Two Cousins, Cancer, and the Doctors Who Fought to Save Their Lives

Non-Fiction - Inspirational
354 Pages
Reviewed on 01/28/2021
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Lesley Jones for Readers' Favorite

In 1976 Keith, a Vietnam veteran, and his wife Judy, a celebrated runner, were given the devastating news that their two-year-old son Aaron had leukemia. They both refused to give up on Aaron or believe the horrifying prognosis that his little body would eventually succumb to the illness. Follow their courageous and heart-wrenching story as they fought the disease with everything they had. From Aaron's incredible outlook as he endured his treatments, including a bone marrow operation, the celebration as he went into remission, to the day cancer returned. In Part Two of Trials by Larry Bradley, we hear Chris's story. Judy's nephew Chris, who was only one when Aaron battled his illness, now had to endure the same illness when he too was diagnosed with leukemia and faced the same uncertain and terrifying future as his cousin.

Whether you are a parent or not, this story of incredible bravery will send you on an emotional rollercoaster. The tireless work of the doctors and nurses was commendable. Their care and professionalism were admirable especially Dr. Maurice Origenes and Dr. Livermore. When doctors found another possible tumor and Aaron did not shed a tear when he faced another biopsy, it spoke volumes of the level of tenacity and resilience he possessed for an 8-year-old child. I thought the way Judy, Keith, and later Doug always placed Aaron's well-being first and foremost was amazing, especially Keith and Doug. They always seemed to place their differences of opinion to one side and find a common ground. The bone marrow operation and the 'I don't want to die' chapters were the hardest for me to read as they covered such painful events.

The letter Judy wrote to Aaron was one of the most heartbreaking vows of love I have ever read. Chris was also another courageous and inspirational little boy. His humor was incredible and this was highlighted perfectly with the brilliant 'Houston, we have a problem' line as he received yet another medical treatment. I also loved the scene when the NBA legend was introduced to Chris, his response was so funny. The words Chris spoke to his mother, “Mom, I couldn’t go through this without you,” touched me deeply. This was an incredibly moving moment to read. The photography was so beautiful too. Trials by Larry Bradley is an absolute must-read. This heartwarming story of one family's endurance, love, hope, and bravery is one that will be hard to forget.

Anne-Marie Reynolds

Trials by Larry Bradley tells the true story of two sisters whose sons are both diagnosed with cancer – the same strain of leukemia. The fight for survival comes at a time when a new approach to how clinical trials were conducted produced a cure for childhood leukemia and brought about the chemotherapy widely used in cancer treatment today. The author’s wife and her sister both wrote journals to document the horrific treatments given to children, experiments that even the doctors thought were causing harm to the children. The story is littered with interviews with nurses and physicians and parents of other cancer-stricken kids, providing a complete, sometimes harrowing account of the courage needed to get through – not just the children but their parents too.

Trials: Two Cousins, Cancer, and the Doctors Who Fought to Save Their Lives by Larry Bradley is an eye-opener, especially to those who have no personal connection to cancer in their own lives. It’s hard to see anyone suffering from this dreadful disease but it’s heartbreaking when it's children. Larry Bradley has brought this true story to us in vivid detail, writing it in an easy-to-read style, almost as if you and he are having a conversation over a morning coffee. It is harrowing, it will break your heart in parts but the right amount of humor in the right places lifts the story somewhat. It is an educational piece of writing, a story that will take you on an unforgettable and unimaginable journey that teaches some of the skills needed to cope and the extraordinary amount of courage displayed by all involved. Fantastic book, I urge everyone to read it.

Irene Valentine

Trials: Two Cousins, Cancer, and the Doctors Who Fought to Save Their Lives by Larry Bradley is a unique account that begins with 2 sisters, who looked alike despite their 8-year age difference. They were both runners and physical education teachers. Each had 2 children, and each faced the trauma and challenge of a young son diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL). Larry Bradley, who married the younger sister Mary Lou, recalled that when their 9-year-old son Chris was initially diagnosed, it was like being struck by lightning on a day when clear blue skies were forecast. This heart-rending story of courage and perseverance provides many remarkable insights. Families were committed to continuing life with joy as far as possible. Parents found strength in running regimes and comfort in sharing their challenges with other parents in support groups. Children attended annual summer camps designed for cancer patients and their siblings. The counselors knew the needs of healthy siblings were often subordinated to those of their sick siblings, so they went to great lengths to make them feel equally special. These camps were remembered as the best times of their childhood. Battle-tested doctors and nurses faced a new emotional journey with each new patient. The medical team and parents committed to doing the best at the moment; immediate therapies often had long-term risk.

“With children, it’s never their time.” How does a parent come to terms with these issues? I found Trials a very compelling read. The fortitude and resilience of these young cancer victims brought me to tears. Larry Bradley describes family relationships and medical procedures in an easy-to-follow conversational style. The value of support groups was epitomized in the final campfire singalong: “I am one person singing this song, and I am not alone. We are two people singing this song, and we are not alone.” The progression continued until everybody stood together and sang, “We are not alone.” I recommend Trials to anyone with a loved one with a chronic disease. You will equip yourself for the trials you will face by increasing your awareness, regardless of the disease. You can’t advocate for your child (or loved one) too often. The underlying message is one of unrelenting love and hope.