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Verona woman's memoir shares anguish of battling cancer, losing baby

Michael DiVittorio
| Friday, Jan. 13, 2017, 11:00 p.m.
Marisette Edwards
Submitted
Marisette Edwards

A Verona woman has put pain to paper with her new book about battling cancer while pregnant and the tragic loss of her first child.

“Tiger in the Dark” is a recently published autobiography by author and blogger Marisette Edwards-van Linden van den Heuvell.

She will sign paperback copies from 1 to 3:30 p.m. Saturday at the Oakmont Carnegie Library, 700 Allegheny River Blvd.

“We love it when there are local authors from the Allegheny Valley area that are willing to come down and talk,” said Oakmont reference librarian Stephanie Zimble. “There's a real thriving local author scene, and we think it encourages authors to keep writing and keep talking and keep working if they have a local venue to show off their final work. There's nothing like a good book talk.”

Edwards, 56, was born in the Netherlands, emigrated to Mexico City then moved to the United States.

She was 25 years old and 24 weeks pregnant in 1985 when she was diagnosed with synovial sarcoma, a rare form of cancer that usually occurs near the joints of the arm, neck or leg. In her case, the soft-tissue sarcoma was in her right arm.

Edwards said she discovered a lump, and doctors at North Hills Passavant Hospital, now known as UPMC Passavant, originally thought she had a cyst. Later, doctors consulted with experts at a Bethesda, Md., medical center and it was determined to be cancer, she said.

That was when she began keeping a journal, which would serve as the foundation for the book.

“I thought I might need to leave something behind for my unborn child,” said Edwards.

The book describes the anxiety and joy of anticipating a first child, along with treatment of a rare disease with short odds of survival.

Edwards had to undergo an emergency cesarean section and Gwynne, her newborn daughter, was rushed to a neonatal intensive care unit of Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC.

“The baby was born and cried and looked good,” she said. “I saw that, and then she got sick. I thought I had made it, and then I had to go through the incredible torture of reading reports from the NICU.

“Then being told that my baby had died, that pain is unimaginable ... Losing a child, there's nothing worse than that. It never goes away, but you have to put one (foot) in front of the other and keep going.”

Edwards writes about how she was treated by medical staff at different hospitals, her support system and how she found strength to live and tell her story.

She said she became cancer-free seven years after the diagnosis, and hopes the book will give people a better understanding of how to help those going through similar situations.

“I really shared a lot of my feelings and reactions to what people said to me,” Edwards said. “I learned that worrying does nothing for you. Anxiety does not prevent anything bad from happening and it doesn't make it any less bad if something does happen. I kind of share my strategies to live a calmer life that's not so full of worry.”

Edwards has a son who lives in Penn Hills and another who lives in Hawaii. She is a software engineer for a Pittsburgh-based company and enjoys rowing.

The book was released on Nov. 30 through Austin Macauley Publishing Ltd. of London. It is available at austinmacauley.com, amazon.com and tigerinthedark.com. People can contact the author online at bit.ly/2ihirxh.

Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-871-2367 or mdivittorio@tribweb.com.

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