The story is built around Josie Clark, an honest woman struggling to make ends meet. She almost always puts her family before herself, but things change when the saintly mother and wife is diagnosed with breast cancer. Her diagnosis brings Bel Monkton into her life, an affluent woman who lost her twin sister to the same disease, setting the scene for a deeply moving tale of friendship, family and the power of love.
Though Lewis also lost her mother to breast cancer at a very young age, she says this story is unconnected.
“The reason for choosing a topic so closely related to my own is because back in the sixties there was no support for her or the family. Today, there are so many organisations doing remarkable things for women and families haunted by the disease,” she says.
Lewis worked closely with Dr Emma Pennery, clinical director of Breast Cancer Care to ensure the validity of her information, from the terminology to the progression of the disease and the correct treatment. The writer’s eyes tear up as she acknowledges the work Pennery is doing in the field, overwhelmed by the doctor’s dedication.
Lewis maintains that despite her attempts to provide accurate information, the book is a novel and not a health book.
“The book is less about the disease than it is about the perspective of family members and the powerful bonds formed through friendship,” she explains.
“We need people in our lives; they enrich us. All of us have it in us to be angel for someone else, the same way Bel was for Josie. In fact, Josie turned out to be an angel for Bel, and even though their lives are worlds apart, they manage to form an unbreakable bond. In the end, it doesn’t matter how rich you are, it’s our health that really matters.”
The cancer also gave Josie the freedom to be who she really is.
“I feel humbled that women have contacted me, saying the book helped them tell their families what they were going through,” Lewis says.
“So many women keep it a secret because they don’t want to be a burden, but more importantly they need the support. There is not one person who hasn’t been touched by this disease in some way or another and it’s important to realise how much loved ones want to be involved and want to help.”