Soul Survivor: Reflections on One Man’s Journey Beyond Cancer, by Timothy Pechey

Nine stars

I will admit that I am quite the structured person, both in my reading and everyday life. When I chose to read this book, a collection of reflections in truth, I forced myself out of a comfort zone I have been fostering for a lengthy period. Additionally, when I chose to interpret this piece as a ‘Spring Equinox’, I knew I would really have to explain myself, though it is to no one else that I report. Tim Pechey was given the worst possible news the day before his 44th birthday, a diagnosis of metastatic melanoma. The news not only crushed him, but devastated his spirit and connection with the Higher Power he chooses to call God. This is a collection of seventy-nine reflections that Tim made over a time, some related to the cancer experience, others to the revelations he had while making his way through treatment or recovery. Each reflection focuses on something that Tim discovered or felt, helping him to discover a light within himself and around this most horrific roadblock in his life. Trying to wrestle with the pain of radiation and chemotherapy, having a sense that he had been abandoned by the world, and coming to see that this was the—albeit awkward—stop sign that life needed to put out there to give him a chance to smell the roses, Tim came to terms with his illness and turned it from a prison sentence into a chance to grow. Tim pushes through the collection and shows just how powerful his strength became as he fought diligently to better understand himself as a man, a husband, a father, a friend, and a spiritual being. While highly personal in nature, Tim’s goal to present this for those who have been through the struggle and want to see that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, or simply to provide solace for those seeing a loved one with cancer and knowing that there is something bright on the other side, Tim Pechey refuses to give up and provides enough hope to show that sometimes life does give you a bad hand, but knowing that you are not alone is one form of medicine. It’s hard to recommend this book to anyone, seeing as it is so personal in nature, but anyone with a curiosity should surely take the time to see one man’s journey, however personal, from the horrid winter of cancer diagnosis to the sunny spring over coming out as a survivor.

This was surely one of the hardest reads I have ever undertaken in my life. Not only does it touch on pain and confusion, but it stirs up many of the memories I had of that time of my life, an awkward teenager unable to come to terms with the cancer diagnosis and how my family seemed to be torn apart. It was, however, refreshing to see how my own father came to terms with this and turned it from a life sentence into something that he could use to springboard him into a better understanding of himself, while seeking new ways to help others. A selfless man to the core of his being, he has written these reflections, not necessarily to be read in order, but for the reader to digest at their own pace. Some are dated at different points in the journey, but they are not placed chronologically, for the purpose of this book is not to see the A to B trip from cancer diagnosis to remission, but to allow the reader to see the meandering nature that life takes when a proverbial glass is dropped at their feet. Shards emerge and small piece of light catch certain things, allowing for slow and fermentable digestion over time. While I cannot pick up the phone (my father was not as tech savvy as he would like us to believe) and call to talk, I do feel much closer to him by reading these wonderful thoughts and recollections. My guilt at putting up such a backlash is not lost on me, but there is nothing that I can do now and this is not MY book, so I will keep those reflections to myself for the time being. Short, insightful reflections help move the book along and yet the progress made is astounding, as the reader finds themselves in the middle of a man whose faith and health crises were not enough to have him toss in the towel. There is surely a great deal of talk about God, the Christian religions, and a connection to Jesus, for which I am usually so critical of writers. However, as Tim writes in the introduction, this book is all about that connection and ‘soulness’, so I can not criticise him too strongly for sticking to what he warned readers would follow. I will forever be proud of the man I call dad and I can only hope that Neo will find someone in me who is as compassionate, supportive, and as strong a role model as my own father was for me.

Sadly, after preparing this book, but before its publication, my father passed away from a recurrence of cancer. He will be forever missed and loved by many. I can only hope that he is somewhere regaling others with stories and reflections, educating and helping people, which was truly his gift.

October 13, 1951-April 9, 2000

Kudos, Dad, for giving me the passion to read, to love, and to never give up. You will always be the one I credit for helping guide me into becoming the man I want to be.

This book fulfills Topic #6 for the Equinox #3 Book Challenge, A Book About the Current Equinox.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: