For Louise Hicks, cancer, drug addiction hit close to home

DOWNEY - When Louise Hicks was 12-years-old she had a vision while sitting on her grandmother's porch."I just knew that one day I would be an author," said Hicks. "The book was in me, but I didn't know what was in the book - I never thought it would be about my son." In 2008, Hicks found the book inside of her, an autobiographical account of the 14 tumultuous years in her life where she watched her son, Davy, battle cancer, fight depression and overcome drug addiction. "You can triumph over the obstacles you face," said Hicks, a Downey resident since 1999. "When my son was going through this, it would have been so inspirational to read a story about someone else who battled these issues. That inspired me to write this book." After her son was diagnosed with bone cancer at the age of 14 in 1995, Hicks began a journal, writing down her thoughts, fears and frustrations. Hicks, 58, later compiled those notes and will share her experiences in her first book entitled, "A Hill to Climb," set for nationwide release in January 2010. "The story has been very therapeutic for me to write," Hicks said. "From 1995 until 2003, I never read my journal. When I first read it, I cried - I realized that I never grieved my son's illness." As Davy began chemotherapy treatments, Hicks and her family waited, praying the teenager would survive the cancer. "It's a scary disease - it's a tough thing to watch a person go through," Hicks said. "When you see people with cancer, you don't realize the struggle they go through - the long-term impact, the devastation - it cripples you." In 2000, doctors could find no recurrence of cancer and Davy was considered cured, but Hicks says the victory was short lived. "When you have cancer, you go through highs and lows - you begin to get depressed," Hicks said. "He wasn't able to do the things he wanted to do - he felt rejection in some aspects of his life - so the depression continued." Hicks believes the depression led her son, an active, energetic and bright student, to choose a life of drug abuse in order to escape the pain and find acceptance. "After battling cancer, you don't feel the same - you're vulnerable," Hicks said. "You see yourself in a different light. You feel your hopes and aspirations are gone - you feel kind of cheated." These feelings, Hicks says, drove Davy to begin a dependency on marijuana and methamphetamine that would take years to break. "It's a war - an internal war. A war with yourself and with your family," said Hicks. "Sometimes he was at home, other times he was homeless - no one wanted to see him overdose or die. If God didn't want him to live, He would have taken him with the cancer - But He left him here for a purpose." Last year, after a debilitating struggle with drug addiction, Davy, 28, began to turn his life around. "He saw that something had to happen - it was either do or die," Hicks said. "He's taking it day by day, working with his counselor, getting ready to move out on his own. I'm grateful he's here." Next month, Hicks, who retired from Rancho Los Amigos in 2006, will begin a book signing tour to promote his story. On December 12, Hicks will sign copies of her book at Zahra's Books N Things in Inglewood. She hopes her story will resonate and inspire others to stand in spite of their challenges. "I didn't realize how strong my faith was until this hit us - it was a hard-won triumph," said Hicks. "Disease can have devastating effects on a teenager if there is not someone there to help. It can be a difficult battle, but it can be turned around."

********** Published: November 6, 2009 - Volume 8 - Issue 29