“Today I sing for hope. I sing today in celebration of the inner peace I feel in this moment. I sing because life is beautiful. I sing for love and I sing for fear (and I believe we fear only because we love so all there really is, is love). I sing for surrender and I sing for release.”
– Amy Lyn Schnitzler, 2016 from My Terminal Life
About the Book
If you were diagnosed with a terminal illness today, what would you do with the rest of your life?
People sometimes ask themselves this question theoretically as a kind of inspirational exercise. And most say things like quitting their job and traveling the world, or going skydiving, or any number of things that might make them feel more alive.
But for Amy Lyn Schnitzler, there was nothing theoretical about the question.
Amy was first diagnosed with breast cancer in April of 2016. She was 26-years-old and about to start her graduate studies in opera performance. By November, it had progressed to metastatic; a terminal diagnosis.
For Amy, her diagnosis was everything you might expect — heartbreaking, fear-inducing and painful — but it was also a wake up call. Like many young women, she’d spent much of her life unhappy with herself. She looked in the mirror and only saw flaws. She often doubted her worthiness and suffered bouts of depression.
Then came the cancer, and along with it, more depression and suicidal thoughts, but eventually a newfound sense of appreciation and self-love as well.
She didn’t want to go skydiving or traveling. She wanted to live. Not for adventure, but for herself and those who loved her. And that meant starting treatment her way, postponing graduate school, and learning all she could about staying as healthy as possible—physically, mentally, spiritually.
Throughout, Amy was an active blogger whose powerful writing educated her readers, supported others with the disease, and unflinchingly captured the rawness of the downs and the (fleeting) ecstacy of the ups along her personal journey. These posts and other writings have become My Terminal Life: Cancer Habitation and Other Life Adventures.
I hope her experiences touch us in a way that helps us reclaim our own meaning and purpose. I hope her strength emboldens our own sense of determination. I hope her vulnerability helps us explore our own fears and limitations with acceptance, love, and hope. More simply, I hope we are compelled to do something, in recognition that this dying comes for us all.
Her posts are funny, raw, and honest. They take us from her body shame to walking a fashion show runway in lingerie, and from the depths of her despair to a determination not only to live, but to thrive. Through it all, she portrayed a heroic willingness to be transparent about her experiences so that others might better understand. Amy was passionate, wise, and more self aware than most, and her lively, mischievous, authentic self shines through on every page.
But this isn’t just Amy’s story. In the four years she lived with metastatic breast cancer, Amy became a fierce advocate for herself and others facing similar circumstances. She wanted to combat what she felt to be the misguided pink ribbon awareness message and the common misperception that all breast cancer is treatable or preventable. “Metastatic breast cancer doesn’t need more fluffy pink ribbons,” she said. “It needs a cure.” Amy devoted the rest of her life and this book to that cause.
My Terminal Life is for medical students and medical care providers, as well as mental health professionals, who need to be mindful of the complex journey of the human behind the diagnosis. It’s for those living with any deadly disease and the people who love them. And it’s for anyone with questions about their own mortality and what it might be like to grapple with it, as Amy did, eventually facing it with grace, courage, and a whole lot of CBD oil!
Available on Amazon in paperback & ebook!
Excerpts from My Terminal Life
Cancer: A life interrupted...?
There are moments in a person’s life that are forever imprinted in memory. I have a vivid recollection of sitting at my grandmother’s kitchen table doing homework after grade school with my same-age cousin Michael, munching on her homemade chocolate chip cookies between hurried scribbles on my papers because the faster we finished our homework, the faster we could get outside to play, of course-that was the rule! Taking gulps...
"Meditation" on the clouds
I stormed in the door hot and dripping with sweat from my slower-than-normal- 3 mile run with my unruly dog, and my unrulier thoughts, and announced in an icy tone to my mother that I was in a terrible mood. She asked what she could do, and I shot back hastily, my voice fraught with teenage angst, “Nothing, I need my water and I’m going to sit outside.” I unleashed the dog, grabbed my bottle off the counter and the door slammed behind me (was that the wind, or did I just slam it?). I made my way to the back of the house...
A letter to my metastatic breast cancer
Dear Lung Spots,
First, I must start off by expressing my hatred for you and the countless ways you’ve impacted my life. You are dreaded, you are awful, you are terrifying, you are insidious. You came upon me completely unexpectedly. Just as I was beginning to feel like I could handle this “whole cancer thing” and everything that the last 7 months...
“There is no such thing as false hope.”
— Patti Davis
All proceeds from sales of this book will be donated to METAvivor and to the Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochester.
Available on Amazon in paperback & ebook!
“Reading the book was like receiving a letter from Amy—so immediate, so real. Amy was so special to me in so many ways. The opera singer connection was something we shared and it put an extra emotional charge into our relationship. She did things her way and I respected her for that. I think of her often and I wish she were still with us. Breast cancer research is moving at an exponential pace. Our approach to the treatment of breast cancer has changed vastly during the time I have been a practicing oncologist. Our drug arsenal is expanding rapidly as is our understanding of mechanisms which drive cancer growth and spread. I always felt honored to care for Amy. Working to serve my patients and helping them navigate the complexities of cancer care is why I do what I do.”
“Like the clamoring geese overhead, I am coming home.”
— Amy Lyn Schnitzler