Friday, May 20, 2011

Back to Life Book Review

Facing a debilitating illness or surgery, or having a family member doing the same, can be frightening and a bit like you're leaping into an unknown abyss.  I recently read Back to Life:  A Journey of Transformation Through Back Surgery and found it to be an interesting and informative read.  

One month ago, my mother had heart surgery for the second time.  The first time was 17 years ago for a triple bypass after two heart attacks.  She was 45.  This time she needed a valve replacement and they performed another bypass during the nearly 10 hour surgery.  Back to Life by Pamela Douglas chronicles her experience with major spine surgery through first-person and family journal entries in categories of before, during and after surgery.  I found the similarities between Pam's experiences, thought and feelings to be remarkably like what my mother just went through with major heart surgery. 

To me, what is most extraordinary is the way the human brain works.  In Back to Life, Pam describes with great thought the "before" or preparations pre-operation.  As a people, most humans think the worst and prepare as such, even if we're hopeful and optimistic.  Pam meticulously readies things for her family, pays bills in advance, sets her home in order and covers work essentials gracefully.  All this while in the back of her mind she thinks...."what if?".  The mental preparations for a major life experience such as spine surgery are almost more stressful than the actual surgery and recovery.  I find this very interesting.  When faced with an illness, tragedy, or other major life event often the mental looming beforehand is worse than when it actually happens.  I think we find it easier to deal with an actual tangible physical situation than impending mental what-ifs.  Even if the actual physical situation is excruciating.  

Back to Life: A Journey of Transformation Through Back Surgery reads quickly and I actually enjoyed it much more than I thought I would.  Bits of advice and thoughts throughout are useful in all aspects of life.  There's no "poor me" in this book and Pamela Douglas is truly a woman to be admired not merely because of her remarkable strength and openness with spine surgery, but her life's accomplishments and talent and well.  Check it out, buy it, borrow it.... read it!

Pamela Douglas with her daughter, Raya Yarbrough

Pamela Douglas is an award-winning screenwriter with numerous credits in television drama, and also a fine artist. In May 2005, facing a degenerative spinal disease that threatened to leave her paralyzed, Pamela underwent major surgery. Her decision and the long recovery that followed inspired her to write BACK TO LIFE: A Journey of Transformation through Back Surgery. Learn more at

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