In 2006, Emergency medicine trainee, Damon, and his wife, Trisha, have two boys, Thai (age 4) and Callum (age 2.5).  All is well in their lives until Callum begins vomiting for no apparent reason.  He is found to have medulloblastoma, an aggressive brain tumour, for which the only possible hope for a cure comes from surgery and six cycles of ever more arduous chemotherapy with stem cell recovery at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children. The little family moves to Toronto and commits to supporting Callum as best they can, ensuring that he is never alone even during his long weeks of reverse isolation. They also try to keep Thai nearby, involved and aware, with the help of a local school and grandparents. But Callum dies during the last cycle of treatment.  

Saddened, exhausted, and bereaved, Damon and Trisha go back to their home town and try to (re)construct their lives, slowly returning to studies and work. They find meaning in creating tangible and intangible memorials to their lost son, and they find purpose in the more difficult task of moving forward, never losing the pain of grief. They adopt a little girl. Damon knows that Callum is always with him and the experience of his illness and death has dramatically infused his work as a physician.


An autobiographical-autopathological account of a father’s horrifying experience of seeing a beloved child diagnosed with cancer, suffering greatly through treatment, and succumbing to its brutal side effects. Powerfully written with stark honesty and love, the poignant details of the daily progress through the illness experience are especially vivid and will make you cry. But at Callum’s death the book is only half finished.  

The remainder is about the experience of loss, grief, anger, and guilt that color the family’s attempts at recovery in the following years. 
Damon and Trisha struggle despite the acknowledged advantages of income, family support, and a loving marriage. He wonders how his patients must cope who lack these benefits. Although it is not stated, the writing of the narrative itself emerges as a kind of therapy for the author, who is an educator as well as an emergency specialist.   

This book is a fresh contribution to the genre of “physician-as-patient,” in many ways reminiscent of the raw emotion described in novel, Other Women’s Children, by pediatrician Perri Klass (this database But it is all the more powerful for its being true.  

Medical readers will recognize the unintended cruelty in the daily habits of hospital medicine. Others will come to understand the hurt in supposedly comforting words and gestures. Bereaved parents will relate to the agony of the little family left over and forever alone.


Independently Published



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