Standing at Water’s Edge

A Cancer Nurse, Her Four-Year-Old Son and the Shifting Tides of Leukemia

“What a beautiful, poetic and honest account of a parent’s greatest fear―facing the loss of a child to a serious illness. This book will move you, enlighten you, and ultimately inspire you. For what is a brush with death, if not a deeper call to life?”

Henry Emmons, MD, Author of The Chemistry of Joy and The Chemistry of Calm

1st Place

American Journal of Nursing Book of the Year Award in Consumer Health

Samples from the audiobook

This heartfelt memoir gave a glimpse of a family going through a life and death crisis and the long term effects that childhood cancer had on everyone. The author shares her story as a mom, researcher and daughter. Her insightful emotions tell a story of trying to control the uncontrollable and making decisions to navigate the best way at the Water’s edge.

I loved this read.

As a nurse and psychologist I recommend this book for any healthcare worker who is working with families, trying to navigate the difficult journey of childhood cancer. Rarely does a book come along with an author with so many credentials in so many fields that help others find their way through such difficult times. Thank you Dr. Post-White!

Anne Hannahan


What a beautiful, poetic and honest account of a parent’s greatest fear―facing the loss of a child to a serious illness.

This book will move you, enlighten you, and ultimately inspire you.

For what is a brush with death, if not a deeper call to life?

Henry Emmons, MD

Author of The Chemistry of Joy and the Chemistry of Calm

This book is for anyone who has been touched, in some way, by cancer.

So whether you are an Oncology doctor or nurse, or you or someone in your family has cancer – Janice has opened her heart and shares the challenging and dimensional adventure she and her family went on when her 4 1/2 year old son, Brennan, was diagnosed with leukemia.

Janice offers, not only her over 30 years experience as an Oncology nurse, but also, shares the journey she faced from the perspective of the feelings of a mother, her gift of being able to step back, face her fears, let go, and most importantly, be present in the moment, the one and only moment. “Standing at Water’s Edge” will prepare you for a dive into the oceanic. I see this book as a secret meditation story I call, “ZEN ONCOLOGY.”

Terran Lovewave

Astrologer, Counselor, Author and Radio Host

“A multifaceted, thought-provoking, and learned exploration of a painful subject.”

A nurse specializing in cancer treatment shares her experiences after her son was diagnosed with leukemia in this debut memoir.
Post-White’s son, Brennan, was 4 years old when he became ill. The author began to worry after he started to experience leg and abdominal pains. After they visited a pediatrician, blood tests showed concerning abnormalities. As an oncology nurse, Post-White was aware of the grave significance of her son’s low hemoglobin count and braced herself for bad news. “I was a cancer nurse, researcher, and educator…but I had no training as a cancer mom,” remarks the author in her preface. Her memoir charts each step on Brennan’s road to recovery after his leukemia diagnosis, offering the dual perspectives of a highly trained nurse and a loving mother. Post-White’s writing poses probing questions asked by many whose lives have been touched by cancer, such as “Why Cancer? Why Now? Why Us?” She also explores her young son’s coping process by sharing pictures Brennan drew to express his feelings throughout his treatment. As a medical professional, the author takes a philosophical approach to surviving and facing fears, asking: “Can we ever be prepared for death? Or cancer?” Post-White’s writing is sharply analytical and grounded in actuality: “The reality is that one in ten childhood cancer survivors will have heart disease by the time they are forty.” But the delivery of stark facts is delicately counterbalanced with a profound excavation of personal emotions: “Darkness is a part of life, as it is a part of every rotation of the earth. But some nights felt blacker than others.” The result is a skillfully well-rounded memoir in which the author draws on her own experiences, charts Brennan’s medical and emotional progress, and alludes to the struggles of patients she has treated. While some readers may recognize that several cancer treatments have changed since the late 1990s, when Brennan was first diagnosed, Post-White’s account remains relevant, as contemporary protocols “include many of the same medications, schedules and ‘road maps.’ ” In a marketplace crowded with similar titles, the author’s informative work shares rich layers of a valuable perspective—delivering concise medical explanations, a nurse’s experience and compassion, and tender maternal understanding—making this book stand out from the rest.
April 4, 2022

“Cancer was my job, my career. Cancer was only supposed to happen to other people’s kids.”

When Janice Post-White’s son is diagnosed with leukemia at four years old, a journey begins for her family through the difficult years of treatment and the ensuing ones of post-treatment. As a cancer nurse, researcher, and educator, Post-White is uniquely prepared to wade through the clinical side of her son’s ordeal. She tackles the consultations and treatment plans with analytical precision. But as a mother, she is wholly unprepared for the fear, stress, and suffering that cancer creates in its wake as it attacks her son’s small body. She explores the turmoil that illness brings to her family’s life with her detailed account of hospital stays, her son’s emotional outbursts, and the different ways each family member copes. Post-White is a steady voice of resolve through this transformative memoir so full of wisdom gained in the fire of experience.

Grappling with a life interrupted is a powerful theme that is brilliantly and beautifully captured through the life of a family in the fight of their life. Well-crafted and deeply reflective, Post-White’s book offers insights about living with uncertainty, focusing on love and joy instead of fear, and defining the nature of care and connection with a loved one. Her scientific mind responds to the crisis first, but her heart follows closely behind as she seeks an “equilibrium between thinking and feeling” through diagnosis, treatment, and beyond. The result is a well-balanced account of the exterior forces at work and the author’s interior life. She writes with honesty and the searing knowledge that comes from feeling death’s shadow hovering too close to her four-year-old son. This life-affirming account will move readers to accept the darkness that comes with life, make room for joy, and design a new normal when life takes unexpected turns.

Honorable Mention in the 2022 Eric Hoffer Book Award Health Category and a First Horizon Award Finalist.

Written by Michelle Jacobs

REEDSY Discovery ReviewMust read 🏆 5*
“A heartfelt and insightful memoir about love, family, and the tides of cancer”

“Standing at Water’s Edge” is a story about a cancer nurse who becomes a cancer mom when her four-year-old son is diagnosed with leukemia. He survives, and yet she dreams of his death, which forces her to face her fears or be haunted by them forever.

While her son Brennan draws pictures to process his emotions, Post-White buries her feelings and juggles her roles as nurse/mother/daughter along with cancer teacher and researcher. On a trip to Paris, she lights a candle in Notre Dame, praying for her son to get well, while back home in Minnesota, Brennan draws a candle for the headless horseman “to help him find his way.” Together they navigate through changes in identity and roles and find strength and courage to face their fears and learn what facing death teaches them about living life.

Readers will reflect on their own experiences to gain perspective and clarity as well as inspiration to face their own fears, let go of expectations, and be present in the moment.

This was a heartfelt and insightful memoir about love, family, and the tides of cancer.

The author’s expertise as a cancer nurse ultimately fails her when her own son is diagnosed with leukaemia. Her upbringing was shaped by her mother’s emotionally stunted responses and her father’s stoicism — typical of that era — which influenced her own psyche, and she bottled up her feelings:

[…] this history of buried emotions, unexpressed grief, and learned self-sufficiency […] accompanied me into the hospital when Brennan was diagnosed. Logically, I understood. Emotionally, under stress, I regressed.

Though her family all loved and supported each other, as Brennan’s mother she bore the bulk of the burden of responsibility on her own shoulders, always having to put on a brave face for everyone else, even her husband who withdrew into his own thoughts rather than sharing his fears with her:

We inhabited our own emotional orbits and just kept marching along. It was a time of getting through. The road map directed our actions but advised very little. I knew how to lead the army into battle, but I had no idea what to do with the effects, my responses and feelings.

As Brennan’s treatment progressed, she saw the light in him fade. Still, his drawings and conversations with her showed maturity beyond his years as he found his own ways to process what was happening with him:

I’d never imagined that I would lament the absence of his fiercely independent and tempestuous attitude. As I watched him, I pleaded with myself to find something, anything, in this boy that I recognized and loved. […] Chemotherapy was saving my son, but I felt I was losing him.

As she struggled to ensure Brennan’s protocols were followed despite his resistance, her own health suffered both physically as well as mentally, but there was little respite. Her workload seldom abated, and her health worsened. Nevertheless, she took on the mantle of leading a “cancer family” and tried to make their lives as normal as possible, with family vacations, sports, and activities scattered around hospital visits.

Fortunately, Brennan survived — but the shadow of doubt is always there. She was always acutely aware of his other “cancer peers” who relapsed and eventually died, and there were even instances of unexpected non-cancer-related deaths that rattled her even more. To this day, she still dreams of Brennan’s death.

This was a powerful and difficult read, as the author’s frankness and insightful honesty is gripping from beginning to end. The language and style of writing are engaging and thoughtfully executed, and it also includes a significant amount of research. I can see how this memoir was not only part of her own healing process, but also a roadmap for other parents or children that may be in the same situation.

I loved and enjoyed this journey that this memoir took me on, and it was truly moving. I am amazed at the trials she endured, and that she was able to manage a successful career despite her own family issues she was dealing with at the time. What also resonated with me were the moments that she took pause and said “Enough”, focusing on herself and her family for a short time to maintain that balance. At times raw, at times painful, overall this message is one of triumph and courage. I thank the author for sharing her story, and look forward to more of her writing.
Written by Sacha T.Y. Fortune

“Standing at Water’s Edge: A Cancer Nurse, Her Four-Year-Old Son and the Shifting Tides of Leukemia” describes Brennan’s journey with leukemia and how it impacted his mother, Janice Post-White, and the rest of her family. Diagnosed at four and a half, it details his three years of chemotherapy and how the side effects of the powerful drugs will affect his health for the rest of his life. We see how Janice juggles her career and takes care of her younger son Tyler while prioritizing Brennan’s treatment schedule. After completing his treatment, she still has to cope with Brennan constantly getting sick. It is due to a weakened immune system and the possible long-term effects of the powerful drugs.

Janice Post-White writes from a unique perspective. Not only is she a first-time cancer mom, but also a cancer nurse. Janice discovers that we still can (and should) find joy in each moment despite life’s challenges. Brennan’s sketches provide insight into the psyche of this young boy as he deals daily with the painful and unpleasant effects of chemotherapy. Reading this book made me feel sad that children get cancer and have to go through the pain and discomfort of chemotherapy. But I also admire the courage of young Brennan to face it every day and his mother who is trying to give him a normal life in any way possible. However, their story also gives us hope because it shows that cancer isn’t a death sentence for all children diagnosed with this disease. I recommend Standing at Water’s Edge for everyone who needs to learn more about cancer or knows anybody who has cancer. It shows ways to cope and provides clinical cancer information.

Reviewed By Susan van der Walt for Readers’ Favorite


by Janice Post-White

Janice Post-White was an oncology nurse who thought she knew what life with cancer was about– until her four-year-old son was diagnosed with leukemia. While he drew pictures to process his emotions, she buried her feelings and threw herself into managing a dual role as a medical professional and mother. Her memoir shares her son’s perspective as a young cancer patient and teen survivor, and explores her own personal and professional insights on survivorship, resilience, healing and what facing death can teach us about living.

Learn more from the COMPANION WEBSITE for the audiobook.

Length: 9 hr 16 mins
Narrated by: Melanie Carey


Hi, I’m Janice

My son survived his leukemia, but a decade off treatment, my fears came back to haunt me. The things we avoid have energy. I wrote this book to make sense of our experience and to finally face my fear of losing my son. Through my family’s story, and my struggle to negotiate my roles as both mother and cancer expert, I share my personal and professional insights on survivorship, resilience, and healing. Brennan, too, shares his pictures, journals, and dreams as a young patient going through three years of treatment and then as an adolescent finding his way as a survivor.

Reflecting on how illness shapes our lives and reframes our priorities is important to moving on with meaning and purpose. You, too, can learn to let go of the fears, guilt, and anxieties that haunt you in the middle of the night.

  • Read the book for insights on how (and why) to stay present in the moment.
  • Sign up for my newsletter for tips and lessons I learned—and continue to learn—along the way.
  • Read my blog for life-affirming insights on survivorship, resilience, and healing.
  • Join me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram—I’d love to hear your story of survival and resilience.