Best friends since they met at university over thirty years ago, Kerry Fisher and Pat Sowa recently co-authored Take My Hand, the story of motherhood, grief and hope. In 2017, their teenage sons were diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses within weeks of each other - Kerry’s son with cancer and Pat’s son with severe social anxiety. Although this is the book they never wanted to write, it offers comfort and wisdom to readers facing their own traumas and gives guidance to those around them who don’t know how to help. Heartfelt, brave and honest, Kerry and Pat share everything they’ve learnt about surviving the darkest of times in this testament to friendship, hope and, above all, love.

Kerry Fisher & Pat Sowa

Kerry Fisher & Pat Sowa

In an extract from the book, we share their emergency top ten things that allowed them to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

When life knocks you for six, one of the things you come out the other side with is a much longer list of things that help you when you really need it (scraping the bottom of the barrel of blessings again).

Pat’s emergency top ten

  • Listening to The Who at full blast.
  • Reading poetry (I could not manage a novel), especially Seamus Heaney and Mary Oliver.
  • Ranting in my journal.
  • Forcing myself to contact a friend who lets me swear and makes me laugh.
  • Getting outside in nature.
  • Stopping resisting: when you need to, just go to bed and say to yourself ‘It will feel better in the morning.’
  • Doing a gym workout (never thought this would be me).
  • Retreating to the sofa and watching crap TV or doing crochet.
  • Having dinner and chatting with my husband. (We developed a secret codeword for when we needed to get off a topic before the emotions overwhelmed us. It was like learning a new language together.)
  • Sending an emergency friends’ WhatsApp call out for a rally round.

Kerry’s emergency top ten

  • Clearing out cupboards and getting rid of things. Going to the dump seemed to soothe me. Choosing a room and giving it a really good spring clean.
  • Planting lots of bulbs.
  • Walking with friends who let me say anything I wanted to.
  • Meeting and talking to author friends so even though I wasn’t writing, I still felt connected to my working world.
  • Making and freezing soup for the days when I wasn’t up to cooking.
  • Walking the dog for miles and miles.
  • Inviting people for dinner to distract us.
  • Doing a Pilates class. Stress seemed to make all my joints very stiff. I hated going but I always felt better afterwards.
  • Having a pedicure. It felt frivolous but having nice feet and giving myself permission to relax really gave me a lift.
  • Having my daughter, dye my hair. I couldn’t face the hairdresser. I couldn’t get beyond the ‘Have you done anything nice this week?’ and my inevitable blurting out of ‘Sat in chemo for six hours with my son.’

Kerry & Pat can be found on Twitter @kerryandpat

TAKE MY HAND is published by Thread.