Dancing with Cancer

It is with joy and sadness I announce the publication of Dancing with Cancer, the real-time journals of my husband Barry, and myself, his wife of 37 years, in which we share our harrowing journeys through not one but two stem cell transplants.   Not knowing the outcome, Barry hoped to leave a record of his state of mind as he navigated the stem cell transplant process.  I wanted to minutely document my unexpected and daunting role as a caregiver. We started our odyssey in San Francisco in 2005. Barry died in February, 2014 when, despite the best of care, he succumbed to his cancer. Three years later, I am publishing the book Barry wanted to send out to the world, to let others know in his unvarnished way his experience of the those two life-giving stem cell transplants.

For nearly nine years, we saw each other at our best and worst.   We became both both stronger and weaker living as we did in a world bounded by cancer. Dancing with Cancer chronicles our lives during that time, presenting our sometimes wildly different views of apparently the same events.   We write about meetings with doctors, hospital stays and treatments; relationships with family and friends; our own emotional journeys; and, centrally the impact of the cancer on our marriage.

Barry, the patient, had no patience (and loved puns).  He was blessed with a strong sense of irony and a fierce sense of humor.  His writing reflects a life shaped by his work as an attorney, activist and writer, and as a husband, father, and grandfather.  He never equivocates; he calls it as it is.  He is deeply angry and deeply grateful in these pages.

We did not aim this book for any particular reader.  However, I hope it reaches an audience of health care professionals who will find inspiration in the providers we came to love.  I hope it offers encouragement and knowledge to people in similar circumstance about how to manage stress and garner support from family and friends during the unbounded uncertainty not just of stem cell transplantation but  of any life-threatening illness.

Barry died.  But still, I am told, the book is a page-turner.  One thing I hope will be clear: love survives death.

You can order the book at on Amazon.

And if you like it, please write a review on Amazon.

Praise for Dancing With Cancer

Unlike many feel-good survivor tales, Dancing with Cancer offers a powerfully honest window into the eight year struggle that co-authors Barry and Bonnie Willdorf endured. The adroit use of their two distinct voices illuminates the gritty realities of both patient and caregiver. Bonnie’s clear-eyed revelations (especially when explaining medical jargon or admitting to her exhaustion) and Barry’s sardonic and vulnerable sense of humor—his “Bone Marrow Biopsy Blues” is just one terrific example—together provide a starkly unsentimental narrative that is nonetheless loving, brave, and compelling.

— Mary Winegarden (Lecturer Emerita, San Francisco State; poet and author of  The Translator’s Sister, winner of the 2012 American Book Award.)


Dancing with Cancer is a unique book not only in the field of cancer and stem cell transplantation but in the chronicles of long and strong marriages. Bonnie and Barry, parents of three adult children, recount their harrowing experience of two stem cell transplants in wildly different but equally compelling accounts of the apparently same events. Without ever being didactic, this book, nonetheless, provides remarkable life lessons for anyone, not just those living with or alongside cancer.

— Kaethe Weingarten, Ph.D. is an Associate Clinical Professor of Psychology, Harvard Medical School, and Director of the Witnessing Project. She is a long-time survivor of three cancers.


This dual memoir reveals the personal experiences of two people, husband and wife, who are confronted with a life-threatening illness. It is the love story of Bonnie and Barry Willdorf, who, through their own voices, share this rollercoaster ride from diagnosis to hope to despair and round and round again. It is an inspiring journey about courage in the face of illness and death.

— Photographer/author Roslyn Banish, through photographs and text, focuses on human issues and how they affect families and communities. She currently is working on a book about reproductive rights.

One Response to Dancing with Cancer

  1. Bonnie Willdorf says:

    Comment received: “As a cell biologist I am so impressed with the detail, the ‘science,’ the molecular biology, the medical field and how it really works. (In addition to everything else….this is rare and remarkable.)”

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