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Living Consciously, Dying Gracefully - A Journey with Cancer and Beyond

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Living Consciously, Dying Gracefully - A Journey with Cancer and Beyond [Paperback]

Nancy Manahan , Becky Bohan
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 1, 2007
When diagnosed with breast cancer, Diane Manahan decided to share her entire journey openly. A professor of nursing, married to a doctor trained in both conventional and holistic medicine, Diane integrated complementary therapies with orthodox cancer treatments. She enjoyed a full, vibrant life for the next five and a half years. This inspiring story describes her cancer years and extraordinary death at home, the care of her body by loved ones, and the family s powerful experience at the crematorium. The book ends with a glimpse of Diane s ongoing journey as friends tell of comforting lessons offered by her enduring spirit. A supplemental guidebook offers practical suggestions for dealing with a life-threatening illness or death.

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Editorial Reviews


A woman faces death with all of the love and passion that had filled her life. Diane Manahan was known to her family and many friends as strong, energetic, irreverent, generous and loving. Here, Diane's sister-in-law and her partner share how Diane chose to live out her remaining time and how she chose to die. She had been a nurse and a teacher throughout her adult life, and when she learned that the breast cancer that had been in remission for a few years had returned and metastasized, she gave up neither of those vocations. Instead, she incorporated her experiences of treatment and pain into her teaching in order to help her students become better nurses. With her physician husband, she also explored and incorporated alternative therapies into her treatment.

When it became clear that her death was imminent, she began to make detailed plans for her life celebration and for the handling of her remains. Manahan (On My Honor, 1998) and Bohan present this book not only as a testament to Diane, but also as a preservation of her legacy of good works, and to share the resources that she and her family drew on during the last months of her life.

Through Diane's journal, letters, photographs and family and friends memories of her, the authors create a vivid portrait of this extraordinary woman, and offer necessary guidance to those living with cancer and their loved ones, about how to continue living, and, if and when the time comes, dying, according to their values.

A wealth of knowledge, strength and comfort. --Kirkus Discoveries

Living Consciously, Dying Gracefully is a compelling and intimate story of a woman and her family's journey with cancer and beyond. Diane Manahan, a wife, mother, grandmother, friend, and nursing professor extraordinaire, maintained a journal following her diagnosis with breast cancer in 1995. In writing about her decision to be open throughout the journey of living and dying, Diane voiced her hope that by being authentic, honest and non-perfect, she might enable others to be vulnerable and to deal with life's gifts and uncertainties. The book, authored by Diane's sister-in-law Nancy Manahan and partner Becky Bohan, includes writing and poetry by Diane and reflections and observations by a rich and diverse circle of friends and family that surrounded Diane and her holistic physician Bill Manahan over the 5 ½ years that Diane lived following her diagnosis with breast cancer.

While Living Consciously, Dying Gracefully is an invaluable resource book for lay people facing a serious illness and death, it is also an important resource for health professionals. It provides a different view of death and dying, one that few health professionals have experienced. Patients and family member looks to nurses, physicians and other health professionals for information and advice. This book provides accessible wisdom and guidance that demonstrates beyond a doubt that both life and death provide an opportunity to radiate grace, dignity and beauty. --Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing

Living Consciously Dying Gracefully: A Journey With Cancer and Beyond is a memoir reminiscing about and paying tribute to nursing professor Diane Manahan, a courageous, warm and loving woman. When she was diagnosed with breast cancer, she chose to blend complementary therapies and orthodox cancer treatments, and she lived a full and vibrant life for five and a half years until her death. Written by Nancy Manahan and Becky Bohan, life-partners who were both graced to know Diane, Living Consciously, Dying Gracefully isn't just about illness and death, but also life and spirituality. A heart-touching journey, and uplifting inspirational resource for anyone going through life-or-death trials or witnessing such challenges visited upon a loved one. --The Midwest Book Review

About the Author

Nancy Manahan, Ph.D., is a community college English, women's studies, and film studies teacher, now retired. Her writing has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies. Her books include Lesbian Nuns: Breaking Silence, a groundbreaking anthology published in eight languages, and On My Honor: Lesbians Reflect on Their Scouting Experience.

Becky Bohan earned her M.A. in English Literature from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is the retired Vice-President of Knowledge Design and Delivery, Inc., a training consulting company. She has published a suspense novel, Sinister Paradise, and a mystery, Fertile Betrayal.

Nancy and Becky grew up in Madelia, Minnesota, Diane Manahan's hometown. Both received their undergraduate degrees in English from the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. They make their home in Minneapolis.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Beaver's Pond Press; First Edition edition (March 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1592981798
  • ISBN-13: 978-1592981793
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.1 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #665,707 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning story of living and dying April 10, 2007
Authors Nancy Manahan and Becky Bohan weave the inspiring story of a woman's five-year experience with [...] cancer. We are given the ending in the title of the book, Living Consciously, Dying Gracefully: A Journey With Cancer and Beyond but the essence of the narrative is more about the celebration of a life well-lived in every way.

I did not want to read this book. We may all have a loved one who has traveled this frightening journey in some way. Perhaps it is our own path. My own sister is now a seven-year [...] cancer survivor, and I certainly did not want to relive those helpless years when my family was consumed in grief and on an emotional roller coaster, living each day in fear for the next.

But this is the story of a very different model of one woman's choice to "deal with life's gifts and life's uncertainties as they have been thrust upon me." From her initial journal entry on the first page, Diane Manahan, a nurse, a teacher, and sister-in-law to Nancy Manahan, invites us to experience the life she tried to live in "an out-loud way."

The book is in four parts:
-- This Long Journey with Cancer as My Companion
-- A Graceful Death
-- Living On. The authors reference Diane's own journals, interviews with her family and friends, as well as their own personal relationship with her.
-- The last section, Guidebook: Lessons from Diane on dealing with serious illness or death, contains practical suggestions for individuals, caregivers, and anyone seeking a loving and spiritual experience in "living consciously and dying gracefully."

This is an unforgettable, deeply touching and honestly written book and I highly recommend it. It's not about fearing death--it's about embracing life.

Armchair Interviews says: It is a difficult journey that we might all face one day. Learning how others handle such situations is helpful.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wisdom Shared Through Living and Dying May 17, 2007
Diane Manahan loved life, lived it to the fullest, and shared it with family, friends, colleagues, and students to the end. She was an expert teacher of living a quality life and teaching the art and science of nursing. The authors of this book share her journey with cancer. The book is well organized and written in a compelling way that tells how life choices help "make lemonade out of lemons." As one of her friends I lived this story. I am so pleased that it is written so that those who read it can continue to learn through her deliberate and intuitive wisdom, caring, and gentleness of mind, body, and spirit.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A thought-provoking, inspirational book March 25, 2007
"Living Consciously, Dying Gracefully" is excellent. I believe this book will make a difference in people's lives -- just as Diane's life and death made such a deep and positive difference in the lives of so many of us who were blessed to know her.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lessons in Living September 17, 2007
LIVING CONSCIOUSLY, DYING GRACEFULLY offers a sensitive and informative look at illness and life transitions.

As a hospice volunteer I encountered a variety of texts and articles on death and dying, but there is a completeness to this book that makes it one I know I will return to as a source of comfort and guidance.

The four core sections of the book focus on Diane Manahan's breast cancer diagnosis and treatment, her physical death, the lessons that continue to unfold with her family and friends, and a guidebook containing practical applications.

Excerpts from Diane's journal give readers insight into the spectrum of emotions she experiences. We see her not only as a remarkable woman (nurse educator, wife, mother, friend, musician, athlete), but fully human as she acknowledges all aspects of her character in facing such a daunting challenge with courage, dignity and humor.

Authors Nancy Manahan and Becky Bohan have written a loving tribute which inspires and educates.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Sharing the wisdom from a terminally ill nurse educator's own journals, this book enables Diane Manahan to convey her final, greatest lesson: how to live fully until-and beyond-death. Her inspiring story elicits goose bumps, laughter and tears. It is a priceless template for patients, caregivers, and loved ones who seek a holistic, sacred approach to a serious illness or end of life care. The after-death experiences that comforted Diane's family and friends also will provide hope for readers who are grieving the loss of their own loved ones.
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More About the Author

I'm a retired college English, women's studies, and literature teacher. I've published many articles over the years, the first one in Mother Jones magazine in 1977, the most recent in New Spirit magazine in 2007.

I've also had three books published. Lesbian Nuns: Breaking Silence (with Rosemary Keefe Curb,1985), became an unexpected best seller in the US and was published in 8 other countries. This ground-breaking anthology and my second controversial book, On My Honor: Lesbian Reflect on Their Scouting Experiences (1997), are out of print, but can sometimes be found on They also are available from me directly.

My third book, written with my life partner Becky Bohan, is Living Consciously, Dying Gracefully: A Journey with Cancer and Beyond. This informative and inspirational story of our sister-in-law, a professor of nursing diagnosed with incurable cancer, can comfort and educate anyone afraid of a terminal illness or dying. Anyone who loves a riveting, well-written story will also enjoy Living Consciously, Dying Gracefully, available on

Becky and I divide our time between Minneapolis and the Caribbean. We must be two of the luckiest people on this miraculous planet.

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Living Consciously, Dying Gracefully - A Journey with Cancer and Beyond
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