The following article by editor Jonathan Monfiletto was originally published in the Skaneateles Journal:
Susan wanted to deliver a message of hope and inspiration to people experiencing personal struggles when she decided to write her book, “Joyful Journeys: Sacred Pauses with God,” while going through her own battle against breast cancer.
Now, the Skaneateles resident and religion teacher at Christian Brothers Academy in Syracuse has a chance to bring that message to someone she knows quite well — CBA junior Jack Sheridan.
Sheridan, who knows Major as his seventh-grade homeroom teacher and religion teacher in seventh and eighth grades, is now fighting his own battle with cancer after being diagnosed with leukemia last spring.
“Jack and I have had a nice, special relationship over the years,” Major said. “So, when he was diagnosed last spring, the spring of 2014, my heart was just so sad. But he is such a strong, amazing, faith-filled young man. His journey is so inspiring in and of itself.”
When she was dealing with cancer, she said, she remembers the financial burden was “so great,” and the Skaneateles community stepped up to help her husband, Matt, and their family overcome that burden.
With that support in mind and with the success of her book, the teacher wanted to pay it forward to a student who is now in a situation with which Major is familiar.
“People helped us with meals and childcare and financially to help with the mounting medical bills that obviously come,” Major said. “Now, I have this book with this opportunity to donate a portion of the sales to the Sheridan family to help them with those mounting medical bills.”
For one week from Sunday, Feb. 1 through Friday, Feb. 6, Divine Phoenix — the Skaneateles-based publisher of Major’s book — will donate 10 percent of the sales of Major’s book through her website to the Sheridan family.
And, from 3 to 5 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 5, Major will host a book-signing event at CBA in which she will again donate 10 percent of the sale of each book to the Sheridan family.
When she called Kim Sheridan, Jack’s mother, to tell her about the fundraiser for the family, “it had been a particularly tough day medically for Jack,” and Sheridan could not wait to tell her son the good news.
“It feels so great to be able to use this (book) for that kind of good,” Major said.
And as well as helping her former student financially, Major said she has been able to support the young man by relating to what he is going through and providing emotional help.
In fact, Kim Sheridan purchased a copy of Major’s book when it was first released, and Major said she placed an extra copy in the bag when she saw the order along with a note to Jack Sheridan that she would love for him to read her book.
“Hopefully, my experience will help be a source of strength for him,” Major said. “When you go through something like cancer, it’s very hard to understand unless you’ve been in it yourself. So, I think, to have that commonality is support in and of itself for him.”
She added that the CBA community “has been amazingly supportive” of the Sheridan family. The junior class held some fundraisers for its classmate, and “this is my way of helping along the journey,” she said.
Since officially releasing her book Jan. 11 after a pre-sale period in December, Major said “it’s been exciting” to receive feedback from the people who heard her message of hope and inspiration loud and clear.
“We’re so overwhelmed with the response from people purchasing the book and the responses that people have had,” she said. “How it has just been a source of inspiration for all sorts of people, from teenagers to college students to some of the elders in the community.”
One 85-year-old woman who lost her husband last year called Major and told her, “I still have so much to do in this life,” the author said.
“That was pretty moving for me to have someone respond that beautifully,” Major said.
Major started writing about 15 years ago and hosting retreat opportunities for women — mothers and daughters, particularly. She would write reflections for those events and for her “Joyful Journeys” blog.
Though she wrote for a long time before, her battle with cancer brought a whole new meaning to her writing — and “Joyful Journeys” went from a blog to a book to, eventually, a message for other people.
“When I was diagnosed with cancer, the writing obviously took a little different focus and I realized that it connected so much of my experiences before the cancer and after,” she said. “It’s really a message of hope and inspiration to people who are feeling the weight of struggle.”
Those struggles, Major said, are not limited to cancer — it could be financial problems or be issues with relationships or children, “or a plethora of other problems,” she added. And she wants to inspire people dealing with these struggles to take their own joyful journey.
“I just want to give people a sense of hope in their daily lives through this book,” she said. “I want people to realize that even in our daily lives, when we’re struggling with challenges and things that look like obstacles, we can still experience joy.”