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July 11, 2022

Two More Years by EC Stilson ~ a Review #Cancer #Faith

by Alison DeLuca



Two More Years is a memoir, the story of one woman's journey through cancer. EC Stilson, or Elisa, is a mother and wife as well as a writer. Then she becomes a patient dealing with stage 4 melanoma cancer.

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book cover of memoir Two More Years by EC Stilson
June 2022; Evolved Publishing; 978-1622537815
ebook, print (282 pages); memoir

The book begins with a doctor telling Elisa, "Two more years." That's all the time he can give her since melanoma has spread throughout her back, spine, and brain. She'll find out that those two years will be filled with excruciating radiation and chemotherapy.

She takes us on that journey and describes with unflinching detail the process of getting strapped into tight foam for a treatment, unable to move for over an hour. She doesn't shy away from the debilitating effects of chemo, as well as the effect all of this has on her children. We are swept up in her surgery to remove a vertebra and experience her overwhelming exhaustion as she tries to walk again after the operation.

And yet Elisa confronts every challenge with determination and humor as well as faith. Two More Years is not just about disease. This memoir maps out the importance of hope, family, spirituality, and love.

It is told through a series of vignettes. When Elisa is first given her two-year sentence, a nurse lets her play her violin in the lobby to cheer her up. Mike, her husband, talks her through her first brain radiation treatment (the one where she's packed into unmoving foam with a mouthpiece.) Strangers send gifts to Elisa's children for Christmas, since the family is slammed with medical bills. 

Elisa's emotions run from gratitude to fear to impatience and constantly to love. We see her react to friends, to her kids, and to strangers. Each story is like a tiny journey in itself, as she feels angered by a  remark about her weakness and realizes, later, that it comes from a place of sympathy. She vows to only make one negative comment a day. She watches others 'ring the bell' in the treatment center. It says a lot about who she is when she takes the time to ask a nurse how she's feeling:

"It's interesting but not many people ask how I'm doing here. It's not a bad thing, they're just going through so much."

Throughout the book, Elisa goes through several longer journeys. The first is the search for her daughter who has isolated herself, perhaps as a reaction to the tragedy of her mother's illness. On top of her illness, Elisa fights for her daughter.

As well, there's the journey of faith. Throughout the book, Elisa has inexplicable encounters - a stranger who tells her that prayer is the most important thing for her and who then disappears. The feeling that she's losing her faith as well as her hair. A white feather appears from nowhere. She dreams of conversations with God who, in those visions, looks like a leather-clad biker.

And finally, there's Elisa's journey with her husband. She once said Two More Years is a love story. Mike is there through every humiliating moment when Elisa loses the final vestiges of her dignity, ready to make her laugh in the hospital. 

It's only fair to point out that I'm friends with Stilson on social media. She fascinated me from the start with her selfies, and I had to find out who was the woman who slayed chemo in full make-up, a megawatt smile, and fake eyelashes.  Her posts were told in stories just like those in Two More Years. They also show the continuing love story between Stilson and her husband: for example, after an infusion, he formed her blanket into a mermaid tail to make her smile.

I followed her because I'd never met anyone so determined to enjoy life up to the end, with eyelashes intact. (Full disclosure: it's a struggle for me to wear mascara.) Most of all, Elisa is beautiful inside and out. 

When Two More Years was released, I immediately bought my copy. I was thrilled to see that the book followed Elisa's enchanting format on social media: fascinating stories that telescope from small incidents to deep observations.

For some readers, such an honest description of cancer may be a trigger. But if you want an inspiring and important memoir that reclaims life right from the chemo chair, you can't do better than Two More Years.

I'm going to leave you with one last quote from the author:

"I’m really living, but I wish I would’ve done more of this when I felt healthy and truly “up to the occasion.” The least I can do is help other people avoid the same mistake I made: working too much instead of fully embracing each and every moment of life."


Buy Two More Years at Amazon



Alison DeLuca is the author of several YA and urban fantasy books She was born in Arizona and has also lived in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Mexico, Ireland, and Spain. Currently she wrestles words and laundry in New Jersey. You can find her at http://bit.ly/ADeLucaAC


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