Gay Lindquist has many titles: wife, mother, grandmother, nurse, college professor, cancer survivor, author. We met recently in a Naples skilled nursing facility where both our husbands are recovering from serious health crises. Her quiet, devoted concern for her husband impressed me and we began to share a little of our lives with each other. I was intrigued to learn that she had written a book, published in 2010, about her own struggle with illness more than a decade ago and was pleased when she provided me with a copy.
Gay’s book describes her journey through the ordeal of lung cancer and how faith, family and friends sustained her and enabled her to remain resolute in the face of a frightening illness. She recounts her story in a sensitive, compellingly honest memoir, Valley Of The Shadow: A Journey Through Cancer And Beyond. Cancer has touched the lives of nearly every family and Gay Lindquist’s account offers a unique perspective of a professional health care provider and educator suddenly in a new role as a patient receiving care from colleagues and even some of her former students.
Her story begins with a charming glimpse into the life of a happy couple enjoying time with a beloved granddaughter interrupted by a small anomaly. Gay takes the reader with her from that momentary cough to a possible diagnosis of lung cancer to certain diagnosis. X-rays, lab tests, procedures with complex names like mediastinoscopy merge with an already busy life of family and church commitments as well as a pleasant social life with friends who had to be told about Gay’s cancer. How would her news be received? How could Gay support her family and her friends who would be saddened and frightened by what the future might hold for her?
An even greater complication arose four months after Gay’s ordeal began. Their newgrandchild, a boy, was born with serious heart defects. As a professional with experience in neonatal units, Gay reassured her family about the remarkable gains made in heart repair even in small babies but this was her grandson, after all. No objectivity possible.
Gay found solace and strength in her deep faith and sought time for reflection in her favorite “thinking spots.” One was a pedestrian bridge over the Chippewa River near their home in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. “Far below the bridge, a strong current keeps a portion of the river open. That constant flowing of the river has always intrigued me, …it’s always moving forward, symbolizing to me, especially during this period of my life, the sense of going on–life I so much wanted to be a part of.”
Gay shares with her readers the many stages of her response to cancer, disbelief, guilt, acceptance and finally resolve to get it gone. Her husband, Wayne, was always at her side even shaving her head when she had lost nearly all her hair from chemotherapy. Gay’s journey through cancer has been taken by millions of people and surely, countless more will set out on their own difficult ordeal with this challenging disease. Gay ends her moving account with a simple and lovely conclusion.
“If you must ever travel a similar journey, may it go well, and may you have the strength to face it. If my memories and reflections have helped in any small way, I am most thankful. I wish you a safe journey. Peace be with you!”
Gay Lindquist and her husband, Wayne, reside in Naples, Florida and have a summer home on Madeline Island, Lake Superior, Wisconsin. The author welcomes your comments and questions. She may be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org The Valley Of The Shadow: A Journey Through Cancer And Beyond is available through your local bookstore, amazon.com, borders.com, and barnes&noble.com. Copies are available for purchase at the office of Coastal Breeze News.