Niagara Gazette

November 25, 2013

Family helps young cancer victim's journey continue

By HOWARD BALABAN howard.balaban@niagara-gazette.com
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Some people spend a lifetime trying to cement their legacy for future generations. Missed opportunities pile up and, too often, the end comes with regrets.

When Meghan Redenbach learned, at age 13, that she had a rare form of cancer, she was determined not to miss any opportunities.

By the time she was 15, she had written several chapters of a book detailing her cancer journey.

Nearly three years after her death on Dec. 24, 2010, the book is finished and has been published. “Meghan’s Journey: The Story of Meghan Redenbach, the Teenage Girl Who Showed A Community How To ‘Man Up’ in the Face of Cancer” will be released Tuesday at Terry’s Corners Fire Hall in Gasport.

Meghan’s Journey is written mostly by Meghan’s mom, who kept a journal while Meghan was ill, with sections contributed by community members who are still affected by the feisty teen’s story.

According to Archway Publishing, contributors together tell the story of Meghan’s life and the strength and courage she showed in the face of terminal illness.

Meghan “wanted people to keep going and not feel sorry for themselves,” her mom, Nancy Redenbach, said.

That she had started a book came as a surprise to Meghan’s parents. Nancy and Bill Redenbach didn’t know anything about it until after she died. When she made the decision to start writing her story, she turned to her English teacher and home tutor, Debbie Holahan, for support.

“At first I was like any teacher, encouraging her,” Holahan said, “but then when she started giving me stuff she had written I thought, ‘Wow! She can write a book.’”

Meghan was a member of the Roy-Hart volleyball team. Her coach, Bill Holahan, remembers her as the girl everyone would gravitate toward socially.

“She was quick witted, very positive, and she loved to laugh,” he said.

In advance of the book release, Meghan’s loved ones met with members of the media last week to talk about the book and the girl who inspired it.

Nancy and Bill Redenbach attended their daughter’s 2013 graduation ceremony this past June. Nancy recalls the stirring tribute to Meghan that was arranged by her friends.

From the back row of seats at the outdoor ceremony, she said, the Redenbachs watched as the graduates filtered in, “everyone ... showing up in teal (the color of ovarianc cancer awareness), and there was a teal tassel, along with the one with Roy-Hart colors.

“The last pair of students, who were good friends of Meghan’s, as they approached the stage they split up. One went behind the bushes on one side and one went the other way. They grabbed a chair painted teal and white, and a bouquet of flowers for the chair, and set it up in honor of Meghan.”

According to Holahan, Meghan’s interest in writing a book was sparked by her reading of S.E. Hinton’s “The Outsiders.” Hinton was 17 when his work was published, making Meghan think, why not her, too?

Ultimately, Nancy thinks writing was her daughter’s way of giving something back.

“Psychologists she knew at Roswell asked her to talk to other kids because she was so positive,” Nancy said. Meghan deferred the invitations, however, because she didn’t want to talk with 

However, Meghan derwanted to talk to them when she was not sick, preferring to do it after she beat her disease. When she saw the writing on the wall, though, she began to focus more on the book as a way to help people, Nancy added.

The book features an introduction and two chapters written by the precocious teenager, and her smile graces the cover. A large portion of the book is Nancy’s journal, which she said she kept as a way to keep track of what was going on with Meghan. There are also contributions from community members and family photos, and a smattering of brief sections chronicling the entire journey.

Nancy said she “always knew Meghan wanted to help people.” After the initial shock of the book project wore off and she managed to read a few pages, Nancy joked, “I looked and said, ‘I didn’t know that, I didn’t know that, and I didn’t know that.’ “

Launching the book has left the entire family with a bittersweet feeling, but also a feeling of accomplishment they are sure Meghan would approve of, and also one she would question.

“She’d probably ask us what took so long,” chuckled Nancy.

BOOK LAUNCH An event for "Meghan's Journey" is being held at Terry's Corners Fire Hall in Gasport from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday. Books will be available for a $19.99 donation to Meghan's Fund. Several scholarships have already been awarded through the fund. For more information go online to meghansjourney.com or meghansfund.org.