Local author Darcy Thiel will be signing copies of her book at the Hamburg Public Library, 102 Buffalo St., on Tuesday, May 14 from 7 to 8 p.m.
Life for Darcy Thiel and her husband Tim Colvin had been fairly ordinary. They both worked, supported their family and aspired to do the things most American families strive for. They had a good life, and appreciated what they had.
Things turned upside down in a hurry, though, when Tim, 48-years-old at the time, was diagnosed with Stage IV gallbladder cancer after visiting the doctor for some slight pain in his abdomen in May 2010.
Thus begins the voyage Thiel outlines in her honest, heartfelt and sometimes heartbreaking book, “Bitter and Sweet, A Family’s Journey With Cancer.”
For Thiel, a therapist by trade, writing the book was a way to help others who have gone or were going through a similar ordeal. It wasn’t easy.
“The first year I kind of looked into it, and it was much too overwhelming of an idea,” she said, referring to the year after Tim passed. “The second year, I just decided it was time and I really believed it would have made Tim very happy as well.”
The feedback Thiel has received from readers who found the book helpful has made writing it worth it, despite how difficult it may have been.
“I’ve had caretakers talk to me about it, cancer survivors talk to me about it, people who have lost someone and people who are going through it,” she said.
For one reader, the book helped alleviate some of the “survivor’s guilt” associated with being a cancer survivor, Thiel said.
The essence of the book is how to balance the bitter and the sweet, Thiel said. That’s the real struggle.
“The glass is half empty, the glass is half full,” she said. “For me, and for my husband, the spiritual lesson and the spiritual journey was being able to hold both, to still see the sweet while there was the bitter.”
The reader also gets to know Tim, who at just 48, seems much too young to succumb to the ravages of cancer. While his spirits dip from time to time throughout the book, it’s his indomitable spirit to fight his affliction and prove his prognosis wrong that offers a real sense of hope. Although the cancer eventually takes over, Tim fights until the end.
“He really was amazing,” Thiel said. “He just had a great deal of courage.”
The book also includes journal entries from CaringBridge.org, a website Thiel discovered where she is able to ask for help from family and friends when needed, and where she and Tim can post updates on his condition. The outreach of support from people they connected to on the site was overwhelming.
“People gave over and over and over and over,” she said. “Everybody is busy. Everyone’s lives are stretched to the limit. For people to sacrifice over and over, that was pretty amazing to me.”
The book doesn’t shy away from the adversity and familial infighting that can occur in times of hardship. Thiel struggled with what to include in the book, but decided to include the hard parts as a guide for others.
“I made a conscience effort to include some of the tougher things because I knew how the books helped us when we were going through it,” she said. “I didn’t want somebody to read my book and say, ‘Oh yeah, it’s easy to have a positive attitude when everyone in the world loves you and supports you. I don’t have that in my life.’ So, it was important to show that, no, you know, sometimes in these situations, families don’t deal with this very well. I felt it really important to be honest about some of that stuff.”
It’s the tender moments in the book that prove to be the most heartbreaking. Thiel recounts one of the last visits their 8-year-old son Frankie has with his father, and how Tim “plastered” his face with kisses, which Frankie lets him do, knowing that it may be the last time Tim would ever see him. It’s in those moments in the book where the reader truly sees how much they will miss Tim.
There are numerous lessons in the book, and in the end, we see how a proud, headstrong man comes to terms with his own mortality. This book is important for those who have or are dealing with cancer, but also for anyone who has dealt with or is dealing with any type of hardship in life. The lessons Tim, Darcy and the rest of their family teach us about living and dying transcend any set definition of how they should be applied. That’s the real beauty of the book.
Darcy Thiel will be holding a book signing at the Hamburg Public Library on Tuesday, May 14 from 7 to 8 p.m. Details on “Bitter and Sweet, A Family’s Journey With Cancer” can be found at www.babycooppublishing.com
. Thiel is also a licensed mental health counselor. Her website is www.marriageandfamilycounseling.net