Dancing at the Edge of Life: A Memoir

Dancing at the Edge of Life: A Memoir

by Gale Warner, David Kreger
     
 

For anyone who's had a loved one die from cancer, Dancing at the Edge of Life will hit home and hit hard. After a pesky cough drove her to the doctor's office, 30-year-old poet and writer Gale Warner was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a viciously malignant form of the disease. She immediately started to record her often extraordinary thoughts in aSee more details below

Overview

For anyone who's had a loved one die from cancer, Dancing at the Edge of Life will hit home and hit hard. After a pesky cough drove her to the doctor's office, 30-year-old poet and writer Gale Warner was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a viciously malignant form of the disease. She immediately started to record her often extraordinary thoughts in a diary. When she passed away a little more than a year later, she had compiled 1,000 pages of her spiritual and physical illumination and desperation, from the ecstasy of living through a good day to the excruciation of a bone marrow transplant.

What makes this book remarkable is Warner's perspective through it all. Though not particularly religious, she endured her treatment with Job-like patience, fortitude, and grace, reasoning that with each setback--and with each victory--she ought to be able to unveil a life lesson, to become closer to the spirit of the earth. She also perceived her bone marrow transplant as a ritual reincarnation of sorts. While her earth-goddess philosophy may strike some readers as being too far out in left field (she writes of feeling as if she's a channel of sorts for the pollution and destruction of the land), her love of the earth and perception of her role on it is extraordinarily thought provoking.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
When poet and journalist Gale Warner, 29, learned that she had lymphoma, she used her journal to record her experiences and explore her feelings, hoping it might one day become a book. Though Warner didn't live to see its publication, her memoir serves well as the "gift" she had intended for patients and others seeking inspiration. "What a powerful tool the mystery of illness can be for learning and teaching," she discovered. Though relatively young at the time of her diagnosis, Warner was especially accomplished: she had traveled widely, started environmental organizations and written two books (including "The Invisible Threads"), but was particularly proud of her work with citizens environmental groups in the Soviet Union. She came to understand her illness in spiritual terms related to these ideals: "What grew [my tumor] was my very deep connection to the Earth, my openness to her pain," Warner claims. With the support of her physician husband, Kreger, who shaped the journal into its finished form, and countless friends, Warner confronted her cancer with remarkable honesty, wit and courage. She describes goddess-oriented healing rituals, several bouts of chemotherapy, her boundless hope and her occasional depression, and her irrepressible urge to walk, swim and dance in the natural world she so loved. Some readers may be troubled by Warner's construction of her illness as a metaphor but Warner anticipates this criticism, noting that "[t]o each of us, cancer says different things... for some, cancer is... a random event with no 'cause.'" Others may find Warner's New Age beliefs alienating. But the humor, compassion, determination and acceptance she shares in this affecting book are truly extraordinary.
Library Journal
In 1990 at age 30, freelance journalist, author (The Invisible Threads: Independent Soviets Working for Global Awareness and Social Transformation, LJ 5/1/91), and poet Warner was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. She chose to combat the disease through chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant as well as meditation, dance, Goddess worship, and writing this journal. With her husband, Kreger, she charted her more than one-year course of therapy and realizations about life and her place in the world. "Perhaps I have tuned in so deeply, so wholly, that I've become as sick as the planet. And in the process of healing myself, I will help heal the world." She continued to hike, climb, swim, and revel in life's bounty, never believing she would not survive, yet "mak[ing] whatever preparations I must so that [dying], too, can be met with joy and praise." Warner battled courageously till the end, and her memoir is a testament to her physical, emotional, as well as spiritual strength. Whereas Heather Remoff (February Light, LJ 8/97) offered a month-by-month paean to nature's recuperative powers, Warner looks squarely in the face of mortality and smiles. Highly recommended for public libraries.--Bette-Lee Fox, "Library Journal"
Kirkus Reviews
A young woman's articulate and passionate journal of the last 13 months of her life. Warner, an award-winning poet and journalist (coauthor, with Michael Shuman, of "Citizen Diplomats: Pathfinders in Soviet-American Relations and How You Can Join Them",1987), was diagnosed with lymphoma at the age of 30. Her intensely personal record of living with cancer, filling nearly a thousand handwritten pages at the time of her death, is a remarkable document. What is probably most astonishing is the spirit, the optimism with which she battled her cancer, first with chemotherapy, later with radiation therapy, and still later with a bone marrow transplant. Warner's religious beliefs permeate her journal; to categorize them is impossible, even for her (she entered "private" on a hospital form requesting such information) but the phrase "earth-based spirituality" probably comes close. A nature lover and an active environmentalist, she saw her cancer-invaded body as a metaphor for the earth: She likened the tumor growing in her chest to "Los Angeles suburban growth," and when her breath came in wheezes, she thought of "the earth being strangled by overpopulation." A close observer both of the natural world and of her own body, she described herself unsparingly yet uncomplainingly as "ripening and aging like a fruit" as radiation took its toll, and she visualized the ordeal of a bone marrow transplant as a ritual of purification involving the mythic elements of water, fire, air, and earth, leading to a rebirth. The nature of evil, disease, healing, love, creativity, prayer, fear, pain, dying, death, and reincarnation—Warner recorded her thoughts on all of these. Three days before shedied, she turned her journals over to her husband, who, in a brief afterword, recounts her final hours. A powerful account of a life fully lived and a death bravely faced.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780786863921
Publisher:
Hyperion
Publication date:
06/01/1998
Edition description:
1 ED
Pages:
224
Product dimensions:
5.87(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.87(d)

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