For anyone who has ever needed inspiration, Time on Fire: My Comedy of Terrors by Evan Handler is a must read. But that is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to perhaps the most outstanding book that I have ever read. For those who have faced a major medical problem and have had to fight their way through a sea of medical professionals who were more interested in how your outcome reflects on them rather than on your life, you will relate to what this author had to endure in order to survive having been diagnosed with acute leukemia at the age of 24 in a time when most considered it to be an incurable illness.
If you have been a family member or friend or the significant other to someone with a life-threatening, perhaps never ending disease, you will be able to identify with those around Evan and what they had to endure in the years of his struggle that affected all of their lives forever. But, if you really want to know what it is like to be inside the mind of someone who is fighting with everything they are to live, you will get an unbelievable view within this incredible, real life journey.
This story chronicles the days, weeks and even months that Evan spent in the hospital while enduring a variety of treatments over several years in order to save his life. He details the physical trauma that he suffered in ways that almost make the reader feel that pain. He details the relationships with the various doctors at the various facilities with whom he had to deal but further proves that unless a person becomes active in their own health and treatment and alternatives, there is a really good chance that you will never know what options you have and how to make choices that are the best for you.
He details the interactions that occurred between him and his girlfriend, his parents, his siblings, his friends and even some of his hospital roommates and how they changed over the course of time, especially as his pain and suffering and traumas played out. But, most importantly for me, he was able to lay out all of the bits and pieces that played out in his mind on a daily basis as the fight for life continued.
From my experience with this book, I remembered so many things that occurred during my own rounds with cancer and learned that many of my feelings that I felt forced to hide were okay to feel and share. I got a chance to better understand how those around me were affected by my illness and how they had to find their own ways to cope and how they may feel guilty about those feelings because their loved one was the one going through the illness. I understood how the relationship between his girlfriend and him had to have changed over time and despite all of her dedication and sacrifice during his struggle, they would never be able to go back to the way things were before the leukemia.
Ultimately, the one thing that I learned is that every person who has had a major illness or experience of any kind should seek out professional mental experts to help them deal with it. Anyone who has had to deal with the anxiety and fears that come from dealing with the experience that their loved one is fighting should reach out for help to understand that they, too, are deeply affected by what is happening in their lives. For one who has fought the battle to live through any major illness or catastrophe as Evan did, they will always find a way to make their life a lot more meaningful than that life would have been otherwise. But know that life will never be the same again and what you choose to do once you have reached that realization is just as much a choice as was the choice to live.