Wednesday, April 14, 2010

'Between Me and the River: Living Beyond Cancer'

by Carrie Host
Non-Fiction/Memoir, 2009
Harlequin, hardback, 288 p.
From the front flap:
Carrie Host knows that the diagnosis of a life-threatening illness takes a split second to change your life, as well as the lives of your partner, parents, children and all who love you. Packed with inspiration, advice, comfort, and hope, Between Me and the River is Host’s candid and uplifting memoir of how she found the strength and fortitude to triumph over a rare form of cancer, and craft a new and meaningful life.

When told at forty, with her youngest child just ten months old, that she had carcinoid tumor, Host felt as if she’d been hurled into a raging river, stripped of all forms of potential rescue. The voyage of this strong-minded, openhearted woman out of that river and onto safe shores is told with uncompromising honesty and respect for the miracles that medicine and love can work.

While dealing with practical issues such as how to find the best medical team and what to tell the children, Host also recounts the many spiritual and eye-opening lessons that made her journey so bearable: how to see what is available rather than what is absent, how to free up energy to heal by letting go of anger and fear, and how to believe in the future.
Between Me and the River is the honest, emotional account of Carrie Host’s courageous battle with carcinoid tumor, a rare, and difficult cancer to treat. To be honest, I’m a little like an ostrich where cancer is concerned. I prefer to ignore its devastating potential and seeming randomness. However, cancer has touched my immediate family in the past, not fatally, but painfully, and although I was either too young at the time to understand, or not directly involved, it’s something I really should consider more seriously regarding myself. I also tend not to read memoirs very often, but after reading an excerpt, I really wanted to hear her story, and I’m very glad I did. As someone who tends to avoid doctors and hospitals as much as possible, I couldn’t help but wonder how I would handle her diagnosis. Would I be as brave and optimistic as she was? Would those around me prop me up when my courage and optimism failed?

No one who gets cancer can be considered lucky but Carrie was certainly very fortunate to have loving, supportive friends and family to help her through the hell of treatment and recovery. I felt grateful, on her behalf, that she had not only the financial means to pursue the very best treatment, but most importantly, so many good people to rely on. It was the love and care of her family that truly made this a moving, heart-warming story. A real life example of the healing power of love! On the other hand, it also made me sad to think of the people who don’t have that kind of support system. We don’t usually hear their tragic stories, but I can only imagine how utterly heart-breaking they must be.

On the writing itself, I loved the straightforward, honest way she told her story, with the ups and downs, the hope, the despair, and even some moments of humour. I did find the frequent references to the river, with the motivating messages of advice, a bit repetitive, but I understand that they are there for a reason. It’s the metaphor running, or should I say flowing, through the entire book, and I understand where she’s coming from. Besides, I was reading this from the perspective of someone who has experienced no major health problems so far (knock on wood), and with no personal experience dealing with cancer. I’m sure this book would be hugely inspirational for anyone in a similar situation as the author, or as insight for anyone who knows someone with a life-threatening disease.
I’ve come a long way from the bend in the river where it was pitch-black and sucking me under. I was alone, and the road back has been ragged. I’ve seen that some rocks in the road just sit there like large elephants. Better simply to notice those, walk peacefully around them, and smile.
Cancer is like that. It not only changes the way in which we see and hear things. It ultimately changes the way we respond to the world around us. Laughing is good for you. Children laugh an average of four hundred times a day, while adults pale in comparison at only twelve. With cancer, we have been ushered into the now, and we can take this as an opportunity to return to the mindset of children. We were once this way, not thinking as much of the future as we did of the moment at hand. Let’s feel the wonder of our lives again, the thrill of taking chances, the joy of laughter. Let’s take the one life we do have in front of us right now and jump in.
For more information on the book, and the author, visit Carrie Host's website, read an interview with the author, or watch a video interview with Carrie Host.

Thank you to Lisa Roe for the opportunity to read this book, and I wish Carrie the very best of health for many years to come.

Buy Between Me and the River at: |

Also reviewed by:
As Usual, I Need More Bookshelves
Beth Fish Reads
Blue Archipelago Reviews
Cheryl's Book Nook
Hello, My Name is Alice
My Friend Amy
Old Musty Books
Peeking Between the Pages
Violet Crush
If you've reviewed this book, let me know and I'll link to it here.

The small print:  This book was received free of charge for review purposes.  Links in this post to Amazon (including book cover) or The Book Depository contain my Associates or Affiliates ID respectively.  Purchases made via these links earn me a very small commission.  For more information please visit my About Page.


  1. I'm a completely ostrich when it comes to cancer as well :\ Like you said, it's just to random, and it often terrifies me to even think about it. But I want to be able to understand what people like Carrie Host go through (not that we REALLY can by merely reading a book), so this appeals to me despite my fears.

  2. thanks so much for reviewing this. i wouldn't have considered it otherwise.

  3. Reading about cancer scares me. It touched my family in a way that has had so much influence on some of my family members and they've been silent and trying to avoid it for forever, which makes it hard for me to pick up a book on it.

    This seems like a book that is worth giving a try, however. I'd like to learn about the personal experiences of cancer, although I think I'd need to really take the time to read about it, considering the emotions that come along with diseases like this.

  4. I had a few problems with this book in that it was difficult to relate to her because she is clearly living in a different world than I am in terms of money. But if she can help just one person, then the book is more than worthwhile.

  5. I prefer to "ignore its devastating potential", too, but...I have to deal with it nonetheless! Might have to pick up this book!


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