Marv Taking Charge: A Story of Bold Love and Courage
About the book: Lois Roelofs always knew that Marv, her husband of fifty-five years, had strong convictions. So, when he was diagnosed with “very aggressive” small cell lung cancer, with a few weeks to a few months to live, she accepted that he wanted to die on his own terms―refuse chemo, choose quality of life over quantity, and die at home. She tells their story in a mix of personal notes, family and friend emails, and public blog posts written during Marv’s illness and her first months as a widow. At the time, she could find no personal accounts of refusing treatment and living with the resultant uncertainty.
Lois wrote this book to honor her husband Marv’s request to tell the story of their experience when he chose to refuse treatment for a diagnosis of small cell lung cancer. Family, friends, and readers of Lois’s blog in real time confirmed interest in the topic of refusing treatment. She wanted to show her readers that achieving patient autonomy, doing what’s right for them, is possible and, implicitly, to caution readers never to blindly follow medical advice.
Marv Taking Charge will be helpful to those facing a critical decision whether to treat a terminal illness. It will help answer questions such as 1) what can happen after the diagnostic visits, 2) when to sign up for hospice, 3) what can be expected from hospice, 4) how to spend the time during the uncertain period when all persons involved are waiting for the worsening of the patient’s illness, and 5) what can happen during the progression of the illness.
The main theme is patient autonomy, having the right to make decisions regarding care.
First review on Amazon (Feel free to add yours!):
5.0 out of 5 stars A testament to Love, Trust and Faith
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on April 11, 2023
Have you ever considered how you’d react to the news of a terminal diagnosis? “Marv Taking Charge” is a compelling testament to the love, trust and faith between a husband and wife. Once started, I literally could not put this book down. Highly recommended!
Lois Roelofs has the heart of a healer, the soul of an artist, the voice of a balladeer. Her memoir is utterly rapturous–a long, sad, rejoicing, engrossing love story and a gift to all of us.
—Sandra Scofield, The Last Draft; Swim: Stories of the Sixties
As a counselor, I think Lois Roelofs is one of the best writers who delves deep into her personal experience to offer support and encouragement to readers going through difficult transitions and grieving.
—Ann T. Brody, MSW
The story Lois Roelofs tells in this memoir of her husband’s death is universal; after all, everyone’s life ends. Still, no two stories are alike, and Roelofs’ particulars are very much her own and their own. That she is a nurse means she follows his suffering thoughtfully, in ways few others can. Then again, their 55 years of marriage means her heart, her love, is also ever engaged. But the strengths of their souls, their mutual faith, provides the power that sees them both through. Her vigil will wear you out, but its exactness of her conviction will strengthen you for all of our journeys.
—James Calvin Schaap, Emeritus Professor of English, Dordt University
Biography of Lois Hoitenga Roelofs
Lois is a Professor Emerita of Nursing at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, Illinois. Throughout her career she has held positions in practice, education, research, and administration. She worked in hospitals, an HMO, and a steel mill, and taught in four nursing programs: Prairie State College in Chicago Heights, IL; Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, IL; Valparaiso University in Valparaiso, IN; and St. Xavier University in Chicago, IL.
It was near her retirement in 2000 that she and a friend began discussing writing books about their nursing careers. With a lack of memoirs written by nursing professors describing their career paths, Lois found that her life story as an ordinary suburban sandbox mom who ended up teaching nursing and getting a PhD was needed. Thus, Caring Lessons: A Nursing Professor’s Journey of Faith and Self was born.
Then when her husband was diagnosed with a terminal lung cancer in 2018, she did what she knew how to do: write. Not finding any memoirs about persons refusing treatment prompted Lois to collect her various notes, blog posts, and emails to shape into a book. Marv Taking Charge: A Story of Bold Love and Courage emerged from that effort.
Now, after “reading, eating, and sleeping nursing” for nearly forty years, and writing her memoir about it, Lois Roelofs schedules her days around having fun – blogging, writing creative nonfiction, meeting up with friends, taking classes of all kinds, and participating in several book clubs. She makes her home between SD and AZ where she can enjoy her mochas, the dubious fun of aging, and chats with her kids and grandkids.
- Diploma, Blodgett Memorial Hospital School of Nursing, Grand Rapids, MI, 1962
- BHS (Nursing Practice), Governors State University, Park Forest South, IL, 1977
- MS (Psychiatric Nursing), University of Illinois, Chicago, IL, 1981
- PhD (Nursing Science), University of Illinois, Chicago, IL, 1991
- Certificate in the four-year Basic Program of Liberal Education for Adults, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, 2013
Q. What motivated you to write Marv Taking Charge?
A. As a nurse, I naturally am into documentation. As a blogger, I blogged our experience and received many comments about our courage in Marv’s refusing treatment. This prompted Marv to encourage me to write a book. He felt strongly our experience may help others.
Q. What do you mean by the title Marv Taking Charge?
A. From the first phone call about his terminal diagnosis, it was clear that Marv was going to be in charge of how he wanted to live out the remainder of his life.
Q. How did your faith influence this “adventure” as you call it?
A. I don’t usually wear my faith for others to see. But when God’s grace (unearned favors on our part) popped up so often that it was beyond serendipity, it was impossible not to make the connections. And I mention those in the book.
Q. How is Marv Taking Charge relevant to today?
A. Even though there are substantive discoveries in the treatment of cancers, there will always be situations in which persons may consider forgoing treatment. Marv Taking Charge shows how one couple navigated life to the end, living intentionally and with the uncertainty that naturally happens when one voluntarily forgoes further testing as a hospice patient.
Q. How is Marv Taking Charge different from other terminal cancer memoirs?
A. I found no other memoirs written by persons who refused treatment.
Q. What would lay persons get out of reading your book?
A. As stated in the book’s description, Marv Taking Charge will be helpful to those facing a critical decision whether to treat a terminal illness. It will help answer questions such as 1) what can happen after the diagnostic visits, 2) when to sign up for hospice, 3) what can be expected from hospice, 4) how to spend the time during the uncertain period when all persons involved are waiting for the worsening of the patient’s illness, and 5) what can happen during the progression of the illness.
Q. What surprises have you encountered from writing your book?
A. I expected the writing (and multiple revisions) and the working with editors to make a coherent whole to be both cathartic and healing. And it has been so! I’m also very happy that I could honor Marv’s wish that our story be told.
Q. What is your hope for the book?
A. I hope readers will see and come to understand there are options when faced with a terminal illness. I hope they will come to understand they do not have to lose their autonomy in making decisions. And if they foresee losing the ability to make those decisions, they can appoint a trusted family member or friend to make them on their behalf.
Other topics for discussion:
- Patient Rights
- Patient Autonomy
Questions? Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about my background, you will find an abbreviated curriculum vitae of my nursing career and a current resume of my retirement writing education on my blog at loisroelofs.com, listed under the About Me page in the header. Thanks! Lois
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