Having lived through Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a recurrence and numerous other conditions, Glen Kirkpatrick Jr. finally embraced the idea: He was a survivor.
“I had been on my cancer journey for more than 20 years before I ever called myself a survivor,” the Mira Mesa resident says in his recently released book, “Overcome: A Story of Intervention, Rescue, and Redemption,” which he co-wrote with his wife, Debbie Kirkpatrick.
“Debbie and I have experienced numerous setbacks and have had to make adjustments in every area of our lives. However, I’ve always found that personal growth is a part of the cancer journey.”
That perilous journey, dating back to Glen Kirkpatrick’s initial cancer diagnosis in 1987, is narrated intimately in the book released in March by Touchstone Press.
The Del Mar branch of the San Diego County Library, as part of it the branch’s Local Authors series, will host the couple to discuss the book and sign copies at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, July 7. The library is located at 1309 Camino Del Mar in Del Mar.
“I’ll have some key points to discuss and we’ll share our life story,” said Glen Kirkpatrick of the library appearance. “We’ll seek to relate our experiences, whether they’ve had cancer or not.”
The Kirkpatricks originally self-published an edition several years ago and it was available for purchase on Amazon.
Representatives from Touchpoint, a small press in Oklahoma, read the book and decided to publish it as one of their faith imprints.
“They said they loved it, and I signed with them,” Glen Kirkpatrick said during a recent interview at Del Mar Highlands Town Center, with Debbie and their son, Terrence. “I’m grateful to be able to put these words out and be able to have it professionally published.”
Loren Snyder, an evangelist at the San Diego Church of Christ, has known the family over the last dozen years and wrote the forward to the 131-page text.
“I was blown away, honestly,” Snyder said of the book during a phone interview. “I didn’t know they had it in them. I was impressed with the book overall and their perseverance, and their willingness to put that out there. ... I thought it turned out really nice.”
As a work, “Overcome” is the fruit of Glen Kirkpatrick’s discovery that composing sentences and passages was therapeutic.
“Around 2011, after many chronic health diagnoses, I found writing was very good for my head and heart,” the 61-year-old said. “Every day, I would write and write and write. It helped me get through the day.
“Whether I could get through a couple of sentences or a page, it was an exercise of overcoming.”
Said Debbie Kirkpatrick, “It was a positive way to process life.”
In addition to helping her husband compile the book, she wrote its final chapter, “Devoted.”
“It talks about my devotion to Glen and to God, which has helped us to overcome through all of this,” she said of the couple’s eventual acceptance of the Christian faith years after her husband’s health struggles began.
They met in 1980 when Glen, as a rookie policeman in Manhattan Beach, would take a break at the 24-hour restaurant where Debbie worked as a waitress.
Six years after they were married and two years after their first son was born, Glen Kirkpatrick discovered a lump on his neck and shortly afterward was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease.
He underwent radiation therapy and struggled through the painful side effects. The treatment worked and the couple celebrated.
Yet two years later, after the family had moved to Poway, Glen was again diagnosed with Hodgkin’s. This time, he was able to beat the disease through chemotherapy. However, that resulted in more chronic issues, which the couple describes as “lasting effects.”
Subsequently, he was diagnosed with chronic lymphocyte leukemia, which was believed to be incurable at the time. Later, specialists determined he did not have that disease, but was suffering from a variety of long-term conditions stemming from his cancer treatments.
Among those conditions are congestive heart failure, basal squamous cell carcinoma, chronic kidney disease, diverticulosis, chronic fatigue syndrome and aortic valve stenosis and regurgitation.
Also, Kirkpatrick experienced depression and suicidal tendencies that at one point led him to undergo electroconvulsive therapy.
Debbie Kirkpatrick said her husband is one of just 2 percent of people who survived diagnoses of Hodgkins’ lymphoma in the 1980s.
His record prompted a therapist to respond, “You’re an outlier. The rules of life don’t apply to you. You have survived or lived beyond expectations.”
Yet, the book is much more than a recital of Glen’s medical issues.
“Overcome” talks about the couple’s joys as well as frustrations in getting through their lives and in raising three sons to adulthood.
They rekindled their love for the coast when they moved to Solana Beach and they frequently return to visit area restaurants and go for walks.
Their spiritual strength is a source of inspiration to those around them, Snyder said.
“They were able to fight through wave after wave of trials in their lives,” he said. “People like me are blown away and humbled, because when you think about something you’re going through yourself, you think of Glen and Debbie. After you get together with them, you think, ‘Wow,’ I have nothing to complain about.”
For more on the the Kirkpatricks’ book, visit amazon.com or amzn.to/2ltSxu6