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She Came To Live Out Loud

An Inspiring Family Journey Through Illness, Loss, and Grief

By Myra MacPherson
Introduction by Kenneth J. Doka, Ph.D.
Published by Scribner
Publication date: February, 1999
379 pp.
ISBN: 0684822644 (hard cover)


A realistic and moving account of one woman's battle with fatal breast cancer which includes many insights into how young families cope with progressive illness. Author Myra MacPherson spent three years with Anna Johannessen and her family, witnessing how a vibrant young woman struck in the prime of life managed to "live out loud" until the very end. Anna was 37 when first diagnosed. As she follows a difficult road through medical treatments which ultimately fail to stop the progress of her cancer we experience the full range of emotions which extended illness and dying can bring, including anger, hope, despair, love, and even laughter. Anna eventually achieves a peaceful death at home, supported by hospice care.

Breast cancer is the leading cause of death for women in their thirties and forties. Anna's story pulls together many of the typical elements of this disease in active young women, including:

As Anna's cancer progresses she must deal with the physical debilitation of her disease, difficult chemotherapy, tough decisions about care, how to communicate with physicians, when to let go of medical treatment, and a host of other fundamental concerns. A brief resource guide points readers to major sources of information for further study and support.

This book will work best for readers who can identify with the characters and see themselves in the story. It does not attempt to be a "how to" book on death and dying and lacks the medical detail and authoritative tone of more structured works such as The Center To Improve Care For The Dying's Handbook For Mortals. It's targeted at a mainstream demographic audience with intact families and middle-class economic situations, so readers who don't fit those parameters may not find their own stories here. With these provisos we can recommend it as a light general introduction to major issues in end of life care, with a specific focus on cancer.

Myra MacPherson was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for her acclaimed bestseller Long Time Passing: Vietnam and the Haunted Generation. Her economical writing style and keen eye for detail makes She Came To Live Out Loud a fast read with a journalistic feel.

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