The Free Press, Mankato, MN

May 29, 2014

'Narrow' victory: Award-winning author shares philosophy of resilience

Award-winning author shares philosophy of resilience

By Tanner Kent
tkent@mankatofreepress.com

---- — Though Ruth Bachman said she’s always been a positive person — her resilience has only come with practice.

The award-winning Minnesota author of “Growing Through the Narrow Spots” is also the featured speaker during a Mankato Area Lifelong Learners-sponsored event being held 6:30-8:30 p.m. today at Bethel Baptist Church.

During that event, she’ll tell how “In 2003, I was a left-handed woman,” as her book begins. “I was also a wife and mother, in apparent good health.”

And she’ll tell, too, about the sarcoma in her wrist that looked a “6-inch mortadella sausage.” And then she’ll tell about the amputation that took the lower part of her dominant arm, but saved her life.

More importantly, though, Bachman will tell about the empowering attitude she adopted in the face of life-altering change. It’s an attitude, she said, that formulated with the death of her sister in 1991 from skin cancer and was strengthened during a series of trying circumstances that culminated with the decision to allow doctors to remove her arm.

“It started with my sister’s death,” Bachman said. “It took me a long time to grieve her loss and integrate what that meant in my life. ... When my diagnosis came — and this was not easy to say — but I found myself able to say: ‘I’ve been given an opportunity to choose life and what am I going to do with that reality?’”

After speaking about her experience for several years, Bachman was motivated by the positive reception from her audiences to write a book. She arranged a deal with TRISTAN Publishing, a Golden Valley-based publisher of “books with a message,” and released her book in 2013.

The result is a visually stunning and emotionally uplifting primer on building resilience. Likening life’s difficult stretches to the “narrow spot” in an hourglass, Bachman urges readers to accept change and instead focus their energy on adapting and thriving as a response.

In Bachman’s own life, she held a name-that-tumor contest (settling on Goliath, for it’s reference to the Biblical giant slain by a smaller and more faithful foe) and wore colorful scarves rather than a wig during chemotherapy.

“We can only control how we respond to change,” Bachman wrote in her book. “The challenge is to say ‘yes’ and navigate life’s changes with courage and intention.”

Bachman’s prose is underscored by her husband’s warm and sepia-toned images as well as clever use of typography and a smattering of literary references.

Taken cumulatively, the book is accessible and artfully rendered. The Midwest Independent Publishers Association agreed, and bestowed the book with a recent Midwest Book Award in the “Inspiration/Gift Book” category.

“I wanted a book that had life, but also one that people could look at with a sense of meditation and gentleness,” she said.

All proceeds from the book as well as Bachman’s speaking engagments go to the Hourglass Fund Project, which was established to foster collaboration between the Masonic Cancer Center and the Center for Spirituality and Healing (both at the University of Minnesota). According to Bachman’s website, funds support two research projects at the U of M: “The first to research the effectiveness of Mindfulness Based Cancer Recovery in survivors who have recently completed treatment; the second to explore the effectiveness of music therapy on pediatric patients undergoing bone marrow transplant and their families.”

For more information, visit ruthbachman.com.

If You Go What Ruth Bachman's"Life is Full of Narrow Spots: The Inevitability of Change" When 6:30-8:30 p.m. today Where Bethel Baptist Church, 1250 Monks Ave. Admission $5 at the door; all are welcome.