Losing someone to cancer is painful. J. Dietrich Stroeh lost his beloved wife Margaret only three months after she was unexpectedly diagnosed with Stage Four pancreatic cancer. In his journey as her caregiver he had a lot to learn in a very short period of time and he had a lot to lose. He chronicles his journey in Three Months: A Caregiving Journey from Heartbreak to Healing (2012 FolkHeart Press). He wrote this 108-page love story and resource guide for caregivers in the hopes that his roller-coaster experiences could help others in a similar situation.
The process of preparing the manuscript which was released three years after his wife passed on helped him come to terms with life’s final passage. It also allowed him to preserve some of the last treasured memories he had of his wife and their final months together. His story is a poignant one that culminates in healing at a level that most people only dream about.
Here is what the author had to say about his book:
Q: What is your goal with this book?
A: My mission in writing this book was to share with others what I learned the hard way about being a caregiver to someone I loved. In a very short period of time I had to embrace the shocking reality that my life with Margaret was going to end abruptly and that I had to let go of her as gently and lovingly as possible. In the process I discovered there was a lot I didn’t know about how to be a caregiver. I imagine this is true for others.
Q: Why did you choose to write non fiction rather than fiction?
A: This was a very personal story and could have been fictionalized. But, I believe non-fiction was the best format because it is based on real life experiences and these are what make the story more relevant to others. Many of those who will seek out and read a book like this are looking for information about loving and caregiving someone who is terminally ill.
Q: How challenging was it to write about a family member?
A: There definitely was much to consider. Ours was a blended family and while Margaret was alive it was important to keep everyone informed of the decisions she and I made about her care and to listen to what their responses were to our choices.
Writing this manuscript, however, was a very personal process. I had to relive again and again countless doctors’ visits, tearful nights without sleep, frustrating impatience, and tender exchanges between us all.
My family was very supportive about my writing this book. They loved Margaret, too, and wanted the world to benefit from our story. Without the prodding of Margaret’s daughter Dona and my three girls, Christina, Jody and Erica, as well as the literary and editorial assistance of my colleagues, I might not have seen this project all the way through.
Q: Do you consider yourself a writer?
A: I really never did. Making notes on different experiences as they happened was how I made sure I didn’t miss important information. It also helped me come to terms with the inevitable and it productive fill up the hours I spent waiting for test results and surgery outcomes.
J. Dietrich “Diet” Stroeh is an engineer by trade. He has headed up projects great and small, and managed the Marin Municipal Water District in the midst of one of the worst drought’s on record. That experience was the basis for his first book, The Man Who Made it Rain, co-written with Michael McCarthy. He is a Director of the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District and he sits on the Board of Directors of the Bank of Marin.
In his spare time he can be found working in his shop on wood projects, restoring cars, and tending to the garden as well as spending time with friends and family. He lives in Marin County with his wife. “Three Months: A Caretakers Journey From Heartbreak to Healing,” is his second book.