CJ Golden is an author and motivational speaker, as well as one of the presenters at the upcoming Caregiving Global Summit. Her latest book is One Pedal at a Time: A Novice Caregiver and Her Cyclist Husband Face Their New Normal with Courage, Tenacity, and Abundant Love.
One Pedal at a Time: A Caregiver’s Journal of Courage, Support and Love follows – in real time – the yearlong journey of a long-distance cyclist during and after his cancer induced strokes.
The patient is her husband, Joe. The caregiver is CJ. Joe’s motto for getting through life’s most trying times has always been, ”One pedal at a time,” which refers to his days traversing the country, for months at a time, on merely the two wheels of his road bike.
Part One, presented in narrative format, introduces the reader to Joe and CJ as they joined together in a marriage built on love, mutual respect and support. This sets the stage for the strength of her devotion in getting him through the cancer and subsequent strokes that threatened to take his life.
In Part Two, CJ shares real-time updates about Joe’s illness, from the dire first months to the present, and his miraculous recuperation, through emails sent to family and friends. Each set of emails is then followed by a corresponding lesson CJ had learned as his caregiver, sharing information and encouragement to others in the same position.
Part Three reverts to the purely narrative format with chapters presented to assure the reader that there can be hope and light in even this most dire of situations.
Read on for an interview with CJ.
S.R.: What inspired you to write One Pedal at a Time?
CJ.G.: When my husband, Joe, suffered a series of cancer-induced strokes in 2016, I found myself in a position I could never have imagined: watching his decline as he laid in his hospital bed, clinging to life. It was so very difficult to remain focused on Joe yet keep family and friends in the loop. Too many phone calls put me over the edge, yet sending individual emails was difficult. Most effective—and, thankfully, understood by the recipients, were the group emails that I composed every evening. In this way, I was able to keep the information flowing, yet did not feel overburdened. What I did find was the recap of each day helped me to focus and find clarification of that day’s events.
At the same time, as a writer, I began writing blogs about the various lessons I’d learned as my medical knowledge increased and, more importantly, as numerous psychological and emotional issues surfaced throughout the ordeal. My writing aided me greatly in sorting through the confusion of angst and trepidation of the events unfolding in Joe’s hospital room.
My readers commented on the blogs, began to share them, and sent me words of support. They also reflected upon the necessity of such sharing—they, too, were “novice caregivers” and my writing was helping them through their ordeals. Often I was sent the request to turn my writing into a book. That request remained in the back of my mind. It surfaced only when Joe came home and began to heal.
S.R.: There are three parts to the book. First is the introduction, the second has updates about Joe’s illness, and the third is about hope. How did you decide to structure the book this way?
CJ.G.: As with many books, the format did not reveal itself to me initially. I began by creating a storyboard on which I pinned printed copies of the various emails and the blogs that I felt most closely represented the feelings or learning of each group of days. The emails, I knew, would be the venue through which I could convey Joe’s health crises. My blogs would become the personal lessons I’d gleaned.
Yet, there needed to be more to the book than merely those two elements and it came when my editor reminded me that readers who don’t know Joe or me needed to be introduced to us: they had to understand what made us the close and loving couple we are to clarify the intense emotional pain that I was going through during his illness. And they had to fully know why I fought so hard to keep him alive while sacrificing my own emotional stability. This became Part One of the book and served as an introduction to the emails and blogs in Part Two.
I understand that every story has an arc and, therefore, mine required a Part Three wherein I balance the first four chapters with these last four chapters that describe our relationship post-trauma, how we have survived and become stronger as individuals and as a couple.
Fully recognizing how fortunate we are in having the ability to have hired a private nurse, purchasing the necessary ramps for our home along with all the other special equipment needed, I have included an index of resources for caregivers. These cover physical, financial and emotional support on a nation-wide basis.
S.R.: What have you learned going through this journey?
CJ.G.: I have learned to never take our good health for granted.
I have learned that I am stronger—emotionally and physically—than I ever thought possible.
I have learned that we can, indeed, find the positive within the depth of despair.
I have learned that, as I have shared my growth through my two other books, my speaking engagements and workshops, there is much within the story of Joe’s illness and my caregiver experience to help bring support, encouragement and strength to others.
I have learned the truth of Joseph Campbell’s quote: “You must give up the life you planned in order to have the life that is waiting for you.”
S.R.: What do you want readers to take away from your story?
CJ.G.: The story within the pages of One Pedal At A Time: A Novice Caregiver and Her Cyclist Husband Face Their New Normal With Courage, Tenacity and Abundant Love will, hopefully, speak to people who are novice caregivers to their loved ones; who need a place to turn to for information, inspiration and hope.
The narratives will touch an audience who is fascinated by the story of real people dealing with real-life challenges, while the emails in Part Two appeal to those who are intrigued by the suspense of a medical mystery whose outcome will unfold as the chapters build upon each other.
My hope is that those who find themselves in this challenging role of caregiver will learn from the lessons I have shared as I became educated in these new skill sets, which were (still are) so new to me.
Lastly, my desire is that the main takeaway targets those who love their spouses (or children or parents or others with whom they have a loving bond) with an affection so deep they are willing to put their lives on hold in order to care for them. They are not alone and, in that knowledge, I hope, comes comfort, knowledge and support.
S.R.: You’re going to be a presenter at the Caregiving Global Summit. What will you be presenting about?
CJ.G.: At the Caregiving Global Summit I am speaking directly from my heart. There was no rehearsal and I was encouraged to share my story of being Joe’s caregiver honestly and openly. It was not always pretty: both Joe and I had much to learn about our new life roles and how to honor those changes. We have come away stronger as individuals and as a couple. I am presenting love and hope.
S.R.: What are you working on next?
CJ.G.: On the professional side, I am now lining up speaking engagements that I am bringing to caregiver groups. As a motivational speaker, I recognize that my voice can help and heal people through my spoken words as well as those in my books. There is a personal connection that transcends the book when I am with groups on an intimate basis.
I have also written a new prologue for my first book, Tao of the Defiant Woman: Five Brazen Ways to Accept What You Must and Rebel Against the Rest. The main takeaway in that book is that we must accept whatever situation in which we find ourselves in order to work with it; deal with it; continue living our lives according to the journeys we are meant to take. This is the Taoist philosophy and one that I follow through my days. But I add a touch of defiance—we need to defy negativity, harmful stereotypes, and self-limiting behaviors in order to live our best lives.
Although I did not recognize it at the time, this “Tao and defiant” attitude is what got me through the ordeal of Joe’s illness. And carries me through, still, as he and I face our new normal.
Writing a prologue for the book that reflects this realization was a necessary step for me to take as I see my life’s work coming together in a perfect arc. The updated edition will be available just about the same time that One Pedal is published.
CJ Golden may be a sweet, 70-something grandma-type; however, she is anything but typical.
Continually reinventing herself, Golden has enjoyed successful careers as: a speech and hearing therapist, group sales manager of an Equity playhouse, she has acted in professionally on stage, screen, and TV in New York and Los Angeles, and is a published author of poetry, short stories, essays, articles, and blogs.
In her late 50’s Golden reached a personal crisis when she became a grandmother– for her a difficult transition. During this time she revisited the Taoist principles she had learned years earlier in college, and discovered their practical application to modern life.
On the good advice of a friend, Golden conducted extensive research with women around the country; through seminars and workshops to better understand how they handle the same transitions and challenges she herself was facing.
A freelance columnist, author, and motivational speaker, Golden currently travels the country from coast-to-coast inspiring her audience to seek and find an easier path through life using her Tao and Defiant philosophy.
Golden’s voice is one of a kind that imparts wisdom while staying completely accessible to her audiences; like a spunky fairy-godmother with the occasionally red or green tipped hair, she is a shoulder to lean on and a ‘rock on’ motivator all in one. The Tao of the Defiant Woman, her first book, was born out of a love of writing, and personal desire to share her findings and stories from the women she met. And her second book Tao-Girls Rule! for teen and pre-teen girls, was written when the women with whom she came in contact asked for a similar book for their daughters and granddaughters. One Pedal at a Time is CJ’s third book.