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January 29, 2013

True Confessions of an inspiring lady

Last April, I received an email from a woman named Gretchen E. Ganas, who thanked me for writing Velva Jean Learns to Drive, and who told me about her own book, which she wondered if I would read and, hopefully, endorse. I have so little reading time that normally I have to say no to requests like this, but I couldn’t resist Gretchen or her book, True Confessions of a Dying Lady: How to Lie and Bribe Your Way Into Heaven.

In 1983, Gretchen was diagnosed with cervical cancer. In 2001, she was diagnosed with lung cancer, which resulted in having part of her lung removed. Early last year, she was diagnosed with Stage IV mantle cell lymphoma. This time, she was given six months to a year to live.

Due to allergies, she cannot take chemotherapy or radiation (though she isn’t sure she would have done so anyway). Instead, she has done what she calls “literary therapy”– writing down her life and adventures in one rowdy and rollicking memoir, and sharing her particular brand of well-earned wisdom (as well as her own delightful illustrations).

I lost my father to cancer in 2002, and because of that, I typically avoid books and movies about cancer or any terminal illness– they’re just too upsetting and sad. But Gretchen– who is brave and bold and bright– has made me laugh and cry (the good kind of cry) and focus on the fact that, as she points out, this dying stuff is all just a part of life. This is a woman who truly makes the most of every moment. She is inspiring.

As I wrote in my blurb for True Confessions of a Dying Lady, “I recommend this book to anyone who has: experienced aging, gone to the hospital, struggled with another’s illness (particularly cancer) or been ill themselves, loved, lost, or lived. In short, True Confessions of a Dying Lady is for everyone. You’ll be moved, entertained, enlightened, comforted, and, most of all, you will laugh out loud. It’s wickedly funny. It’s also an absolute joy. Be warned though—don’t begin True Confessions if you’ve only got a few minutes because you will want to read the entire book, start to finish, in one sitting. And then you’ll want to read all your favorite parts to friends, family, neighbors, and random people on the street. Ganas may be a ‘dying lady,’ but she embraces life as much as anyone I know.”

So please read, enjoy, and spread the word. And then read the sequel: More True Confessions of a Dying Lady: Where Did I Go Wrong.

For more on Gretchen, listen to her interview with Growing Bolder and follow her on Twitter.