Waiting for Wings: A Woman’s Metamorphosis through Cancer

By Heidi Marble

Review by Valerie Ozsu, NP, MSN, CNM

Summer 2010 - Volume 14 Number 2


Recently I read, Waiting for Wings: A Woman's Metamorphosis through Cancer, by Heidi Marble. Through the pages of this phenomenal book, I found described all the patients that I have known in my career.

Ms Marble's narrative, poetry, and the book's photography tell the story of how she found the light of life through the darkness of cancer. Beginning at the time of the diagnosis of inflammatory breast cancer, the author chronicles her life. Initially, she intended to use her poetry and the photos describing her emotions and experiences with cancer to leave a journal for her husband, son, and family after she passed on. However, as she began to heal, she began to see herself as a butterfly coming out of a cocoon, and she has metamorphosed as a type of healer to other women with breast cancer. I was entranced as I read her poetry, which conveys not only her thoughts and feelings but also those of women I have known who have dealt with breast cancer. The amazing photos by Cordetta Spells resonate and well represent Ms Marble's butterfly symbolism.

As a women's health Ob/Gyn Nurse Practitioner and Nurse Midwife for more than 28 years, I have never found an "easy" way to convey the "C" (cancer) word to any patient. I have tried to be matter of fact and clinical, but somehow it always gets messed up and I get emotional on some level. I incorporate a holistic approach along with that of the allopathic medicine when working with clients. I have prayed with patients, checked up on others with phone calls or cards (or both) to offer encouragement, or I have even been known to make my famous "Organic Chicken Soup" for one patient who could barely keep anything down by the time she was working on her ninth diagnosis of breast cancer.

Ms Marble's account of her experience expresses the heart and soul of our clients who look to us to guide them on a journey of emotions, which includes loss, suffering, and redefining who they are. Clinicians often prefer to avoid these emotions, or they can't yet face these kinds of emotions especially during a busy clinic. Yet, it can mean so much for patients to have clinicians that they can lean on during this time of need. The foreword, written by James Long, MD, emphasizes the importance of compassion when mixed with truth and reminds us to include honest hope when working with cancer patients.

The lives of families are also transformed by their loved one's cancer and the various surgeries and treatments. The collection of letters written by family and friends shows us that we are not just treating the patient but those who also are important connections to our patients. It points out the importance of having a support group that one can lean on and gain strength from. I sometimes wonder how this can be provided for those in our mobile society who are living miles away from family or for those who are not financially well off?

The roller coaster ride for Heidi started from the time of her diagnosis, chemotherapy, and hair loss. Through the emotional and physical pain, her roller coaster went up and down, gaining speed or sometimes jolting her off guard with her hysterectomy, thoughts of suicide, then determination to live on hearing her son's voice; only to be overwhelmed, in the next moment, with drugs, procedures, and pain. Once the cancer roller coaster ride slows down to idle (it must take patients a long time to feel that cancer is gone) and the rider jumps off (or, as the author describes, breaks out of the cocoon), patients have a new perspective on life, and some even reach out and fly to help others as Ms Marble has done.

I recommend this book for all who want to know more about dealing with cancer on a basic human level. It opens your eyes and your heart.


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