Sunday, October 7, 2012

Widow's Book Corner - Checking Out: An In-Depth Look At Losing Your Mind

I know you have all been waiting for another book review. I can't keep up with my speed of reading! This was a book I had wanted to read for a long time, my aunt had passed along the recommendation. This is the only account from a widow who lost her husband to brain cancer that I have read. There probably aren't a ton out there. I have read a lot of widow books thus far and lately I have felt myself wanting to read some "lighter" books. I have only moved on to a spiritual memoir but I guess it's a change. In the beginning I craved to understand that all the emotions I was feeling were "normal". Well now I know, it's all part of the grief process. All of these books certainly have helped me realize this but I also thought the other day, no matter how books I read, I can't read away this pain. So here it is....

Checking Out: An In-Depth Look At Losing Your Mind by Catherine Graves

Book Description
April 25, 2011
Making mistakes and owning up to them can be difficult, but feeling truly absolved is much more difficult. In Checking Out: An In-Depth Look At Losing Your Mind, new author, Catherine Graves, does what shelves and shelves of self-help books could never do; Graves makes keeping it together possible by realizing that the poor choices and mistakes she makes has consequences and repercussions. By forgiving herself for her actions she is able to inspire others to see that there is life at the other end of immense grief. When her husband starts to act out-of-character and increasingly disinterested, Catherine Graves suspects the worst—but while she needs confirmation of one sort, a different type of nightmare begins, which becomes the toughest year of her and her two children’s lives - a dreadful year in which nothing for their family will ever be the same. Moving beyond survivor’s guilt and any sense of resentment, this poignant, bittersweet memoir is about tolerance and humility. Checking Out: An In-Depth Look At Losing Your Mind is about a mother, a son, and a daughter pulling together in order to survive. Readers will respond to the narrator’s honesty—this sort of candor is hard to come by—and be thankful to lead less extraordinary lives. Catherine’s real-life story is as dramatic as any thriller; ultimately, it motivates readers to accept the things in their lives that they cannot change.

Widow's Book Corner Review:

As I shared, my aunt had told me about this book quite some time ago and I was anxious to read it as this was the first book that I had read from another widow who had lost her husband to brain cancer. And well the book title kind of says it all I guess?

The beginning of the book is what I found the most interesting or shall I say the most eerily identifiable with. Catherine Grave's husband, John Graves, begins to act very different. She actually suspects that he is having an affair and then ultimately thinks he is having some sort of a mental break down. She decides to take him to a mental facility where the Doctors tell her that what he is experiencing is physical and they rush him to a hospital immediately. Her husband is diagnosed with a glioblastoma (GBM or Grade 4 Brain Tumor). The worst type of tumor. Matt was never officially diagnosed with this. His diagnosis was a Grade 3 tumor but his certainly acted more like a GBM especially towards the end. I found Catherine's description of a GBM especially haunting, "All in all, you'd rather have almost anything other than glioma. You'd rather have a dead-shot hired killer trying to track you down. At least then you'd know what you were fighting, and you might have a chance to get the first shot off." I remember sitting in the emergency room hall (there were no open rooms) of Northwestern. The nurse came out and told us that Matt had a Glioma. I had no idea of the magnitude of what she told me that day. I didn't even know what the hell a glioma was. After the diagnosis, Catherine's husband endured surgery, chemo, and radiation. John passed away about five and a half months later.

I can't imagine what this woman went through. Yet I know it all too well. I could barely read the beginning of this book, it hit way too close too home. I wanted to read it but I would read a sentence and I felt her pain so much that I could barely read another sentence. I KNEW that Matt had a brain tumor that wasn't going away and I STILL didn't know that it was affecting him from a mental functioning stand point. Or perhaps I refused to believe? Just about a year ago now when his personality began to shift, I just didn't put two and two together. I would also get upset with him, why don't you do this or that or want to go out or talk to me more. I didn't know that this is how these tumors manifest themselves. Matt had seizures before, his persona was never altered. I was on the lookout for seizures not this! And then the decline came quickly with Matt soon needing someone to be with him at all times should he head outside, lock the door, and take off somewhere. This woman didn't even know her husband had a tumor and experienced similar changes in John only to lose him months afterwards. I can't even imagine, no wonder she lost her mind! Catherine  experienced a lot of guilt especially since she suspected him of something so harsh. I sometimes feel guilty for being upset with Matt at times but how did I know? I was just doing the best I could each day, I have made peace with it. But really, after you lose someone, I am positive there is no way not to feel some hints of guilt.   

After her husband's death, Catherine fell into a deep depression and eventually checked into a mental facility. She went on to write this book and work to help others and let others know her story. She certainly inspired me in this way. Catherine states,  "I didn't want to live a life worth a book or a magazine piece, nor even a short prizewinning film with the part of me being played by Sandra Bullock. I craved a normal life with a husband I'd spend a long time with that would be so wonderful, that fifty years later, it would feel like only a moment had passed." Although, my lead would be played by Hilary Duff, I did not want this "sob story" to be mine. But it is. And it is mine to do with it what I know I must. I will turn this all into something positive and I know it will have something to do with helping others. I look forward to seeing how this unfolds. Thank you Matt for inspiring me.

Recommendation: I am going to go ahead and recommend this to all those that have experienced the loss of someone who had a brain tumor specifically to those that are friends or family of a spouse that has lost someone to brain cancer. Yes, that is a very spelled out hint for my friends and family to read this book. Sometimes I, nor others in my life realize or remember the magnitude of what I have gone through. This book clearly reminds me that what I went through was intense, not easy, and not to be taken lightly. Not that I do, I am living this truth every day but I mean my husband died from brain cancer at the age of 32. There isn't a lot more seriously intense than that. (I had to come back and add this as it's been bothering me... I know there are worse things out there and I am greatful for what I have been given) This is way too much to get over in a few months and thankfully I have not ended up in a mental facility but it would be certianly understandable. Some people are just realizing what the hell happened after 7 months. In writing this review, I paged through all of my Kindle highlights and was simply amazed by all of the quotes in the book that related to me. The following post will be a collection of those quotes.


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