A Full Life Threatened
...A Nashville philanthropist chronicles her struggle against cancer...
Four flea bites that won't go away begin Patient Siggy: Hope and Healing in Cyberspace (Providence House Publishers, 244 pp., $12.95), Sigourney Cheek's harrowing description of her journey through the complex world of cancer treatment during the spring and summer of 2005. Although her symptoms are atypically mild, she eventually learns she has large-cell lymphoma. Her survival prognosis: five to eight months.
But this isn't a book about suffering; it's a book about community. Instead of trying to hide her problems, Cheek uses email to keep friends and colleagues updated as she suffers the anguish of waiting for test results, a devastating diagnosis and the rigors of chemotherapy. Her complete openness encourages support of all kinds. Her family, church, partners in her antiques business, and the many friends she has made in more than 30 years of volunteer efforts--at the YWCA, Cheekwood Botanical Gardens, the Antiques and Garden Show, Christ Church Cathedral, Magdalene House, etc.--pitch in with prayers, meals, company during tests and procedures, advice about nutrition and hair loss and, most important, encouraging emails.
Cheek faces her trials from a position of strength. She's educated and, apart from the cancer, in good health; she has both wealth and good insurance; and her personal connections provide instant access to the best doctors and medical facilities in Nashville. (Yes, she does have the insight to wonder, "Is this fair?") Perhaps her most vital strength is a well-developed writing aptitude, which continually expands her online support base. It also makes for a readable book. Apart from a central subject that is everybody's worst fear, this is also a compelling personal memoir that sketches Cheek's admirable life in detail, including a 60th birthday bash in Mallorca, where she assembles a huge collection of friends and family to help her revel in remission.
Cheek will discuss and sign Patient Siggy at Davis-Kidd Booksellers 7 p.m. March 25
–RALPH BOWDEN, The Nashville Scene • 3/28/08