Growth: A Mother, Her Son, and the Brain Tumor They Survived, a memoir by Karen DeBonis, is a mesmerizing story of the journey of a mother and son. Not just any mother and son, but a happily married, well educated teacher who felt confident she would be a good mother to her first-born son, Matthew, nicknamed “Little Einstein.”
The story opens in the family’s small upstate New York town when Matt is eight. The author notices he is rolling his eyes in ways that seem unnatural to her, and soon DeBonis brings the troubling symptom to their pediatrician’s attention. This moment opens multiple years of a back-and-forth series of appointments in which DeBonis sees increasingly more, and more alarming, symptoms in Matt’s behavior, yet the pediatrician reassures her that Matt is developing properly. DeBonis’ husband tended to go along with what the professionals were saying.
A second significant underlying theme emerges early in the story and threads throughout. Women of DeBonis’ generation (and three decades earlier with women of my generation) were raised to please other people. Why? Essentially, so they would like us.
In those days young women were still innocent in many ways, most of us believed that, surely, our doctors and all the professionals in our lives deserved our trust. How could we feel doubt if our concerns were reassured by professionals? Speaking for myself, it was easy to dismiss any doubt and believe them.
As I traced the author’s growth in coming to terms with this personality trait, I learned a great deal from her hard-earned wisdom. This parallel thread was as fascinating and integral to her advocacy for Matt until the moment arrived when a crisis suddenly rose. DeBonis reached her limit of “going along” and abruptly shed her pleasing-others behavior. Suddenly medical providers listened. A new diagnosis search began based on DeBonis’ and her husband’s–who had gradually come to agree with her–profound concerns. The shift was intense; and it is there that I will leave you to complete the story.
In conclusion, to my dismay, but not surprise, I discovered a layer of pleasing others that I also needed to shed, an ongoing project that has given me growth and awareness.
I highly recommend this five-star book to all readers, and hope you will spread word of the book to your friends and family. I believe Growth is an exceptional story that you will long remember.