‘No Man is an Island’, says John Donne. Truer words were not said. A death is a life-altering event for everyone. At the young age of 4, Pamela Summerhayes is diagnosed with ‘Cystic Fibrosis’. The little child cannot even pronounce the name of her disease and calls it ‘Sixtyfive Roses’ which gives this book its beautiful and meaningful title. How her fatal illness changes the lives of all those connected to her and how they dedicate themselves to accomplishing just one task – Saving Pammy, is what this real life story is about.
Caring for a dying person is an emotionally and physically demanding process. The deep fears and the inner turmoil of the person who is dying are no doubt to be cared for. But it is not just the person about to die who suffers. All the family members undergo painful emotions, bursts of anger, a sickening sense of helplessness and a guilt of trying to ‘enjoy their lives’ when a dear one is dying.
Pamela Summerhayes grew up knowing that she might die any moment. Long hours of treatments and endless doses of medicines were a part of her life. But beneath the skinny looking girl that her fatal disease leaves her looking, she is a rock and makes more out of her life than one can possibly imagine.
Heather Summerhayes, the author and sister of Pamela Summerhayes, finds herself in a state of mind beyond her control. Her fears for the life of her sister whom she loves more than anything else make her release her anger and frustration in tantrums and the real cause of her behavior gets lost in her outward temper.
Their mother Donna Summerhayes is the steady rock behind the family. The manner in which she deals with her daughter’s illness which requires several hours of dedication to her treatments and even more for her emotional well-being, along with looking after the rest of the family without once losing her patience and managing her household is an inspiration for every woman. Not to be deterred by the storm in her life, she even devotes her time, from whatever little remains, to founding the Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation with her husband. No words are enough to praise this path-breaking woman.
Doug Summerhayes might have not struck it rich in the worldly sense, but the wealth he gives to his family and his dying daughter Pamela by his love, care and support is irreplaceable. His leadership qualities come to the fore out of the desperation to help his daughter and he takes great efforts to form the Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. He, along with his wife Donna, are perfect examples of what parents of special-need children should be.
Greg and Jeff, the boys in the family grow under the shadow of their sister’s disease. They feel over-looked and less important at times because their sister takes up most of everybody else’s time but nevertheless, they realize what comes first and emerge stronger after the family crisis. Both are affected by their circumstances in different ways. Greg takes it upon himself to give his own family the love, support and strength of a caring father and Jeff, who also suffers from the same disease as Pamela, lives his life doing all the things he wouldn’t want to miss out on. The splendidly written account of a real life situation brings to the reader’s mind the strengths and weaknesses of this family who refuses to give up no matter what and whose members solemnly prepare themselves for a death while doing everything possible to keep it from happening. Heather Cariou Summerhayes does mankind a great service by putting the journey of a dedicated family through a fatal illness of a family member into words and inspiring and enriching everyone who reads this book.
Visit official website: Sixtyfive Roses
About the Author: Heather Summerhayes Cariou