Sometimes when, as in the words of the old Burl Ives song, you think “you’ve got the world by the tail,” that tail becomes serpentine and wraps itself around you so tightly you think it will squeeze the life right out of you.
That’s what happened to Andy and Kim Fitzpatrick in 2009 when they and their young twin sons, John and Joshua, were living the good life in Veazie and confidently looking forward to the future.
As Andy explains it, this young, fast-tracking family never expected Andy would become nearly incapacitated for 2½ months with a neck strain and then, just as he recovered, the man who had been a successful engineer for 13 years unexpectedly found himself unemployed.
To help the family during this economic downturn, Kim, a registered nurse who was working per diem while raising the twins, went to work full time at St. Joseph Hospital in Bangor.
Then that tail wrapped itself even more tightly around them.
Four weeks after Andy lost his job, Kim’s annual mammogram revealed she had breast cancer.
Diagnosed with triple-negative cancer which, according to the Internet, is unresponsive to standard, receptor-mediated treatments but needs other forms of chemotherapy, Kim, 39, was facing surgery in one week followed by 16 weeks of chemotherapy and seven weeks of radiation.
“This experience brought to light, for us, the precious value of life and the power of love and prayer,” Andy wrote me.
“Kim’s triple-negative grade of cancer, unfortunately, carries serious re-occurrence rates which constantly remind us to appreciate every healthy day together.
“She still suffers health effects from the chemotherapy and radiation, but you will never hear her admit it nor see it in her never-ending smile.
“Our young twin boys are now only 9 years old and they have been so strong and innocently supportive of their Mom.”
With the trauma of Kim’s diagnosis and treatment now behind them, Andy decided, “rather than just have negative memories about this experience,” he would publish a book that “would give us a positive focus and help, permanently, recognize so many friends and family who supported us along the way.”
Andy turned his daily record of Kim’s battle with cancer into “Why Mom? A Father’s Journal of Mom’s Breast Cancer Battle” which, he acknowledges, “is raw and, I know, not perfect but it captures, exactly, the emotions, and provides a looking-glass into a family impacted by cancer, and proves we can never give up on hope.”
I have read his book, and Andy is right. It is raw, and people who are extremely word-sensitive will notice that, but it is so downright honest and heartfelt that a few words here and there shouldn’t dissuade you from purchasing it or reading it.
Andy visited me recently and told me the book is available at Amazon.com; he’s keeping a stack of books to sell; or you can attend his first book signing from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday, Dec. 17, at St. Joseph Hospital in Bangor.
And while Andy wrote this book to make the experience a more positive one for his family and to thank those who’ve helped them along the way, it’s purpose is much more than that.
John and Josh are Cub Scouts, Andy told me, and, “They are in the process of learning about community service.”
That is why, while half the proceeds will be put aside for their education, the other half will benefit two local charities — the Lafayette Family Cancer Center in Brewer and St. Joseph Hospital Infusion Therapy Clinic in Bangor.
“I want the boys, wearing their uniforms, to be able to give checks from the book sales to these foundations,” Andy said. “That’s their mission, as Cub Scouts, in community service.”
Throughout this young mother’s ordeal, her family carried on as normal a life as possible, with the help of those who surround them.
They participated in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, where “Kim’s Krew” raised more than $10,000.
They celebrated the boys’ birthday, for the first time ever at a friend’s home, with Mom not there so her immune system would not be compromised.
Andy even taped a “Buddy 2 Buddy” promotion for WLBZ-TV Channel 2 “and you don’t usually see a guy doing that,” he said.
“Why Mom?” appears to be working for the twins, and Andy hopes it will help others as well.
“Their memory of her being sick is now not so much that. It’s more now about the book. They’ve even sold some,” he said.
And although Andy said he doesn’t really “know how to express appreciation to the families and friends who have been there through it all and seen us through it all,” he hopes this book conveys that message.
For more information about the book, visit www.authorhouse.com and search for Andy’s book.
Joni Averill, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor 04402; firstname.lastname@example.org; 990-8288.