Dani’s Story – book review

I met the authors, Jay and Sue Shotel, earlier in the year at a Bone Marrow Transplant Survivor’s conference outside Boston.  They were attending in order to promote the book they wrote, It’s Good to now a Miracle:  Dani’s Story – One Family’s Struggle with Leukemia.  Dani is their adult daughter who was diagnosed with AML – acute myelogenous leukemia in 2002. The BMT survivor meeting was the perfect venue for showcasing this family memoir.

That audience – candidates for and survivors of peripheral blood stem cell and bone marrow transplant procedures, along with their respective families and caregivers – are the ones who will most benefit from reading this instructive and enlightening book.  If read with the proper perspective, the book may be among the most important reading for those blood cancer patients considering the transplant option.  Survivors and others will identify with the arduous and scary process.

The Shotels decided to keep a daily journal in order to keep track and be able to understand the new world of medical procedure that they were about to enter.  Most of the volume is told through the perspective of Sue, Dani’s mother.  Periodically Dani’s offers a patient’s counterpoint.  The diary-style conveys both strengths and weaknesses to the narrative.

From a purely literary standpoint, the repetitive descriptions of daily symptoms, like nausea and bowel movements, tend to bog down the pace of the narrative.  I mention this point perhaps only because I am an old English major.  But the Shotels were not writing for English majors. Their writing success was to recreate as faithfully as possible the family’s experience with leukemia and transplant.  The repetitive, grinding tedium of dealing with the dozens of symptoms and side effects of the process is thus meaningful as the process of marrow transplant and recovery/rebirth is a long and often tiring one.

The details are all there.  The strength of this is the learning opportunity it allows readers.  The educational aspect is given great advantage here by adding boxed explanations of new terms as they occur in the storyline – a type of blood test, a new drug, a medical definition.  And all of these are collated at the end in a glossary.

The proper perspective for the reader involves what to do with these details.  This is a singular story of a person of a certain age with a particular disease who elects for transplant at one of the more famous transplant centers in the United States.  Therefore, readers should avoid comparing their own experience, whether in the past or in the future, detail for detail, with Dani’s.  There will be different drugs, different catheters, different protocols, different resources, medical and social, available for any given patient.  I plan to write a post on factors to consider when making a transplant or other cancer-related decision.

Dani’s Story brilliantly conveys a truthful sense of the transplant experience.  It will be important reading for anyone considering or planning a peripheral blood stem cell or bone marrow transplant. Another group that will find this a useful read is the community of young adult cancer survivors.  The utility of the book is also fortified by a number of appendices devoted to fundraising, bone marrow drives for new donors, running a website, medical and disability insurance, the appeals process, as well as a list of supportive organizations.

Order direct from Amazon through Being Cancer Network link below:
It’s Good to Know a Miracle: Dani’s Story: One Family’s Struggle with Leukemia

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About Dennis Pyritz

Dennis W. Pyritz, RN, BA, BSN, has been a cancer nurse since 1987 and a cancer and bone marrow transplant survivor since 2004. In December 2001 he was diagnosed with t-cell prolymphocytic leukemia (T-PLL), a rare aggressive form of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). Dennis was treated with the then new monoclonal antibody, alemtuzumab (Campath) as this disease has a median survival of 7.5 months. He achieved a 26 month remission but relapsed in February 2004. He was retreated with Campath and went into a second remission. In August 2004 he underwent an allogeneic peripheral blood stem cell transplant with his brother, Mark, as donor. Dennis has remained in remission since - a near miracle. Throughout his career as cancer nurse and patient, Dennis has had the opportunity to speal to both lay and professional groups. Dennis has spoken on cancer topics and survival issues across the country as well as in the United Kingdom, Norway, Austria, Portugal, Honduras, Panama, Guatemala, Trinidad, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Cyrpus, Israel, and India.

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