Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

November 24, 2013

'Meghan's Journey'

By HOWARD BALABAN howard.balaban@lockportjournal.com
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — GASPORT — 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, 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.

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 Mike 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, Debbie’s husband, 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.

The Redenbachs attended their daughter’s Class of 2013 graduation ceremony this past June. Mrs. Redenbach recalls the stirring tribute to Meghan that was arranged by her classmates.

From the back row of seats at the outdoor ceremony, she said, the family watched as the graduates filtered in, “everyone ... showing up in teal (the color of ovarian 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.”

Mike Redenbach said the tribute probably helped bring “closure” to Meghan’s classmates.

“She touched so many people, it’s incredible,” he said.

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

Ultimately, Nancy Redenbach 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,” Mrs. Redenbach said. Meghan deferred the invitations, however, because she didn’t want to talk with others while she was sick, she wanted to talk with them when she beat the disease.

Then when Meghan saw the writing on the wall, the book became a way for her to help people, Mrs. Redenbach said.

Neither of Meghan’s parents has read the entire book yet, they confessed last week.

“I didn’t even start reading any of it until we got the book about a week ago,” Mike Redenbach said. “It’s hard to get through.”

Even Nancy Redenbach, who wrote a good portion of Meghan’s Journey, hasn’t been through it cover-to-cover.

“I’ve only read sections, and only then because I was proofing the pages with Debbie (Holahan),” she said.

The book’s release is bittersweet for the Redenbachs. They’re still coping with an unfathomable loss and yet, telling Meghan’s story gives them a feeling of accomplishment. They’re sure she would approve — albeit with a question.

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

GET YOUR COPY The book "Meghan's Journey" by Meghan Redenbach, Nancy Redenbach and Debbie Holahan, will be launched locally from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday at Terry's Corners Fire Hall, 7801 Chestnut Ridge Road, Gasport. 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, visit meghansjourney.com or meghansfund.org.