Eighteen Months to Live by Rachele Baker is a compilation by Rachele’s mother, Midge Rylander, of her journey through mesothelioma in the early 1990s. As many of you know from the TV commercials mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos.
But what really shocked me, was that Midge contracted mesothelioma from just doing her ex-husband’s laundry (as the laundry, and the ex were exposed to asbestos). I had no idea that was even possible!
Midge refused to receive chemotherapy or radiation therapy, mainly because there was only a small chance of it helping with her pain, and almost no chance of the treatment curing her of mesothelioma, but would provide side affects that Midge was unwilling to experience.
Eighteen Months to Live is mainly the diary entries kept by Midge along with some letters she wrote, primarily the ones to her daughter Rachele. Midge wanted her diary to be published for others who are dealing with mesothelioma or other cancers to have as a resource, especially since Midge had a very difficult time receiving proper information on the cancer during her entire journey.
Midge’s diary entries reminded me, in a way, of my grandmother’s 5-year diary that I’m currently reading, which is from the 1930s. They’re not the same in topic, but the entries are similar in the way that the majority of them would be more appealing to family members and close friends than to strangers. The letters included were similar, involving family members and what they were doing (births, deaths, marriages) and some of them left me a little confused since I wasn’t sure who people were at times, or how they were related.
Sometimes Midge’s diary entries were very clinical, discussing how much pain medication she took that day, what cleaning she did around the house, and what her temperature was.
But there were some valuable aspects of the diary for others. Midge had multiple entires about her need to speak with her doctor more openly, which is something that everyone should do. And she also took a stand and had very strong feelings about organizations who raise money for cancer being more open about where the money is going, as well as her feelings of the greed of some of the drug companies charging so much money for medicines she was unable to, or barely able to, afford.
As a side note, Midge speaks negatively about the United Way, insinuating that they may have been spending money in improper ways, and I’d like to address that. I’m not sure how the United Way was in the 1990s (and the organization may have spent money differently during that time), but now, the money that is donated to the United Way is used wisely. It might differ by county/state but from the numbers I was able to find, it seems that only 10% is used for fundraising, and only about 6% for administrative purposes, with the rest going directly to help those in need. This is lower than many other nonprofit organization costs.
The point I think Midge is trying to make? Research and be careful as to where you donate your money. Hold these organizations that you donate to accountable. Make them show you where the money goes, so you know if your money is going to the places you would like it to go.
I wish that Midge elaborated more on how she was dealing emotionally with the disease, how her family was dealing with it, and also included more information on what she did know about mesothelioma.
But here are some things I did take from the book:
- Mesothelioma can take from 20-5o years to show itself! Can you imagine a disease laying dormant in your body for up to 50 years after exposure???
- Midge was a good role model about health and positivity: ”With good thoughts, a good diet, exercise, and a strong will (faith), this cancer doesn’t have a chance!!”
- Midge should have been an activist. She was really angry (which makes me pretty mad, too) that the National Cancer Institute didn’t have any information on mesothelioma, and the information she was able to receive was outdated, and mainly about cancer in general. I could see Midge writing letters in the 1990s to force the National Cancer Institute to rectify that situation. This diary was her way to share more mesothelioma information with the public and with those who need it.
- Midge is determined. She continues to exercise, clean, cook, and do as many of the normal activities she can, even as things get more difficult. And when they do become difficult, Midge is willing to accept it, but still perseveres to do what she is able to do.
- Midge is funny! There’s a totally funny/inappropriate sexual joke she makes to her doctor one day in front of her daughter Karen, which is hilarious and lightens the mood.
- Midge is a very caring mother and grandmother. It’s so obvious that Midge loves her family and her good friends, and it’s evidenced both by the actions she takes, and the letters we get to read that she wrote to her children.
- Midge is an advocate. The entire time she is writing, it is clear that her explanations, such as describing her pain, are not for herself, but for those people dealing with cancer and wanting to know “is this normal?”
Recently, there were two articles published about Midge and the book Eighteen Months to Live.
Before I leave you, I want to share something that Rachele Baker, daughter of Midge, shared with me during one of our email correspondences, that I thought was moving:
The author (daughter, and more aptly titled, compiler) of Eighteen Months to Live, Rachele Baker, is a veterinarian, who not only wants to help share her mother’s story but is also in the process of developing her own eBook series about called My Virtual Veterinarian.
I received this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Who in your life has been an inspiration to you?
Thanks for reading,