When she was 14, Carolyn Rubenstein spent a summer volunteering at Camp Sunshine, which provides a fun getaway for children with cancer. Profoundly affected by the kids she met there, she created a non-profit organization called Carolyn‘s Compassionate Children (CCC) that connected children with cancer to “regular” kids as pen pals. As Carolyn grew up-along with her friends with cancer-CCC’s mission evolved as well. Today, the organization awards scholarships to children with cancer to help them pay for college.
Now age 24, Carolyn presents the new book “Perseverance: True Voices of Cancer Survivors“(Forge Books; September 2009; Hardcover), a collection of experiences from 20 college students who have survived the challenges of childhood cancer. The lessons their stories contain-about accentuating the positive in life, educating yourself about obstacles you come across, and “paying it forward,” just to name a few, are incredibly inspirational and moving.
Among the individuals highlighted in Perseverance:
- Zac York, who, after 17 surgeries for brain cancer, used modified crutches to climb Mount Whitney, the highest mountain in the contiguous United States
- Henry Choi, who had to visit three hospitals in his native Korea before being properly diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Katie Zawadzki, most of whose friends drifted away from her when she underwent treatment for ovarian cancer at age 19
- Dana Smith, whose participation in the basketball program Hoop Dreams eradicated the depression caused by her brain cancer diagnosis and treatment
Over the past five years, Carolyn‘s charity has awarded 80 college scholarships to childhood cancer survivors. As an undergraduate at Duke University, she majored in psychology and conducted research that examined the quality of life for adolescent survivors of childhood cancer. A Phi Beta Kappa and summa cum laude graduate, Carolyn began a doctoral program in clinical psychology at Harvard University in the fall of 2008.
Some of the stories really touched me. 10 years ago, I watched my Daddy go through cancer. But the people in this book – they are the same age that I was when my Daddy was sick. Only instead of watching someone else they loved go through it, they are the ones fighting the battle. Yet, none of them ever gave up. They dealt with the cancer and went on with their lives. One went on to climb Mt. Whitney, on crutches, after battling brain cancer. Another fought brain cancer and the effects of it such as short term memory loss, but didn’t let that stop him from obtaining a college diploma and entering graduate school.
And every story was the same way. They never gave up, never gave in. They fought through the hair loss, the callous boyfriends, everything. It made them stronger, and their stories are ones that can spread hope to anyone that reads them.
This was such a fantastic book. It was one that I couldn’t put down. Once I started reading, I couldn’t stop. One night, I was reading in bed and fell asleep. Not because the book was boring, but because I had been reading for hours so late at night. It’s just that good.
Perseverance is available on Amazon for the amazingly low price of $16.49 right now. (Retail is $24.99.) If you are looking for a good book to read that will encourage you, uplift you, and make you cry all at the same time, this is the book for you!
Thank you to Phenix & Phenix for sending me a copy of the book to review.