, Peter’s story provides a riveting, “in the moment” view of a regular guy and his wife grappling with cancer and its many offshoots. Don’t expect a sugar-coated fairy tale; this is as real-life as it gets. He shares razor sharp observations, moments of deep introspection, and the wide emotional swings of their journey: from stressful and gut-wrenching, to humorous, heartwarming, and poignant.
Along with his physical ups and downs, Peter vividly describes the way long-term health challenges inevitably entangle with so many of life’s other issues. With the Great Recession and the national healthcare debate as a backdrop, you’ll step into the shoes of an American couple dealing with the stress of insurance coverage and pre-existing conditions, career and financial challenges, aging parents, and the baffling complexity of our medical system. Amidst their journey, you’ll see many examples of human nature at its best, and occasionally at its worst.
Toward the end of the book, Peter looks back and packages together various lessons he and his wife have learned during their journey. Cancer patients, their partners, and caregivers will find this a valuable resource. In particular, the section called “Many Medicines Besides Drugs” is filled with thought-provoking ideas for communicating, coping, and making it through. Some may surprise you.
“Six Years and Counting” is also a must-read for medical professionals, especially those who work with blood cancers like Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML). It’s a textbook case study of a stem cell transplant and its many after-effects, particularly graft vs. host disease, as seen from the patient’s eyes. The section called “Doctoring: The Good, the Bad, and the Indifferent” offers no-holds-barred feedback to doctors and medical staff, as does the chapter “A Tale of Two Hospitals.”
“Six Years and Counting” is an American healthcare saga for our times. It will certainly resonate with anyone touched by cancer or other health challenges. But it will appeal to many other readers too, as it’s far more than a medical narrative. It’s also a touching story about loss, recovery, relationships, and the human spirit… a soul-baring voyage of self-discovery… and an inspiring tale of resilience and love.
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