Heather Summerhayes Cariou managed to take a deep tragedy, the loss of her sister to cystic fibrosis, and turn it into a journey of healing and personal growth through the writing of a memoir, Sixyfive Roses, a play on the name of the disease that’s difficult for kids to pronounce. CF is an inherited disorder that literally chokes the life from its young victims, although great strides have been made in research to make the median age of survival now more than 35 years. Pam Summerhayes, diagnosed at age 4, died at the age of 26.
While Heather wanted to write a memoir of Pam in tribute to her sister’s strength and bravery, she discovered she had to tell the story in her own words, and in the writing Pam voice spoke. While Sixtyfive Roses has no happy ending, it is an inspirational story that has attracted readers with its tenderness and courage and its message that “we can choose our joy in each moment, no matter what.” The Summerhayes family helped found the Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and a percentage of the proceeds from the Sixtyfive Roses book goes towards that organization as well as to the CF Foundation of the U.S.
Heather Cariou is a recent guest on Women’s Memoirs, a blog by authors Matilda Butler and Kendra Bonnett who co-wrote Rosie’s Daughters, a collective memoir of stories of the can-do women of the generation following “Rosie the Riveter.” Heather’s May 19 guest post is well worth reading for those contemplating writing a memoir. In just one post she gives informative and encouraging advice that encompasses the highlights of all memoir writing books combined.
Heather will be interviewed by Butler and Bonnet via phone conference line this Friday, May 22, 10am Pacific (1pm Eastern). Check the Women’s Memoirs website for the phone number and access code so you can listen in.