Thursday, April 14, 2016

Hope For The Hormonal: A Book Review

This post will be somewhat off-topic. But not really. I want to use this platform, one time only, to talk about a book I just finished reading. I've mentioned it a few times in this blog. It wasn't written for men with prostate cancer, but for women who deal with hormonal issues and depression. But I read it because it was written by a good friend of mine, Kim Bryan. But while she didn't write it with me in mind, it was a great encouragement to me anyway.

First, I need to introduce you to Kim. My wife and I met Kim and her husband, Mark, in church, in a Sunday school class for young married couples in the 1980's. We clicked immediately, and have been good friends since. Kim is a nurse. She has as great a heart for others as anyone I've ever known. She has an infectious laugh, and I've always loved to make her laugh. She also has endured greater heartbreak than just about anyone I know.

Mark and Kim were part of a close knit group of friends that we had at that time, along with Galen and Jan Koch, to whom I paid tribute in my second most viewed post, Introducing The Kochs. Kim included a beautiful tribute to Galen in this book. The last time I saw Mark and Kim was at Galen's funeral. I have far too many friends that I now only see at funerals. I don't want Kim to be in that category!

After Galen's funeral, Kim emailed me a link to her blog, Hope For The Hormonal, which I had been previously unaware of. She thought reading her blog might help me feel better about Galen's suicide. She told me that she had gone through depression, and a suicide attempt herself. I had had no idea. I read her story from the beginning, and it did help me understand Galen's state of mind much better. It helped me process his death, and come to some resolution about it.

But it's also a great read. I found it very well written, fascinating and riveting. Not just because it gave me a window into my friend's world, which I had no clue about, but also because it's just really good. So is her book.

Let me tell you what kinds of books I normally read. I love fantasy, science fiction, horror, and comic books. Stephen King is my favorite author. I'm not big on nonfiction. But I had read and loved Kim's blog, and I wanted to support her. I wanted to read her story again on paper. I prefer actual books to e-reading. They can't tell you to turn a book off on a plane.

What I didn't realize when I ordered the book was how much this book would help me, at the exact time when I needed it.

It's not a very long book. Only 163 pages, mostly doubled-spaced. But it's packed with meaning and insight. It's intended for Christian women who deal with hormonal issues and depression. But this male cancer patient found it very meaningful too.

Go ahead and joke that I liked it because I'm hormonal from my cancer treatment. Maybe a little, but not really. It's just a good book.

Hope for the Hormonal (only $7.99 on Amazon, $4.99 for the Kindle version) is divided into three sections. In the first section, she gives a condensed version of her story of the hormonal roller coaster she endured, the misguided attempts at treatment from doctors who didn't understand her condition, her downward spiral into depression, her suicide attempt, institutionalization, and recovery. Wow. What an amazing story of courage, faith, love, and support, even in the deepest darkness. Personally, I wish more of her story had been included in the book. But the next section rocked my world too.

When I messaged Kim to tell her I had ordered her book, she told me that she didn't necessarily think I would get much out of the second section of it, which consists of short devotional readings specifically for women who deal with these issues. She was wrong.

Full disclosure, I've also never been big on devotional books. I'd rather do my own Bible study and come to my own conclusions about it. But this book is a notable exception to that.

Many of these devotionals were just what I needed at a specific time in the last few weeks. I'll only mention one of them. In my post, All Things New, I talked about how reading a devotional page from Kim's book was the first step in my coming out of my funk after my disability claim was denied. The reading I referred to was titled, "The Raging Sea."

It's about the story in the Bible where Jesus and his disciples are in a boat on the Sea Of Galilee, and a sudden storm comes up which almost sinks the boat. Such storms are common on that body of water. The disciples are freaking out, but Jesus is taking a nap. Out like a light bulb. The boat starts to fill with water, and they finally wake Jesus up. They actually ask Jesus if he cares whether or not they drown!

Do you think I could relate to the disciples in that moment when I had no idea how we were going to make it without my disability? When I was still reeling from the ruling that I thought had ruined my life? I was wondering if God was asleep too. I thought I might drown if he didn't hurry up and pay attention. But in this beautiful devotional reading that I read on that fateful Sunday, Kim quoted Jesus' response when the disciples woke him. “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:40)

That hit me right between the eyes. Did I trust God or not? Reading that short devotional helped me start to calm down and believe that God would work things out. If you know the rest of that story, you know what Jesus did next. He got up, calmed the storm, and went back to sleep! That what he did for me too, the next day. He calmed my storm. Only he didn't go back to sleep. 

This just in. God never sleeps. Except for the 33 years that he had a human body, that is. And he didn't sleep much then. More often than not, he went up into the mountains to pray all night. But I digress.

The third section of the book contains scripture verses chosen to encourage those going through similar trials.

I need to wrap this up before it gets longer than Kim's book. But I have a few more things to say first.

On a practical note, it's great bathroom reading! The short chapters make it perfect for that. And it's not all sad. It's very hopeful, and actually funny in places. I forgot to tell you that Kim is funny. I make her laugh, but she returns the favor.

By the way, whenever I say that someone is funny, remember that it comes from a guy who's made a living at comedy for 28 years. When I say that someone is funny, it's one of the highest compliments I can give. Take that, Karen and Deanna.

Kim does not flinch from talking about the tragedies in her life. I saw one of them up close when she and Mark lived here in the Denver area. Kim talks about it briefly in the book, but I want to add my perspective on it here.

When we met, Mark and Kim were childless, like us. But unlike us, they desperately wanted children. They went through all kinds of treatments in an effort to conceive. Finally, Kim got pregnant. We all rejoiced with them. When it was time to give birth, their precious baby daughter, Molly, was stillborn. This seemed like a cruel joke to me at the time. How could God allow this to happen to these people who love him and serve him so faithfully, and who pour their lives into others with no thought for themselves? How could he appear to give them the desire of their hearts for nine months, and then snatch it away? None of us could understand it.

Kim asked me to sing a song at Molly's graveside service. The song she wanted was "This Child Of Mine" by my friend Barb Robertson. I had to borrow a guitar, learn to play the song, (I know exactly six guitar chords) and play and sing it memorized at Molly's grave on a cold morning, with grieving family and friends all around me. It was the most difficult performance of my life. It was also one of the greatest honors of my life, that Kim would ask me to do this. I'll never forget it. How could I?

I add that story to give you some added insight into who Kim is. This woman has gone through fire and been purified by it. I will never be as strong as she is. My difficulties pale in comparison to hers. But it seems we have found a similar calling. To write about our journeys, and try to help others who may be going through similar things.

Have I made it clear how much I love this book, and the woman who wrote it? She is a hero to me. Right now, she's a role model.

If you buy and read this book, you won't regret it, even if you think it doesn't apply to you. I didn't think it applied to me either. But it was just what I needed at exactly the right time. If you can think of anyone that this book might help, buy it, read it, and then give it to them. Or better yet, buy two, and give one away.

Hope For The Hormonal helped bring some hope to a hormonal male cancer patient. Not exactly the book's target demographic. If it helped me, maybe it can help you.

Thanks for this book, Kim. Thanks for your transparency. Thanks for showing me how to share my story and try to help others with it. Thanks for being Kim. I hope this review helps get your book out to more people.

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