Al Bergstein

Writings, etc.

Al Bergstein

Thanks for stopping by for a look at my personal writing blog.

Currently, I am seeking representation for my 65,000 word memoir, called The Good Bits.

The Good Bits is the story of my late wife, Karen, and her struggle to surmount a diagnosis of terminal cancer. Much like Paul Kalanithi's When Breathe Becomes Air and Joan Didion’s Blue Nights, it looks at the nature of end-of-life issues, but differs in that it includes her experiences with traditional Western medicine, Eastern medicine and fake cures.

From the backrooms of Mexican "stem cell" clinics, to the offices of practitioners in the Pacific Northwest peddling dubious cures and “miracle machines", The Good Bits is a journey through the underworld of impossible cancer cures, pseudo-science healers, and fraudulent medical devices. A highly educated and successful career woman, Karen suspended reason, seeking any possible cure, after receiving a devastating diagnosis.

The story also interweaves the “good bits” of Karen's remarkable life. A outdoorswoman of the Pacific Northwest, her accomplishments included being captain of a university ski team; traveling solo in Europe, the Middle East and Afghanistan in the 1970s; and building effective programs for disadvantaged urban youth during the 1980s and ‘90s.

The Good Bits is told from the caretaker's point of view. I was with Karen in those back rooms, offices and at home every step of the way. This book, then, should be of interest to anyone who is supporting a loved one with a progressively debilitating illness. The story illuminates the crushing stress a terminal illness imposes on both the patient and the healthy partner, along with the growing and sometimes ugly tensions caused by extended family and friends in their attempts to help.

While Karen does not survive her cancer, this true story ends with hope. One fraudulent device was removed from sales in the United States and Canada after her story was highlighted in the Seattle Times and on Canada’s version of 60 Minutes.

A potter friend, who had lost her sister and parents to cancer and age, told me of watching her father's cremation. Deep in the night, alongside the kiln, the funeral home attendant told her that Laotian women look in the hot ashes of their beloved ones, seeking the small green stones they call “the good bits,” which represent the deceased’s good deeds. The mourning women fish out these good bits and save them for good luck.

From The Good Bits - All Rights Reserved - Copyright 2016. This work cannot be reproduced in any form without written permission of the author.