A Short Good Life

Her Father Tells Liza’s Story of Facing Death


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About the Book

It’s unusual to access a child’s mind during the magic years of childhood. It’s rarer when the child is facing her death. Liza, an ardent child with a deep love of cows and the color purple was diagnosed with leukemia at age four and died two years later in 1996. Liza was an unusually expressive child and her parents, both child psychiatrists, were uniquely oriented to appreciate the richness of a child’s mind. Through writing this book, Liza’s father strove to reveal the inner world of a child’s mind—and a parent’s mind—as few other books can. At its center, this is the story of a child’s psyche growing and striving to understand all she could of her experience, and of a small family coping with life’s biggest challenges. It is a story of love’s power to help a family cope and endure despite loss, and to grow, through darkness, back toward a full embrace of life. Through the process, the family emerges transformed, awed by the capacities of this child.

About the Author(s)

Philip Lister is an adult and child psychiatrist in private practice in New York City. He is affiliated with Weill Cornell, Columbia, and Mount Sinai medical centers and teaches the art of psychotherapy with children and adolescents. In recent years he has worked as a therapist in the Phase 3 research study treating PTSD with MDMA-assisted psychotherapy. For more about the book see the author’s website, ashortgoodlife.com.

Bibliographic Details

Philip Lister

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 284
Bibliographic Info: 39 photos, index
Copyright Date: 2021
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8557-1
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4344-1
Imprint: Toplight

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Wonderful World of Color 1

Part I. All the Way to the Deep End 5
1 Bone Marrow Biopsy 6
2 Day Zero 11
3 Induction 19
4 A Bumpy Road 28
5 Complications 35
6 Living with What Do You Call It 61

Part II. Transplantation: From Hither to Yon 85
7 Limbo 86
8 Second Year, Second Medical Center 94
9 Final Preparations 102
10 Transplant 115
11 Home Again, Again 132
12 Fog 140
13 GVHD and PUVA 148
14 New Troubles: Diabetes and Pain 164

Part III. Heart to Heart 175
15 Questions 176
16 Did You Get That? 186
17 Supports 193
18 Alert Again 199
19 Speaking of Death 211
20 The Happy Sad Birthday 237
21 The Reader 245
22 Molly’s Birthday 251
23 Time 255

Epilogue: Through Loss, Deeper Hues 263
Acknowledgments 272
Index 275

Book Reviews & Awards

“The strength of the heartbreaking memoir rests with the author’s ability to capture, through narration and daily dialogue, the inner turmoil and resilience of each family member (including Liza’s older sister, Molly), as they struggled together through the frustrations, anger, doubts, love, hopes, and fears during this painful ordeal… An emotionally honest, informative, and beautifully composed cancer account; a solid addition to the genre.”—Kirkus Reviews