Dr. Estrellita Redmon saw patients as an internal medicine physician for more than 25 years, but all her clinical experience didn’t prepare her for her own son’s cancer diagnosis. Victor Redmon was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, or ALL, when he was in college.
What ensued was a multi-year struggle as Victor fought for his life while the Redmon family came to terms with his illness. Dr. Redmon, President of St. Vincent’s Medical Group & Clinical Integration, chronicled the harrowing story in her first book, “Victors Over Leukemia”.
During a phone interview, Dr. Redmon spoke about her motivation for writing the book, how it helps her remember how far her family has come, and how Victor is doing since overcoming cancer.
What inspired you to write this book?
Dr. Redmon: Well I think we were about two weeks into the diagnosis of my son’s leukemia and I just felt in my heart that it was going to be a story that could help, inspire, and encourage others. Not just patients of cancer, but those who are impacted by the diagnosis and the treatment. That includes parents, loved ones, co-workers, friends; anyone who knows someone diagnosed with cancer.
When something like this happens to someone, not only are those around you at a loss of what to say or do, but they don’t understand what the challenges are when dealing with a person with this diagnosis. I really believe this story can help illuminate some of those difficulties.
Was writing this book cathartic for you?
No, not really. I didn’t write it to be cathartic for me. I’m a very private person, and could have gone my whole life without sharing what we went through. My family is very private, too. When I did the first rough draft, I had them read it first just to make sure they were okay with having their lives and emotions be on display.
Honestly, when I read it now it reawakens the emotions I felt at the time, which can be tough. But I felt called to write it to really help others.
The perspective of the book is interesting: it’s told from a third-person perspective by a person—yourself—who was an active part of the story. Because of this perspective, it could even be read as a work of fiction rather than a true story. What was it like to write about your family from that almost detached perspective?
I wanted to try to demonstrate the impact that cancer has from different viewpoints, right? Even if you’re reading it as a person who knows someone who has been impacted by a cancer diagnosis and you haven’t experienced it personally, I wanted readers to identify with the characters in the book. Maybe it’s a story they can reflect on if they ever find themselves in that position and it can help them cope.
Others who proofed it recommended I not write it like that, some of whom were professional editors. But it’s not what I wanted to do. That’s why I self-published, because I’m afraid bigger companies would have forced me into changes I didn’t want to make.
Did you gain any new insight or understanding of your family’s experience while writing the book?
Not while writing it, but after reading through it five or six times, it reminds me, “Yeah, that’s right, that did happen.” I’m so thankful I have something to remind me what my son and our family went through and how much others contributed to helping us through this battle.
It’s a constant reminder of God’s goodness and also the charity of others. If you can’t go back and relive these moments, they’re easily forgotten. But at the same time, there are certain parts of the story where I always cry, because it just brings back some painful and scary memories.
The reviews on Amazon have been overwhelmingly positive so far. What’s the overall feedback for the book been like?
I’m always a little nervous when someone calls to say they’ve read the book, I always hold my breath a little bit. One of my former colleagues, a fellow physician, read it. He called me and left a message, and when I returned his call, it wasn’t until he got to his second sentence and I found out he liked it that I could breathe.
One of the most touching pieces of feedback was from a mother who’s in the book, she went on Facebook and gave a very positive review. We were in it together at the time. Victor was such a fixture to her and her son, so it just meant a lot to hear her lovely feedback.
I also got a lot of feedback from relatives who didn’t know exactly what happened, and this gave them a whole different perspective.
Since overcoming leukemia, how is Victor doing?
He’s doing great! He’s in his fourth year of medical school at the Medical College of Wisconsin. He’s graduating next May. Victor’s wanted to be a physician since he was 5, but his experience with leukemia I think led him specifically to the field of pediatric hematology oncology.
His classmates actually nominated him for a humanitarian award, which he won!
Do you have any plans to write another book?
I’ve got a couple ideas I’m working on and definitely want to release, but I want to give this book some time to shine, let it breathe a bit.