No Fear in Death’s Light: Memoir of a near death experience

It was 2012, and Bowen Islanders Joyce and Gordon Ganon were in Italy celbrating their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. On the second morning of this dream vacation, Joyce’s health took a dramatic and unexpected turn for the worse. After experiencing jolts of excruciating pain in her abdomen she was rushed to the hospital. Nobody knows why or how, but she had a perforated bowel that required emergency surgery, and because she had ignored the pain for some time, she faced a host of other medical problems because of it.

Four years later, Joyce Ganong is happy and healthy, and no longer fears death. In fact, the nightmarish experience of extreme illness has proved to be a gift. Ganong has re-hashed her experience in a book she hopes will offer comfort to those facing their own death or the death of a loved one.

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“I can’t talk about this lightly because it is a delicate topic,” says Ganong. “But I went to a conscious aging workshop last year, and I was surprised by how many people have had similar experiences to mine, but are afraid to talk about it.”

Ganong says the book came about after a conversation with a dying friend.

“My friend was really struggling,” she says. “After I spoke with her, she seemed to feel reassured and she made me promise that I would write this book.”

Ganong says that she also hopes to open up conversations about illness.

“People who are severely ill often seem to have a stiff upper lip,” says Ganong. “But people need to talk about what exactly is wrong in order to get the best treatment. If your caregivers think you are cranky because you are in pain, they will give you pain medication, but if you are cranky because you are having a hard time dealing with the situation – that needs to be clear to your caregivers as well.”

She adds there are other, lighter sides to the book as well.

“This is a book about culture, and love,” says Ganong.

Through 13 days in an Italian hospital, Ganong says she feels privileged to have had a very unique cultural experience.

“A hospital is a microcosm of life and we were in an Italian hospital,” she says. “It was amazing, and intense, to see Italian life swirling around me. The professionals were like a family, and it was a lot of fun to experience that dynamic.”

Ganong says that when she spent time in the hospital in Canada for test and remedial surgery, she saw that the professionalism was there, but the sense of family was not.

“Of course the doctors and nurses other healthcare professionals had relationships with one another, but there really wasn’t the spontaneity,” she says.

Ganong also mentions two love stories are told in the book. One of them, of course, is her own.

“When this happened, Gordon and I had been married for 25 years, and we were in a very good, solid place,” she says. “But sometimes when trauma hits, you fall in love all over again. And that is what happened to us.”

Joyce Ganong will launch her book, No Fear in Death’s Light on October 1 at 7 pm at The Gallery at Artisan Square. Send RSVP to:

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