I was always confident that my children would remain reasonably healthy. They would never succumb to any life-threatening illness—after all, I believed, I could never survive anything like that, so therefore it would not happen.
For many years, I had worked as an ICU nurse, caring for people who were critically ill. Always mindful and empathetic about their mental and physical well-being, I had a healthy objectivity that was necessary to deliver essential supports for healing.
In April of 2008, my twenty-five-year-old daughter, Deirdre, had been teaching in Japan for a year. When she called me one night to say that she had been diagnosed with acute leukemia, a life-threatening disease, I went into total denial.
After spending almost twenty-four hours a day in Deirdre’s hospital room, I came to know firsthand the emotional, spiritual, and physical turmoil that patients and families go through.
As she and I went to battle together to fight the disease. Deirdre took up arms of hope, strength, and resolve; I took up arms of hope and faith.
I was eventually faced with a vital decision and a responsibility concerning Deirdre’s treatment. My previous “meant to be” and “going with my intuition” philosophies were put to the ultimate test.
On the following year, in the summer of 2009, as I pondered through ideas about a memorial for her, Deirdre slowly persuaded and inspired me to write a book about our experiences throughout her leukemia treatment: the chemotherapy, the invasive investigations, our joyful and sorrowful moments, and our hope that never wavered.
Our story starts when Deirdre is living in Japan and the diagnosis is suddenly made. It continues with her time in the hospital in Halifax and the challenges of adjusting to life outside the sanctuary of the hospital when she is discharged home for a while. We want to share the story of how we coped with the rapid deterioration of Deirdre’s condition and how our love, hope, and faith transcended doubt and despair. Deirdre displays her incredible insight, courage, and strength as she deals with the adversities that assail her during the illness. Throughout it all her quirky sense of humour remains intact.
As the story ends, Deirdre conveys her message of everlasting love from a place so close, yet seen and felt by few.
As Gillian Halloway, author and psychology researcher, wrote after she read Her Candle Burns at Both Ends, “You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll look at the stars and wonder.”
- ann costello, October 2011
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