This is a special book review for me.

 

Radiate, by Marley Gibson, is the story of Hayley Matthews; a motivated, high-school senior who makes the varsity cheer squad after years in the marching band.  Her enthusiasm and dedication are infectious and have an immediate and large effect on the entire squad.  But her hopes and dreams for senior year are interrupted by cancer.

What makes this book special is the way in which Hayley responds to her diagnosis and pending treatment.  There is never any doubt in her mind that her cancer will be cured and she will return to the cheer squad.  Never a doubt.  Hayley does not go through typical stages of denial, anger, or depression.  There is only one reaction to her prognosis: Beat the cancer.  I admit that this is not typical for cancer patients.  But it is essential for survival.

What makes me an authority on the subject?  I, too, am a childhood cancer survivor.

I was much younger when I was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia.  I did not yet have the same hopes and dreams as Hayley.  I barely understood what was happening to me.  But what I did have was a support group of my mother, my doctor, and many close family friends who never once wavered in their belief that my cancer would be cured.  Yes, I’m sure they each went through stages of denial, anger, etc., but never in my presence.  I was only exposed to unending support and determination to beat the cancer.  I never had a doubt; death was not an option in my mind.

For those who have battled cancer and won, there will be little debate with my (and Hayley’s) mindset, especially for childhood cancer patients: Cancer will not win.  It will not defeat me.  I will defeat it, no matter what has to be done.

I have often thought about writing a book about my experiences, but I may not have to.  Radiate is a book that captures everything I would, and maybe even more than I could.  As I mentioned previously, at the time of her diagnosis, Hayley’s only thoughts are “get the cancer out of my leg and let me get back to cheerleading.”  While going through chemotherapy, her spirits are dampened (chemotherapy kicks a patient’s ass), but she never decides to give up.  Her goal remains fixed.  And even after radiation therapy and the resulting hair-loss, Hayley holds her (bald) head high while she regains her strength and re-joins her cheer squad.  Her determination and resolve make her a class favorite and an inspiration to all.  It is this determination and never-ending resolve that is the key to coping with and beating cancer.

I probably reacted more strongly to the book than most readers will, but I was reliving my own past while reading Hayley’s story.  I’m sure I smiled wider than most, cried a little more, and definitely cheered louder than most people reading Radiate.  There is no way I can put a star rating on this book–there aren’t enough stars.

If you are a cancer survivor, please read this book.  Smile, cry, and cheer like I did.  It will make you feel great to be alive.  If you are not a cancer survivor, please read the book and know that everything that Halyey goes through, and her reactions to it all, are genuine.  Her story will make you feel great for Hayley to be alive.

Very rarely am I inspired by a work of fiction.  Radiate is truly inspirational.