Allison's Book Bag

Regine’s Book by Regine Stokke

Posted on: May 23, 2013

After I received Regine’s Book from Zest Books, I began to have doubts about my choice. How many true stories are well written? Moreover, are interesting memoirs by teens an exception rather than the rule? Last, wouldn’t a book about a teen who died make for a depressing read? I don’t actually have answers to any of these questions except for the last, but I can tell you that I loved Regine’s Book. Yes, I needed tissues by the time I reached the end, but I’m also so happy to have read Regine’s Book.

Seventeen-year-old Regine Stokke began to blog about her day-to-day life shortly after being diagnosed with leukemia. Her first entry alone amazed me: “Disclaimer: I’ve decided to start a blog about what it’s like to get a life-threatening disease. Some of the content will therefore be too heavy for some people.” If I were to receive her diagnosis, I’m not sure what my initial reaction would be. However, I know that I wouldn’t think to blog about it. How do I know? Because I have a blog, most of which is reviews but some of which is personal content, and I have mostly avoided reporting any serious news. It feels too public. At the same time, it would make for an optimal way to keep in contact with family and friends, allow me to sort through my feelings, and garner much-needed emotional support. One has only to look at Facebook to see how the internet can be the perfect way to reach out to others, not only with one’s joys but also sorrows. Yet even on Facebook I struggle to confess to having a bad day, let alone confide to life-changing news. I also know that considering the feelings of my readers would probably be the last thing on my mind should I dare to share a medical diagnosis. Yet Regine not only had the presence of mind to write a post within two months of being told she had cancer, but she also recognized her content might not be suitable for all readers. I’m already impressed.

In the spring of 2009, Regine received the bad news that she had suffered a relapse. Prior to this, she had often posted many updates on her progress and had expressed optimism that the treatments would work. I bookmarked her April entry, because again it astounded me. Here is a small section of it:

I’ve tried just about everything there is to try. When the chemotherapy didn’t work, I had to have a bone marrow transplant. Everything looked like it was going well…. And now all anyone can do is cry. That goes for me too, even though it’s the people around me who are taking it the hardest. In the end, they’re the ones who will have to live with the grief if I die.

When I had my first surgery because of infertility-related issues, I shared this with my family and some friends. The latter even included some online contacts. As the treatments stretched on, and the results became less positive, I stopped sharing news. It seemed so endless. Regine never stopped sharing her updates. Moreover, she was transparent about them. The first time I talked about infertility, I shared my raw feelings. After that, I put on a bravado face with all but immediate family, because who wants to keep hearing the same news? That Regine could not only share her regular struggles with the public, but could also write about her fears of death still awes me. I’m even more in awe that she continued even after ones criticized her for allowing herself to have depressing thoughts, of seeking fame, and countless other negatives. To top everything, Regine became an activist. She wrote about the devastation of the natural environment which she grew up near, the need for people to become blood and bone marrow donors, and how everyone should “try and give something back to the world. Think of all those people whose lives are spent in suffering. Give. It’s terribly important.”

By fall 2009, it was clear that Regine would lose her battle with cancer. Experts from around the world had been contacted, but no one could provide any more answers. Her body kept attacking her, and was going to continue to do so until it destroyed her life. Again, if it were me, at this point at least I’d stop posting to my blog. Yet Regine knew her blog was a contact point for family and friends. By now, she also had gained the support of thousands of strangers connected to her solely through her blog. Many found her an inspiration in their daily struggles and with their own fights with life-threatening diseases. Her last four entries resulted in almost 7000 reader comments. Aside from them, she also received numerous emails. All along, Regine had tried to respond to correspondence to her, and finally even had the grace to apologize that this was no longer possible. To the very last entry, Regine shared both how excruciating her life was becoming but also how grateful she felt for the precious moments spent with family and friends. She even reported on a candlelight vigil that was held for her, and on the arrival of posters designed by her readers. And to those who loved her she issued them this request: “Promise me that you’ll have a good life. That’s the best gift you can give me.”

Regine’s Book is the most moving book I have been asked to read this year. Would I want to read Regine’s book if I myself had cancer? I’m not able to answer that, but I can tell you that many of her correspondents did struggle with various types of cancer and found her a constant inspiration. I also can tell you that many of her posts brought to the surface many of the conflicted feelings I have over infertility. Recently, I even encouraged a friend to educate herself as much as possible about treatments and to do what she can now to find a way to have her own baby. The older one gets, the less help there is. And I also felt a renewed desire after reading Regine’s Book to make the most of life. Enough of my loved ones are now gone from my life, or have faced a life-threatening situation, that I know life can change in a second. For these reasons and others, Regine’s Book should have universal appeal.

Regine Stokke died of cancer at home with her family and cat on December 3, 2009. Her book contains not only Regine’s posts throughout her illness, but also comments from family and samples of responses to Regine’s blog, along with original photos and poems from Regine. It was an incredible experience to read her book.

My rating? Bag it: Carry it with you. Make it a top priority to read.

How would you rate this book?

2 Responses to "Regine’s Book by Regine Stokke"

Thanks, Allison, for bringing Regine’s Book with you on your visit home for me to read during your visit. Like you I found it moving and inspiring. And, despite Regine’s not being a Christian, I hope that the path that she wrote about in the poem her parents found on her computer after her death led to the heavenly home that God has prepared for His children.

I’m glad you liked Regine’s Book. It’s one of my favorites from this year.

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