Everybody wants to go to Heaven, but nobody wants to go now!” – Kenny Chesney
This Time's A Charm by Donald Wilhelm
Well I have the honor of being the last stop on Donald Wilhelm’s “This Time’s A Charm” blog book tour. Before getting into my interview with Donald below, I have to say that I wasn’t sure about reading another cancer book even if he had survived Hodgkins Lymphoma 4 times. Having lost a college roommate to cancer, watching my mom, cousins, aunts and most recently my own wife deal with breast cancer, another book on cancer just didn’t really appeal to me. I’d done a lot of research on my wife’s behalf to help her through her battle against breast cancer this past year and we are just beginning to get our post-cancer lives back. But such as life we find inspiration in all kinds of places from all kinds of people and all kinds of actions.www.thistimesacharm.com or click here to go directly to the Amazon.com purchase page. I have personally purchased an additional copy for a friend and fellow parent who is similarly diagnosed to Donald. If you haven’t read the previous blog tour entries, follow this schedule:
I found Donald’s book to be inspiring, insightful, honest, and just relevant to what I needed. In life I always look for inspiration to help myself and others, and for my mother and wife when they battled breast cancer I always pointed to Lance Armstrong and his mental toughness. There are other celebrity examples out there like Christina Applegate, Sheryl Crow and Patrick Swayze, but Donald’s story hit me not only as a good story about cancer, but a story about life. You see, although it helps, I don’t think you need to be someone touched by cancer to get something out of Donald’s book. Donald’s story doesn’t glamorize anything about his battle and survival which makes it more real and something that anyone touched by cancer or going through troubled times can relate to. Donald takes us through the cold reality of each one of his treatments and surgeries and provides a non-clinical view of what the patient goes through emotionally and physically. Better yet, what Donald does is=2 0typical of his personality. He doesn’t question things without giving his own opinion or answer. He always has his own solution for coping with what a cancer patient will go through.
If you are a Carpe Diem person, someone who believes in the power of positive thinking, or just finds inspiration in real life stories that give you that extra push to remind you about how much you need to respect life and all that surrounds you, then this book is one that I recommend.
I happened to finish this book as I took my wife for a Valentine’s Day in Las Vegas to see Elton John. For me this was my way of saying to my wife that we should get moving with life and start trying to put cancer behind us. It was my wife’s first trip, time away from our kids and time to think of her own pleasure and happiness. As I hit the end of the book and took in it’s messages as our plane descended into Vegas, I found myself nudging my wife and having her read passage after passage. I saw her smiling, nodding and crying as she read each page. She got it. It was time to start living her life
I’m not going to give away the key messages of the book because everyone will take something different from it, but I have some questions for Donald in an interview that will hopefully give you some insight to parts of the book that I really related to the most (especially as a caregiver).
Route53: Donald, let me just s ay that your story is inspiring on some many levels. Even without the message of surviving cancer 4 times I would have found your book inspiring. As a caregiver my first thought was to read who you dedicated the book to: Your wife Amy, friends, family and doctor. As I hit the end of the first page I had to recheck my facts. It talks about your wife Sara (not Amy). It always saddens me to read about a spouse who leave s their loved one at a time of need (What the heck happedned to “in sickness and in health”?). As I read about your separation and other parts of your life I seemed to notice you let people leave your life fairly easily. Is this just the way you wrote the book to not dwell on those matters? Were you not wanting to drag loved ones into your cancer world?
DW: Well, I spent a lot of time while I was isolated with the disease and really took the time to evaluate some of my “friendships” at the time. There’s nothing like a life-threatening disease to help you quickly sift through true friends from the others. What I found was that most of the people I had been spending time with seem to be “takers” and I was always the one that had to be “giving.” I came to realize how draining that had been on me and I knew it couldn’t not continue, nor should it. Life is short. I now choose to spend my time with positive-natured people who only add to my life and don’t detract
Route53: Although you have fought a strong battle on your own, for me there are three major people who were the core of your battle. In your book, you touch on surrounding yourself with the right people so I would like to focus on these caregivers. Let’s first talk about your choice of Dr. Jeff. In the book you talk about how you chose him. What further insight can you tell us about Dr. Jeff that you found was fitting for you, not just as a doctor, but as a person. Tell us about your relationship with Dr. Jeff today.
DW: Dr. Jeff is simply awesome. He’s very down-to-Earth, yet he is an excellent doctor who’s always up on the latest studies and research. I frankly have no idea how he has enough time in any given day to do what he does. Today, our relationship is as strong as possible. He respects me as a patient who runs his own healthcare team and I respect him as
the quarterback, counting on him to think out-of-the-box at times and run an audible if necessary.
Route53: My favorite person in your book is your cousin Dave, a totally selfless person (although I laughed at the halfway house he created for people and pets). Give Dave a big high five for me. He did more for you than most spouses do for their own loved ones who are suffering from cancer. He just seems to be a guy who puts everyone before himself. Tell us about Dave and the relationship you have with him. What makes him special in your mind that allows him to just give all he has to anyone. Were you two very close before the cancer arrived?
DW: Dave and I were close before my diagnosis. I always said we were part cousins, part brothers and part best friends. I can’t tell you what makes him tick, because honestly, most of the time I’m left scratching my head trying to figure him out. But the one steadfast quality he has, that everyone knows about, is that if you’re in need you can and should count on him.
Route53: Your second wife Amy is obviously a special person to you and helped you with much of the shaping of your life as it is today. My college roommate got married to his highschool sweetheart while he was suffering from cancer as well. If I could have changed one thing about your book, it is that you would have found Amy 5 years earlier. You talk about how Amy didn’t flinch when you told her about your cancer. Tell us what it is about her that is different from your first wife and your other relationship that you had during your battle with cancer. Perhaps Amy knew what she was signing up for in a relationship with you? Is it that she has dealt with cancer before? At the same time, what made you ready to let someone new close into your life at that point in time?
DW: Amy really is an incredible person. She has a heart of gold and simply loves to help other people. But the reason that she was able to stand by me, no matter what, is that she truly understands that none of us are guaranteed any amount of time in this life. Most people say things like, “well, you never know when you’re number will be up.” But I find that when push comes to shove, these same folks panic and cower in fear of death. Amy understands death and isn’t overly afraid of it. That being said, she maintains a healthy zest for life and we live each day to the fullest. Like Kenny Chesney said, “Everybody wants to go to Heaven, but nobody wants to go now!”
Route53: We had the same issue as you with the psychiatrist. When my own wife chose to see a psychiatrist before her bilateral mastectomy, I asked if that doctor had gone through cancer and she hadn’t. At that time I told my wife I didn’t think she needed this woman’s advice. It was the first appointment I didn’t go to with my wife and she became so anxious after her visit that she had to start taking Ativan again. I just want you to know that you would make the perfect psychiatrist for cancer patients. Have you realized that you have become the answer for what you yourself needed? I noticed on another blog that you are continuing to help with Dr. Jeff’s patients.
DW: Actually, that’s a great way to put that. I do, now, know that the answers I need were inside of me all the time. I have simply learn to ask different questions of myself, thereby making the game of life a bit easier to win. And why wouldn’t we do it that way?
As for me becoming a therapist, I kinda already view myself as such, but in a very informal manner. I’m trained by life, and my advice is simple and hard hitting. In fact, this is the reason that I wrote my book. So that whomever needed or wanted to fully understand my story, could just pick up a copy and read it at their own pace. I’ve found most people have been reading it multiple times and gaining more perspectives from it each time.
Route53: Chapter 11 and the catchy title you give it was that rough point in your battle. In a way I looked at it as an almost necessary evil. My feeling is that everyone hits that point in their recovery. Maybe not as reckless as you became, but I’m sure there are people who can relate to that chapter in some small way. Like you I believe in experiential learning. I’m sure you got something positive out of that time of your life. Can you share with us what experiences or learnings you got out of that time of your life helped shape your philosphy today?
DW: I think the most important lessons I learned from that period of my life was to watch your emotions and actively managed them. It’s hard for me to really remember that time of my life and what I must have been feeling inside. I must have been very lonely. Fortunately now, I know that I’ll never end up in the place again.
Route53: You ask your readers to read Dr. Phil’s “Self Matters” and Rhonda Walker’s, “The Secret”. Do you have any other good inspirational books or articles that we should read? Have you be en inspired in your battle? If so, who has been your inspiration?
DW: I’d definitely recommend Anthony Robbins’ “Now Awaken the Giant Within.”
Route53: What have you personally gained from writing this book that you didn’t expect or maybe were not quite expecting?
DW: Great question Erik. Well I’d say the biggest surprise is my readers’ responses to it. I was hopeful that everyone would like the book, but the depth of the feedback I get is overwhelming at times. My book seems to touch people in a way that really makes a positive and LASTING impact on their lives. That’s an incredible feeling for me!
SUMMARY: If you want to purchase This Time’s A Charm, please go to: www.thistimesacharm.com I have personally purchased an additional copy for a friend and fellow parent who is similarly diagnosed to Donald. If you haven’t read the previous blog tour entries, follow this schedule:
“This Time’s a Charm” Cancer Blog Book Tour Schedule