Susan Ducharme Hoben

Choosing the path of a peaceful end-of-life

Reviews & Praise

Dying Well is not about illness, but about embracing reality at the end of life and making the necessary decisions that honor a life well lived. Sue Hoben takes us along with her and her husband, Bruce, on this last journey together as a couple after he has a terminal diagnosis. They approach this transition the same way they approached all of life’s challenges—with heart and humor shaped by their deep love and respect.”
Judy L. Mandel
New York Times best-selling author of Replacement Child: A Memoir

Dying Well's account is a mix of love, sorrow, and practicality that is at the heart of what we, as a society, need to do to more normalize a process that modern medicine has tried so hard to shield us from.”
Adam R. Silverman MD, FACP
Vice President, Population Health, Saint Francis Health Care Partners
Co-Chair, Care Decisions Connecticut

“This is a love story, but it is also an account of successful navigation of a complex medical system. Take a box of tissues and prepare to be touched and to learn many lessons that will serve you well when you or a member of your family is seriously ill or fatally ill and dying. Our society pushes death under the rug. The courage of Sue and Bruce Hoben includes a refusal to do so.”
Henry Schneiderman MD, MACP
Section Chief, Geriatrics and Palliative Care, Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center/Trinity Health of New England
Professor of Medicine, UConn Health Center
Professor of Medicine, Quinnipiac University School of Medicine
Clinical Professor, Nursing, Yale University

Book Life Prize
Hoben’s story unfolds over the course of her husband's cancer diagnosis, illness, and death. She movingly details her own previous battle with cancer, and how twice being visited by the disease forces her and her husband to live with patience, kindness, and by the moment. Hoben writes in a graceful prose style, delivering an exceptionally optimistic and gently philosophical narrative. Hoben’s memoir is unique in its dual focus on two cancer diagnoses yielding two different outcomes. In the face of tremendous suffering, Hoben infuses her narrative with uncommon grace and lightness. Just as Bruce Hoben is the unspoken protagonist of this story, the individuals surrounding him in the months leading up to his death--whether Hoben's medical team, loyal friends, or estranged family members--also become key characters. 
Score: Plot/Idea: 9   Originality: 10   Prose: 9   Character/Execution: 10     Overall: 9.50


OnlineBookClub
"Dying Well: Our Journey of Love and Loss by Susan Ducharme Hoben has earned 4 out of 4 stars with its vivid, relatable descriptions; raw, candid emotions; and shining beams of hope."

Full review:

Susan Ducharme Hoben shares a most heart-tugging experience in her memoir Dying Well: Our Journey of Love and Loss. I couldn’t help but feel a myriad of emotions, from joy, to pain, hope, sadness, despair, even grief. Then at the end of the book came this peaceful calm realization that the choices that were made were the best that could have been made in those circumstances. With this realization came a great admiration for the courage shown.

After surviving cancer and a tumor in her heart that could well have been the end of her, Susan throws a party she calls a ‘Celebration of Life’ party. No one could have guessed that something darker was about to rock their world. Bruce, her husband, gets diagnosed with esophageal cancer. The doctors recommend a very aggressive course of treatment, and after he takes it, all seems well again. But the cancer isn’t done yet, in fact, it had metastasized. What to do? Where do they go from here?

This book made me remember a quote by Mallory Hopkins: “Life is short. Smile while you still have teeth.” Susan and Bruce’s choices personified these words. Under the dark, heavy clouds of Bruce’s impending demise, they went on a search of the silver linings. It’s one of the few times I have read a book about death that radiates so much positivity.

Susan’s story-telling skills are top notch. Her words are easy to understand. She arranges the entire story in chronological order, with flashbacks that are impossible to miss. Susan doesn’t tell her readers what happened; she shows us. Also, this memoir feels like a novel, but you never forget it’s a true story.

Are you feeling sad, depressed, angry, or any of the myriad emotions that comes with having to deal with the passing of a loved one? I strongly encourage you to pick up this book. Susan has been there. She can empathize. And she does. Reading this book brought me happy memories of some dear friends of mine who are no longer here. How then, can I possibly dislike anything about it?

What’s more, this book is flawlessly edited. Not a single hair out of place. Dying Well: Our Journey of Love and Loss by Susan Ducharme Hoben has earned 4 out of 4 stars with its vivid, relatable descriptions; raw, candid emotions; and shining beams of hope.


Readers Favorite Five Star Review 

“This is one of the most beautiful books I have read about dying and besides being a wonderful wife to a great man, this author has the gift for storytelling, captivating readers with her prose and nurturing their spirit with the wisdom of love in difficult times. Dying Well: Our Journey of Love and Loss will transform the way each of us lives and the way we prepare for our final moment. There is humor, there are powerful lessons, and there are moments that are filled with revelation.”

Full review:
"Dying Well: Our Journey of Love and Loss" by Susan Ducharme Hoben is a heartwarming memoir with wonderful lessons on embracing life and the inevitable moment of death. Diagnosed with a terminal illness, Bruce knows his days are numbered, and this is horrible news for anyone. Instead of allowing anxiety and worry to set in, this courageous man looks towards the final moment with hope, love, and surrender, and does something that will surprise readers. What does it take to die in peace and serenity? How does one find meaning when they know their time is limited? In this story of love and inner freedom, we follow a man who transforms the last days of his life through gratitude for life, celebrating family and finding opportunities to spend quality time with his wife.

In this memoir, Susan Ducharme Hoben opens the soul of their family to readers and, in a tone that is both lively and filled with emotion, allows readers to share some of the beautiful moments spent with her dying husband. “Bruce and I entertained often. Whether small dinner parties, summer cookouts, or large Christmas parties, our gatherings always ended in dancing, and often included hot dogs on the grill at midnight.” Instead of allowing the thought of death to negatively affect the way he lived, Bruce learned to make meaningful decisions about his life and his family: “When the time had come for my husband, Bruce, to make hard decisions, he chose quality of life over quantity, having formed his end-of-life wishes over a lifetime of watching people die, and just as importantly, watching people live.”

This is one of the most beautiful books I have read about dying and besides being a wonderful wife to a great man, this author has the gift for storytelling, captivating readers with her prose and nurturing their spirit with the wisdom of love in difficult times. Dying Well: Our Journey of Love and Loss will transform the way each of us lives and the way we prepare for our final moment. There is humor, there are powerful lessons, and there are moments that are filled with revelation.

Inspirational
A beautiful and inspirational story not only of how to prepare for death but so many implications for how to live life! Highly recommended!
Diane Pomerantz, Psychologist, PHD; 
Author, Lost in the Reflecting Pool
5.0 out of 5 stars

A powerful true story that anyone would benefit from reading.
I didn't anticipate sitting down and reading Dying Well from cover to cover in one sitting. I also didn't anticipate that I would be crying and smiling at the same time so often throughout the book. From the very first page I was engaged thinking about the way in which we choose to view our lives, our relationships and our beliefs. I can't say I am confident I would have moved with the gracefulness that Bruce and his family did, although I am positive that after reading this book I will never view dying the same way. Dying Well shares the message of what it means to live life fully. I highly recommend this book to everyone!
S.C. 5.0 out of 5 stars

Dying Well" is a book everyone needs; a subject we all need to explore and talk about!
This is a true life experience shared by Susan. It's not just a love story, but a story written to promote discussion about a subject that continues to make our culture uncomfortable; death. I identify with the author's experience. I also knew the joy of weeks and days spent in complete selflessness, peace, compassion and love, cherishing whatever moments were given and being grateful for that time. Susan's experience proves it is possible to uplift each other, live to the fullest, even knowing the end of life approaches. Her story will bring tears along with a new understanding of the true test of walking with someone. This is a Must Read; from teens to Seniors! Allow Susan, Bruce and their entire family into your heart; you'll be so glad you did! After reading, "Dying Well", pass it along to someone you love and let us all continue (or begin) the conversation
C.K. 5.0 out of 5 stars

This book will leave you with a better understanding of what palliative care is and provides thought on how we may want to navigate our own inevitable journey home. 
In Susan Ducharme Hoben's book, Dying Well, she addresses the profoundly human yet emotional experience of navigating through the end of life process with her late husband, Bruce Hoben. It is truly an open and honest book that speaks of the ups and downs of family, and of their profound and heartfelt journey, as they both take control and dictate the terms of how that process will unfold. This book will leave you with a better understanding of what palliative care is and provides thought on how we may want to navigate our own inevitable journey home. -  A.C. 5.0 out of 5 stars

A great true story
Plato, the ancient Greek sage, famously said that life is nothing more than a study on the phenomenon of death. Taking this into consideration, this wonderful and moving book by Susan Ducharme Hoben tries a philosophical approach to death as it describes the actions of a man who is diagnosed with cancer and finds himself confronted with the certitude of a prompt demise. The writer's narration and descriptions are real as she was the spouse of the deceased and this fact engages further the reader in terms of emotion and completes a truly fascinating reading experience. This is a book that should be read by all as it concerns each and every one of us. D.P. 5.0 out of 5 stars

It was amazing  
A truly excellent read, this book is well-written and very moving. It is as much a love story for life as it is a testament to a good death. When the author's husband receives his terminal cancer diagnosis, they along with extended family and friends truly make his "end days" (months) a positive experience. I enjoyed this book very much. Janice

I feel better about dying
I have always enjoyed reading personal stories. Sue's story is fascinating to me. I worked in palliative care for many years. It was emotionally challenging and deeply rewarding. I felt privileged to be at a stranger's side. I made a personal commitment to be as present and compassionate as possible in every moment. It didn't take long to notice a consistent pattern in how families were coping with their newfound reality. It felt like almost every family was experiencing such overwhelming denial and fear that they couldn't fully be there for their dying loved one. There was one exception and that particular experience changed me forever as it showed me how illness and the process of dying can be accepted and embraced with courage and grace and deep connection. When I read Sue's book I was so excited to think of all the people who will benefit from it. Sue has given us a priceless gift by sharing her personal experience. It is my wish that everyone will read her story and feel more empowered when it comes to facing the challenges of saying good-bye to their loved ones. 5.0 out of 5 stars
Christine

A celebration of life and love
If you found out today that you had run out of options to treat your highly aggressive cancer and you would, in fact, have a very short time left in this life, how would you respond? I’m not sure many of us could answer that and actually give a valid answer. Knowing how hard it was for her and her husband to go through this exact situation, Hoben wrote about her husband’s experience and choice on how they faced his oncoming death to possibly help others in the same situation.

I know the message in this book is supposed to be about love and how Bruce was strong all the way to the point that he chose to stop treatments and live life fully until he died but I’m simply stuck on how tragic this story is. The book starts with Sue having beaten her cancer and then surviving emergency heart surgery and twists into the love of her life having a stage IV aggressive cancer that by some miracle goes into remission against all odds and then ends with him dying because the remission didn’t last. And similar stories happen all the time but we just don’t read about it. And to put it plainly, it sucks.

I applaud her strength in sharing her and Bruce’s story so that maybe someone else can gain strength in the darkness. I’d like to think I’d be brave like Bruce and know when it was time to stop the fight and just enjoy what time I had left.

All I know is with the last few chapters my heart has been ripped from my chest because Hoben shared her feelings very well. I feel like I’ve gotten to know the entire family and I feel like I was there for every Celebration of Life. I believe that this book could be beneficial for families in similar medical situations who are seeking a supportive voice. Jessica

An Uplifting End-Of-Life Journey
This book was written in the form of a personal diary or journal. Mrs. Hoben wrote about her husband's final months with love, compassion and empathy. This book is truly a celebration of life... The family events and interactions were especially heart-warming and poignant...This book is an excellent resource for families who are facing end-of-life decisions. We will all have to face our own deaths and the deaths of loved ones. This book provides many important subjects to think about. Highly recommended! J.F. 5.0 out of 5 stars 

A beautiful, selfless choice to keep living as long as you can
I have to wonder how gracious or brave I would be after being told that I had an incurable illness. Would I roll up in a ball of emotional wreckage and just wait for the inevitability? This is a book that gives us another choice. A beautiful, selfless choice to keep living as long as you can with the people you love and doing the things that have always made you happy. Susan 5.0 out of 5 stars Ducharme Hoben's husband made that choice and this memoir will have everyone thinking about the idea of "Dying Well". Well done! .S.S. 

So glad I downloaded this book
I downloaded this book as a friend was seeing here beloved husband slip away from cancer. This book is emotional and fascinating. It was positive, and courageous. I found the writing was well done. It is honest and heart wrenching. It teaches us to never give up living until life is over and that dying well us as important as living well. I am so thankful I read this book. S.G.  4.0 out of 5 stars

Great Reminder
We probably all spend a lot of time thinking about how we want to live our lives, and this very personal memoir invites us to give equal consideration to the ending of our stories. Loved the book, and have found myself returning to parts of it for further pondering. As a hospice volunteer, I very much appreciated the gentle reminder to treat death with as much respect and authenticity as we treat life. B.V 5.0 out of 5 stars

Love and respect resonated with me 
Love and respect resonated with me as I made my way page after page. Each member of this family respected (may not have agreed with) the choices that were being made and dealt with them in a loving supportive way. I have only known Sue for a short time but it gave me such an insight as to who she is as a person. B.A. 5.0 out of 5 stars

Her story has inspired me to think deeply about how I will handle my death and those of my loved ones
Sue Hoben & her husband lived the last months of his life with grace, wisdom, and even humor. Her story has inspired me to think deeply about how I will handle my death and those of my loved ones, and to follow her lead as much as I am able. The lessons here are ones I will keep with me forever. R.W. 5.0 out of 5 stars

What a beautiful love story about life and death
What a beautiful love story about life and death and how to go gracefully into the great beyond living each moment to its fullest. J.K. 5.0 out of 5 stars


A personal story worth reading.
Sue Hoben has written a deeply touching and informative book about how she, he, family and friends deal with the end of her husband's life due to cancer. It is a heart wrenching but beautiful story well told and worth reading. L.S. 5.0 out of 5 stars


A different kind of love story
“I've known Sue since grade school, so this story was especially meaningful to me. Her story is both happy and sad, reflective and emotional and at the same time it is a useful primer for a different way to face death. I loved this book and I am so grateful to Sue for sharing this beautiful and personal story of love, life and ultimately loss.” - E.G. 5 stars out of 5

I found it full of useful suggestions as well as entertaining and upbeat
“This was a very engaging and informative account of a loving couple's last year together. I found it full of useful suggestions as well as entertaining and upbeat.” L.C. 5.0 out of 5 stars


Dying Well is a beautiful book about love, loss, and dying on your own terms
Dying Well is a beautiful book about love, loss, and dying on your own terms. It is a wonderfully written love story about celebrating life on your road to death. I applaud Susan's ability to share this painful and loving journey about losing the love of her life. H.D. 5.0 out of 5 stars

A very sad story but also uplifting 
Susan and Bruce, a wonderful couple with a fantastic family and then suddenly Bruce is diagnosed with a particularly nasty terminal illness. This is their story of how they faced and dealt with all that life threw at them. Knowing when it’s time to stop pumping your body full of powerful chemicals and prepare for the inevitable. A very sad story but also uplifting too. Susan has a way with words and the reader feels they have got to know her through this account of love and loss. I.A.  4 out of 5 stars


The best dialogue that I've read so far on this topic regarding end of life planning and family dynamics
Dying Well is a beautiful and tragic story of love and loss (like the title says). Susan and Bruce had a long happy life together until Bruce died from esophageal cancer. In Dying Well, Susan documents their time together and provides some of the best dialogue that I've read so far on this topic regarding end of life planning and family dynamics. While I recognize that this is another story about end of life planning written from someone that has access to great healthcare and the money to be with family that many families do not have, I think this was a great addition to the growing pile of books on this topic. 

I really enjoyed reading about Bruce and hearing from Susan what it was like not only going through her own medical struggles but also then taking on the role of caregiver for her husband. Navigating hospitals, doctor’s appointments, hospice, grown children, and grandchildren while also trying to have a social life was pretty stressful to read about and I really appreciate her honesty throughout the book. 

I would definitely recommend this one for anyone looking to learn more about what end of life care can and should look like. It really highlights the importance of having these difficult conversations as early as possible.” Keeley