CATTARAUGUS — Anyone who has suffered through the ordeal of cancer or has watched a friend or family member endure this disease can relate to author Dr. Mary Reid Gaudio and her book, “The Phone Rang: How Three Sisters Navigate the Destructive Path of Leukemia.”
On July 2 at 2 p.m., people will have the opportunity to have their copy of the book signed and meet Gaudio at Beauty View Farm, located at 7356 Snyder Hill Road in Cattaraugus. The 400-acre farm has been in her family for more than 160 years, which she now shares ownership with her brother, Paul; and two sisters, Ann and Chee.
“The Phone Rang” is primarily a story about surviving cancer, but as the reader gets immersed into the story, they will discover it’s also a story about love and family. Gaudio takes her readers through the true story of her sister Ann’s battle and survival of leukemia. The book chronicles how the family deals with the disease, what issues came up and how they all get through it.
To celebrate her sister’s life, she told stories about her throughout the book — good times and bad. They include a time when she was living in Italy with her husband and young son, her acting career, and more current times when she was undergoing chemotherapy, then a bone marrow transplant.
Gaudio said her sister was an actress who appeared on television and had movie roles with such greats as Jack Palance. She also wrote music for Roberta Flack. There are pictures throughout the book of her along with some of the people she worked with.
“My sister had an exciting life and I wanted to celebrate that to let her see what a wonderful life she has had,” she said.
According to Gaudio, her sister was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) at age 68, which is usually a children’s type of leukemia. That’s one reason why the family didn’t know if she would survive this ordeal, but Roswell Park Cancer Institute was very positive and supportive. They assured Ann and her family that they had researched this disease for 30 years and have been successful stopping it.
Gaudio said it’s disconcerting to go through all that with a loved one and it’s very traumatic for the whole family — not knowing if they’re going to pull through and live. She said it hurts to see your loved one going through this.
“They helped Ann and the rest of our family stay positive,” she said. “Ann literally believed them and said, ‘I believe you. I’m going to be well.’ That was 2012. After several rounds of chemo and losing her hair at least three times, as well as having a bone marrow transplant, she’s been in remission four-and-a-half years now. We’re still going through the roller coaster ride and it’s much better, but she still has neuropathy in her feet from all the chemotherapy.”
Gaudio attributes much of her sister’s successful recovery to “weSPARK,” a Cancer Support Group based near her home, in Sherman Oaks, Calif. She said weSPARK offers all kinds of free programs to people with cancer including Tai Chi, yoga, massage, acupuncture, nutritional counseling and much more. There are also programs and support for the caregivers as well.
According to Gaudio, she wrote the book to help other family members and she wants to donate some of the proceeds to weSPARK, so others can benefit from the free programs. She also wants to donate to Roswell Park Cancer Institute because they saved her sister’s life.
Ann survives with a new appreciation for life and her family. She now tours the country with her sisters, giving presentations on how to navigate leukemia’s destructive path and survive to tell the story.
With this book, Gaudio hopes to help other people who are going through a similar experience. Her hope is that the book will help others understand what it’s like to go through such a horrendous ordeal and how to take steps to overcome their fears and insecurities.
A native of Buffalo, Gaudio made her living as an actress in her earlier years — first as sword fighter Red Sonja on the show, “The Adventures of Conan: a Sword and Sorcery Spectacular.” While working on the show, she also appeared on other television shows and movies.
Gaudio made her transition from actress to educator when she underwent a life-changing experience that resulted in her being a single mom with a son. Needing full-time work and job security, she followed the advice of her father and became a teacher. She has worked in the field of secondary education for about 20 years. She recently received a promotion and will be a principal at a high school in the Los Angeles Unified School District, beginning in August.
The author and her husband, Gino, live in Sherman Oaks, Calif, about 20 minutes from Beverly Hills.
“The Phone Rang” is available at Barnes and Noble and amazon.com.
To learn more about the author and her book, visit drmaryreidgaudio.com.
(This story appears in the June 30, 2016 edition of The Salamanca Press.)