It is still dark with just a hint of light in the Eastern sky. But the full moon gives the snow cover in our back yard a silvery glow.  I have the gift of a quiet Sunday morning at home to write to you and introduce our family’s story, Home Before Dark: A Family’s Portrait of Cancer and Healing.

In writing this book and creating this site, Kate, Michael, Sam and I want to invite you into our home and our lives and show you how we as family confronted my illness and at the the time what was expected to be my likely death. We want to offer you our story about how we coped with this crisis as best we could. It’s not that we became experts on how to deal with cancer. We know there are really no easy answers or right way.

However, we all know this is true: there are only two kinds of families, those who have been through life changing crises and those that unfortunately will. Often families are shattered and split apart. Sometimes each family member feels incredibly alone as they try to bravely maintain a positive attitude while keeping their darkest fears and feelings to themselves.  Each family member copes in their own unique way which can sometimes separate family members from each other.

The four of us wanted to share our story; each of us sharing our own experience of trying to stay close and supportive while also bracing for the possibility of my death and the necessity of having to go on with their own lives.

Unlike so many families who have lost someone, we have been incredibly lucky, it’s been 4 years and a half years since I was diagnosed and I am still here. It’s actually taken a long time for all of us to truly believe in my recovery and regain our balance emotionally. I have survived but I also have changed. I feel much older, more vulnerable, less resilient. Having spent 40 years being a therapist and care taker of others, sometimes I feel more overwhelmed by the suffering of my clients, friends and family members than I used to be. I feel humbled by my brush with mortality. So I have not returned easily to the normal ups and downs of my former life. It’s different now.

As we face the predictable difficulties of everyday existence, we frequently say to ourselves and each other,  “Hey, at least it’s not cancer.” We are trying our best to live as they say in A.A. with an attitude of gratitude.       

A fairly common feeling on the part of all of us who have been lucky enough to be undeservedly spared, is the wish to pay it forward; to do something for others to express our appreciation.  Hopefully our reaching out and sharing our story will somehow be of support to you and members of your family.

The sun’s up. The paper is here. Time to bring some coffee to my dear Kate. Time to bow my head and murmur my thanks. It’s good to be here. It’s good to be writing to you.

Two things that I never thought I would do:

1) write a book about my feelings and my family and cancer and yaddiddy, yaddiddy.

2) blog

That’s right. I never would have ever thought it conceivable that I would blog. Why would anyone want to listen to me? What would I even have to write about?

Well strap yourself in and get ready. I have a stage that is being thrust upon me by this book project my dad roped me into. So I plan to sing and dance and carry on! Oddly enough I think I’m going to love blogging. I’ve had a built up resistance to the idea, but now that I have to, and I might as well. I have stories, lots of stories. And I have opinions, lots of them too!

In my short life career so far I’ve found that honesty is the best policy. Those of you reading this that actually know me, can probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve tried to lie and how horribly I’ve failed. So in writing this book, (and now with this blog) I am above all open and honest. I really hope that when you read our book you’ll see this right away. We didn’t pull any punches.

 I don’t really have high hopes for this book, lord knows that I wouldn’t ever pick it up in a store myself. However, my one real hope is that a few people, who are going through a similar life / family crisis, and have a similar denial approach to the situation that I took, will read what I wrote and know that they’re not alone. Maybe people will see that it’s okay to handle feelings differently from your fellow family members. That it’s okay to be  distracted by the normal trials and tribulations of everyday life even though your father is seriously sick. It would have helped me to know that others might feel like me when I was going through this first year with cancer.

Well enough of that. I promise future posts will be fun and awesome! My upcoming blog entry will retell the epic tale of my trip to Nashville last year when I visited Michael.

Get ready blogging world. Sam Treadway’s coming at yah!

It’s now been almost five years since dad was first diagnosed with cancer, and it sometimes feels difficult to recollect the terror I felt in that moment. It is amazing how quickly I feel things have gone back to normal. Right after dad started to get better, all members of our family seemed much more equipped to deal with life’s little triumphs and defeats with a sense of balance and calm. Now I find that I have relapsed into old habits. 

I’m hopeful, however, that this book and this blog might help me stay a little more connected with the reality of what we faced, and how fortunate we are that my dad is still here. One thing that has definitely occurred is that in the years since writing the book, our family has gotten closer. The process of writing the book has, for each of us, provided a better understanding of each other’s experience. As far as legacies of terminal illness go, I think that’s about as good as one can hope for. 

Having written the book, we are now beginning the process of sharing it. This, I find, has been much more anxiety-producing then actually writing it. While we all want to the book to be successful, I occasionally worry that success may taint its meaning for me. It is a book that we wrote with the intent to share it,  but it is also our book, and there are moments in which it feels like having my personal diary listed on amazon.com. The thing that helps is the thought that the book may be of use to other families. I hope so.

Our book has not yet been published. It will be out in a few weeks.  In some ways, the point of writing the book has already been accomplished. It was a vehicle that allowed us, as a family, to talk about David’s illness and how it impacted each of us. When I wrote, I was writing for myself and for my family.  I did not let myself think about a larger audience.  I would have been paralyzed. I wrote to put in words the experiences I had over that first year of David’s illness. Now it seems so personal to me and to our family that I cannot imagine how it will be helpful to others which was the second main reason for the book – to be helpful, in some way, to people who are going through or who have gone through such an experience.

I want so much for this to be useful. My experience tells me that so often in our lives we go through difficult events and feel alone with our feelings. Either we do not talk about them or the people around us have not experienced anything like it and cannot understand, or perhaps it is just that we feel they cannot understand. As someone who went through the loss of a parent at an early age, I felt very alone with those feelings. As I grew older and met others who had had similar losses, it was a comfort to me to know they too felt the way I felt, no matter how different our circumstances may have been.

When David became so ill and I was threatened with his loss, I found it impossible to share my fears with any but a few and even then, I said only a small fraction of what I was thinking about and feeling. Despite having written this book, I am a very private person when it comes to expressing personal feelings. It only makes sense to me to have written this book if it can be of use to others who face difficult circumstances. I hope that simply knowing one is not alone with the feelings that such events engender will help. To those facing the loss of a spouse I hope that voicing the shared fear will somehow provide some comfort. In the movie “Shadowlands” a young student quotes his father as telling him, “We read to know we are not alone.” It is my hope that despite the highly personal nature of this book, it will help someone know they are not alone.