Driving Miss Norma

May I recommend a light, uplifting book about end-of-life? Did I just say “light” to describe a memoir about someone’s journey after declining chemo? Yep.  

Driving Miss Norma is a “charming, infectiously joyous chronicle” of Miss Norma’s 13K-mile road trip with her son and daughter-in-law. Lighter fare usually bores me. Striving to optimize my learning, I lean toward sophisticated books that demand thoughtful reading with every page, such as When Breath Becomes Air or In-Between Days.

After reading the prologue and first chapter of Driving Miss Norma, my surprise was how much I enjoyed reading the whole book. The bigger surprise came after I finished it, when the underlying messages kept bobbing around in my head:

·         Just because a disease can be treated doesn’t mean it should be. 

·         After declining/stopping treatment, physical improvement may be seen that enables patients to live as fully as possible—at least for a while.

·         End of life can be a meaningful and joyful time of connecting and growing for patients and their loved ones, making it a high point of their lives.

·         Patients always do best by making free, fully informed decisions in keeping with their values.

Norma’s son and daughter-in-law only alluded to the physical and emotional stress of caring for Norma toward the end. They said enough to make clear the experience was painful and exhausting. Heed their takeaway message: the shared joys of living fully at the end overshadowed all the pain.

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