The book opens up with Helen preparing her spare bedroom for the arrival of her friend Nicola. Nicola has stage four cancer and is going to stay with Helen for 3 weeks while she undergo alternative treatment.
Helen and Nicola are in their sixties. They have enjoyed a close friendship. Helen has prepared herself, setting aside commitments, psychologically and to be physically ready to be of assistence to her friend
Helen takes her young granddaughter to the airport to meet Nicola. Helen is shocked when she sees Nicola’s deteriorated condition. Even the child is frightened by the frail woman who staggers towards them. Helen didn’t realize it was that bad.
Nicola’s immune system is virtually nonexistent. What follows is an huge act of generosity on Helen’s part. A three-week endurance of Nicola’s night sweats, agonizing pain and determination to ignore the cancer that assails her. Intending only kindness, Helen is soon worn down by the bizarre treatments (including the infusion of massive doses of Vitamin C), and the suffering Nicola endures during long, pain-wracked nights.
Helen has not expected that in caring for Nicola, the limitations she would have to put up against. The rage that fills her in the face of Nicola’s behavior and how she can go on suffering. Nicola is relentless in her cheerfulness in spite of debilitating pain, an unshakable belief that she ignores Helen’s exhaustion and fraying nerves. Most damaging is Helen’s overwhelming rage, a frustration with the false promises of alternative medicine. She knows there is no cure and she doesn’t understand why Nicola can’t see that.
This is a journey of friendship tested by a final reality- death.
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