Staying alive in the face of death: Woman writes book following husband's cancer journey

A diagnosis of Stage 4 colon cancer couldn’t keep Sara Cosentino’s husband Darren from living his life on his own terms.

Proceeds from book sale going to Cancer Care Manitoba Foundation

Darren Cosentino does a headstand on a paddle board. (Submitted by Sara Cosentino)

A diagnosis of Stage 4 colon cancer couldn't keep Sara Cosentino's husband Darren from living his life on his own terms.

After an unplanned stay in a Toronto hospital, she says, her husband pulled his own version of the film Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

"He had already had so much time in hospitals that he just wanted to get the heck out of there. Fortunately he had become crafty enough to be able to disconnect his own IVs," Cosentino said in an interview with CBC's Weekend Morning show.

After stuffing his bed with pillows, the Winnipeg couple escaped the hospital for the afternoon and went back to their hotel room to watch movies. Eventually, some nurses tracked them down.

Cosentino tells that story and many other from her husband's journey with cancer in her new book, You Can't See My Scars: A Story of Thriving During the Impossible and Living Life to the Fullest, which she co-authored with her husband.

She's holding a book launch on Wednesday at McNally Robinson, where she will play audio clips of interviews she did with her husband following his diagnosis in 2011 until his death in 2016.

Cosentino says the title of the book refers to the fact that no outside observer would have guessed that her husband was fighting for his life.

"Darren was the healthiest sick guy you'd ever meet," she said. At the time of his diagnosis, the couple had just come back from windsurfing in Mexico.

He kept active throughout his treatment, despite undergoing 46 rounds of chemotherapy and multiple surgeries, she said. He practised yoga, paddle boarding and scuba dived at depths of 85 feet.

"It wasn't until he took his shirt off on the beach and you saw that he had been totally scarred up and had a number of implants and the like," Cosentino said.

Sara Cosentino will be holding a book launch at McNally Robinson on Wedneaday at 7 p.m. (Submitted by Sara Cosentino)

Cosentino decided to write the book because she felt her husband took a "unique" approach to dealing with his diagnosis, maintaining a positive outlook and pulling in friends and family during dark times.

"A big thing is being present and recognizing what is at your fingertips at that moment," she said.

"Very quickly, people start to think about so far into the future that it feels less and less in control," she said. "At times that horizon might be a couple of hours, making decisions that are keeping yourself in a positive space for the next couple of hours."

Proceeds from the sale of the book will go to the Cancer Care Manitoba Foundation.

With files from Nadia Kidwai