Book Recommendation: Hope for the Best, Plan for the Rest

Book Recommendation: Hope for the Best, Plan for the Rest

Guest Contributor: Nadine Valk

My father-in-law was an extraordinary human being: grounded, thoughtful, compassionate, and wise. So, when he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia and had to make a quick decision about treatment, I shouldn’t have been surprised that for Dave, it wasn’t an automatic yes. He wanted to know about the big picture – what were the potential side-effects and outcomes? Were the trade-offs going to be worth it to him? Would he have any energy? Would he be able to do the things that were important to him during and after treatment?

We were all so focused on ‘more life’
that we forgot to consider quality of life.

I am sorry to say that I, along with the well-meaning healthcare providers supporting him, didn’t understand where his questions were coming from. We asked, we implored, we (thought that we) encouraged him, saying, “You are only in your 60s – of course, you must start treatment!” “You have to fight this!” “You can’t just give up!” We were all so focused on ‘more life’ we forgot to consider quality of life.

Oh, how I wish that the incredible book written by Drs. Sammy Winemaker and Hsien Seow Hope for the Best, Plan for the Rest, had been available 30 years ago to help guide our family through the questions we all should have been asking along with Dave.

Hope for the Best, Plan for the Rest is an invaluable road map to help people navigate a life-changing diagnosis and prepare for the decisions ahead in a way that also allows hope to be a companion on the journey.

For example, the book provides these “Seven Keys” to help guide you and your family on this journey.

Seven Keys

from Hope for the Best, Plan for the Rest,
written by Dr. Sammy Winemaker and Dr. Hsein Seow

  • Walk Two Roads – Be hopeful and be informed at the same time.
  • Zoom Out – Understand the typical pattern of your illness and what might lie ahead.
  • Know Your Style – Identify your typical coping mechanisms, your default mode and ways of processing information.
  • Customize Your Order – Communicate your wishes, values, and beliefs to help guide treatment choice.
  • Anticipate the Ripple Effects – Consider the people around you and how they may be affected as well as who could provide support.
  • Connect the Dots – Take an active role in coordinating your care (or identifying someone who can).
  • Invite Yourself – Respectfully and assertively speak up for yourself when seeking and offering information.

This book, Hope for the Best, Plan for the Rest offers insights, exercises, and reflections that can act as your compass along the way – helping you prepare to be ‘in the know’ and to make choices that are aligned with what is important to you.  

We were fortunate that Dave was able to intuitively act as that compass for us. He invited himself to a conversation that everyone was reluctant to have, and because he understood the ripple effects, he was able to bring us along on the journey of two roads in such a loving way. He did decide to have treatment and we had a wonderful year of remission, full of family dinners, a fantastic trip to Alaska together, and many healing conversations.

Learning from Dave is a gift I will always be grateful for. It is a big part of why I decided I want to work in hospice palliative care and why I am now working as a coach for caregivers, providing extra support to help people “hope for the best, plan for the rest” and take care of themselves while they do.  


Nadine Valk is a certified coach for Caregivers, Care Providers and Care Teams, as well as an instructor in the Mindfulness Informed End-of-Life Care Program at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies. Compassion for others sometimes feels much easier than cultivating compassion for ourselves, but without self-compassion, we can find ourselves exhausted, stressed, and burnt out.  Coaching can help teams and individuals find their way out of overwhelm to more calm, confidence and peace of mind. To connect with Nadine, go to her website: or follow her on LinkedIn:

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Courtney Murrell is a PSW who works in hospice palliative care.

When she is not at work, she is spending time with her family, going on hikes or writing. Courtney is a lifelong learner and loves to share her passion for writing as a wellness practice.

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