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Just Keep Breathing

Paperback – January 16th, 2013 (LPEd Aug 15th 2013)

Ebook | $7.95 Paperback | $14.95 Large Print Paperback | $14.95

My husband has AIDS. I miraculously don’t. How am I going to survive? …I try to keep from screaming, “Dennis, you can’t do this to me now. I left my family, my friends, my job, pulled the kids away from their school and friends—you can’t quit on us. You can’t.”

Through clenched teeth, he controls his response, “Scott, I’m tired. I’m dying.” Dennis is walking away and does not sound tired; he sounds angry.

“Have you not heard anything I’ve told you for the last twenty-three years? I love you; you are my life. Don’t you dare think I’m not dying here, too. You may be the one who gets buried, but I’m the one who has to figure out how to keep living. I’m dying, Dennis; I’m dying with you.”

We stand there, energy spent, emotionally depleted, tears falling. I take him in my arms, and we hold on to each other as if we draw life’s breath from the other—because we do.

He sits on the sofa, and I go find the Dallas phone book so I can call Restland, the place where we will bury his body.
When Joan Scott Curtis was 43 years old, she found out her husband was dying of AIDS. He had been infected for thirteen years. She tested negative. None of this was possible.

It was the mid 1990s. All the prejudices about AIDS are not supposed to exist anymore, but they do. Just Keep Breathing is the remarkable story about finding courage in small victories, on taking solace in helping others, and knowing that even though the major battle will be lost, the ability to live on with grace and dignity is what defines the war.


Title: Just Keep Breathing. At 44, he died. She didn’t.
Author: Joan Scott Curtis
ISBN: Trade Paperback: 978-1-936449-40-8
ISBN: EBook: 978-1-936449-41-5
ISBN: Large Print Edition: 978-1-936449-56-9
BISAC: Family & Relationships : Death, Grief, Bereavement, Biography & Autobiography : Personal Memoirs, Family Relationships : Family Relationships
LOCCN: 2013930817
Pages: 248 (Large Print Ed. – 350 pages)
Price: Trade & Large Print Paperback – $14.95
Price: E-Book – $7.95
Trim: 5×8 (Large Print – 6×9)
Publication date: January 16th, 2013 (LPEd Aug 15th 2013)

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Editorial Review

Patti Machin Garrett,
City Commissioner, Decatur, Georgia

An extraordinary journey told in a spiritually insightful way that will grip your heart and your emotions and cause you to take a step back and be grateful—that in some way, you will know Joan and indeed, yourself, a little better.

Carol Coulter,
Retired Educator

There are many types and examples of bravery. In this true story by first-time author and educator Joan Curtis, you will experience how she coped on a daily basis with the challenge of her husband’s battle with AIDs, the needs of their five children, and her own spiritual highs and lows of a life turned upside down. The honesty with which Curtis writes is sometimes painful and always surprising. It is a story that kept me turning pages because of this honesty. Above all, it is a triumphant love story that illustrates how one woman lived out the wedding promise of “til death do us part” and today continues to honor this love through the life she is living and the courage she is sharing. Her lesson is a simple one: If I can, you, also, can.

Leslie Patterson, Ph. D., Professor, University of North Texas College of Education

Joan Curtis has written courageously about courageous decisions. In the face of incredible pain, she faces each decision with honesty and strength—graciously accepting help when she needs it and generously sharing her
strength when she sees others in need. From those daily decisions and conversations, she builds a network of love
and support for everyone around her, and, when she needs it, that network supports her as well.

Carol D. Wickstrom, Ph. D.,
Associate Professor, University of North Texas College of Education

Despite the personal pain that Curtis had to endure, her words flow gently on the page as she shares her story of
courage, tenacity, and caring.

Julie Tolle, English Teacher,
Billy Ryan High School

With unflinching detail, Joan Curtis recounts the end of her husband’s life and the ensuing devastation to her
family. With humor, determination, and unconditional love for her children, Curtis demonstrates the power of
hope and the strength of the human spirit.

Tom Sanchez, A Miraculous Story of Tragedy and Amazing Recovery -- 2013-04-17
(nb: I received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley)

My mother once asked, “Who counsels the counselor? Who ministers to the minister, or nurses the nurse?”

“Just Keep Breathing” deals with these questions. Author Joan Scott Curtis found herself playing these roles–and countless more–trying to hold her family together.

Her resulting memoir, “Just Keep Breathing,” is one of the most simultaneously heartrending and heartwarming books you will ever read.

Joan Scott Curtis found out one day that her husband had AIDS. This was back in the mid-90′s, when AIDS was usually a death sentence.

It was for him, too.

“Just Keep Breathing” tells the story of her husband, Dennis, and his rapid decline from a disease so stigmatized that they only dared tell a few friends it was AIDS. Dennis Curtis always enjoyed life. All too soon, he suffered seemingly constant sickness, hospital stays, and medicines he couldn’t keep down. Most of all, he suffered knowing he was leaving behind five kids and a wife, all of whom loved and depended upon him.

However, the main focus is not on Dennis’ illness and deterioration.

This painfully honest memoir relates what Joan Scott Curtis endured to keep her family going. Of course, she was heartbroken watching her husband suffer. But even as she nursed the dying man she loved, real life continued apace. She had to bring in money. Five kids needed to eat every day. They needed rides to soccer practice and help with their homework, just like lots of normal children. On top of childhood’s usual cadences, these kids knew their father was rapidly dying, and their mother had to help them cope with that, too.

Mrs. Curtis is a woman of faith, and some days that was probably the only thing that kept her going–faith and friends. What makes her story even more compelling is that when she grew stronger as a person, it wasn’t because she decided she’d grieved long enough, and maybe she’d like to try being stronger. She had no such luxury. Her husband died without life insurance, and the only way her family would have money to survive is if she went and earned it.

The fight to juggle devastating grief and real-world necessity makes “Just Keep Breathing” an amazingly powerful book.
This is obviously a survivor’s tale, and surviving wasn’t easy. There was no “Rocky” style montage, where Joan Scott Curtis suddenly becomes Wonder Woman. She took her first awkward steps because she had to. Gradually, she grew more confident, and by the story’s end, she was running. Her unfailing courage in describing her struggles makes her triumphs sound all the sweeter.
“Just Keep Breathing” will move you from tears of sadness to tears of joy, and it is one of the most absorbing and memorable books in recent memory.

Oh, and when I referred to her above as “Mrs. Curtis”? That’s one of her victories: it’s now “Dr. Curtis.”

Highly Recommended

Ann Marie Gleicher, Just Keep Breathing -- 2013-05-20

Just Keep Breathing is a difficult read. Not because it isn't well written but because it deals with the unexpected. The terminal illness and death of a spouse.

Curtis's memoir chronicles her husband's battle with AIDS and her struggle to keep her family together. Her husband has been infected for over 13 years and by sheer luck, she is HIV negative. Her husband is dying and she can only stand by and watch him take his last breath. Curtis somehow manages to find the strength to overcome all the obstacles that are put upon her. She is honest and open with her emotions, which make this read something that stays with you long after you've finished the book.

Grade: A



5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful read!, March 28, 2013
By Susan Reinbach
This review is from: Just Keep Breathing (Kindle Edition)

This is a triumphant story of love, faith, and hope. I loved this page-turner!
Joan Scott Curtis' journey is inspirational.

5.0 out of 5 stars Just Keep Breathing, February 26, 2013
This review is from: Just Keep Breathing (Paperback)

It is an unbelievable story of how a mother kept her family together in the worst of times and how she rebuilt her life to count for something. If you have lost someone to death, to divorce, or just to life, it is a must read!

5.0 out of 5 stars A must read if you've lost a beloved husband..., February 16, 2013
By Beverly Rigsby (Richardson, TX USA)
This review is from: Just Keep Breathing (Paperback)

I finished this in 3 evenings and was hard put to lay it down at bedtime. This is a book that I wish I had had when my beloved husband passed away but it, of course, wasn't in print 8 years ago. I loved the way the book was written in the present tense. It made it seem so immediate. Ms. Curtis went through all the phases of the death of a husband beginning with the first shock of diagnoses and being told right then that he was terminal; just a matter of when.

The author let us know how death affects the family and friends and especially any children that are still at home and she left nothing out. She put it all out there, warts and all, along with the loving care that the children showed to her and each other. That was a brave thing to do and my admiration on how she held it all together is boundless.

There were differences, of course, in the deaths of our husbands. The causes were not the same, she was much younger than I when we became widows, and she still had children at home and in her care. But there were similarities that gripped my heart. She and her older daughter were there and watched husband/father take his last breath just as it was with me and my daughter - even to the part of going to Restland together to make funeral arrangements. If one wonders how Ms. Curtis could remember so accurately all the things that happened, I can tell you that it is because that whole unbearably stressful time her husband was sick was imprinted on her so deeply. Those memories are still there but they haven't held her back.

I believe that God wraps us in a sort of "bubble wrap" of shock at the death of a loved one that helps us do and get through the things that must be done. If someone is at the point where the protective shock has worn off, this is a book that I recommend. Even after 8 years, there were words of comfort that were so good for me. Even if you aren't mourning someone, you will be moved and touched by the story of how one woman managed to fight the storm and bring herself and her children to a safe port...and then rebuild her life.

5.0 out of 5 stars Inspirational Story, January 25, 2013
By Village belle
This review is from: Just Keep Breathing (Paperback)

In her book Just Keep Breathing, Joan Scott Curtis tells the poignant story of the death of her young husband of AIDS. Joan shares the traumatic effects of the loss on her life and the lives of her children. With the pain of loss, comes great recovery and triumphant for her and her family. As a new widow, I found the story of recovery for Joan and her family so inspiring. I would recommend this book to anyone that is suffering loss, especially young mothers with children. Thank you, Joan

5.0 out of 5 stars Once I started reading this book, I could not put it down....., November 15, 2013
By Spirit
This review is from: Just Keep Breathing (Paperback)

I often read at night to fall asleep. I started reading this book at 11:30pm and could not stop until I completed the last page.....hours later. Joan Scott Curtis tells her story that reaches out to anyone who has ever experienced or who will experience the death of a loved one in such a way that the reader's heart is filled with compassionate understanding. It is the story of a mom, who through her husband's death, courageously just kept going forward one step at a time. I highly recommend reading this book. It is filled with honesty. You will be touched..

5.0 out of 5 stars Courageous, September 27, 2013
By Floyd Rumbaugh (Longview, Texas)
This review is from: Just Keep Breathing (Paperback)

Beautifully written. Could feel the pain and courage through her writing. It made me realize how easily this could happen to any family. Must read for anyone that has had the loss of a loved one or anyone that might have their life turned upside down by losing someone close to them.

Floyd Rumbaugh

5.0 out of 5 stars I have never read such a testament to the strength and resiliency of the human spirit ..., September 19, 2013
By AuntieK3 (USA)
This review is from: Just Keep Breathing (Kindle Edition)

"At 44 he died. She didn't." The brilliant front cover draws you in. The synopsis on the back gives you a general idea of the plot. Be prepared. This is one of those books that grabs you by the heart and keeps you thinking long after you've lingered over the very last page. I was fortunate to receive an ebook copy of this story from NetGalley in exchange for my honest and unbiased review. This book literally had me at the front cover. I was intrigued enough to see what it was about. After reading the first few inside paragraphs, I couldn't put the book down until I was finished, only to go back and start over at page one again.

Author Joan Scott Curtis, her husband and their five children went through a horrific, traumatic and life-changing experience that only persons who have walked a similar journey can begin to understand. Beginning with her husband's diagnosis of HIV and finishing about ten years after his passing, Curtis has laid her heart on these pages in stunning detail, paying special attention to events that happened in her children’s lives. Always thinking of how she could help others around her cope better, Curtis was selfless in seeing that each family member's needs were met and in the right way.

I think that's what struck me most while reading her book. The intuitive and rational way she was able to manage her job, their finances, two moves, fights with health insurance companies, taking care of each of their children, spending quality time with her dying husband and still managing to "breathe" and move forward. Her unshakeable faith in God and her close circle of friends and family were her pillars of strength and she was smart enough to seek them out, in the midst of the chaos, to help keep her grounded so she could be strong for her children and her husband. The author could very well have, and had every right to, turn this story into an angry or woeful tale. Instead, she tackled things head-on, relying on her deep faith in God to see her through.

I truly enjoyed this book and would, without hesitation, rate it a five out of five. I would highly recommend it to people who may be traveling a similar journey, grieving the loss of a loved one through incurable disease, parenting children who have lost a close loved one or those simply wanting to read a good book.

5.0 out of 5 stars keep the tissues handy, June 16, 2013
By taostee
This review is from: Just Keep Breathing (Kindle Edition)

When one knows the characters, or most of them, and is familiar with the setting (yes, I know how hot Texas is in the summer!), the parameters for a good read are met! Thank you, Joan, for taking the time to write about your journey so that others may see the light....'to just keep breathing.' This book is an excellent support mechanism for those who have lost family, for those who question their faith, for those single parents who grieve for their children the loss of part of their childhood.

5.0 out of 5 stars From a widow...., April 26, 2013
By Nancy Barron
This review is from: Just Keep Breathing (Paperback)

This is one of the best books I have read since losing my husband to cancer 11 years ago. Joan Curtis put into words so many of the feelings I had but could not express as well. I have bought copies for two of my friends who are also widows and for a widowed friend who heads up a grief group for widows and widowers. I recommend this book to anyone who has lost a spouse but would not give it to someone whose loss has been fairly recent. Some healing is needed before reading the strong emotions. Thank you, Joan, for this honest account of the difficulty of losing one's beloved partner for life.

5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Read For Sure!!, March 11, 2013
By Donna
This review is from: Just Keep Breathing (Paperback)

Exceptional story of how a person overcomes obstacles in their life, and coming away from the whole tragedy with a positive outlook on life. This is a story of a strong person, who embraces her faith to get her through her tragedies.

5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing woman/amazing story, March 9, 2013
By Merrikay Shade
This review is from: Just Keep Breathing (Paperback)

This book was riveting. I couldn't stop reading, although I felt like I was walking this painful journey with her. She is an amazing woman of great faith who brought herself and her children through one of life's most difficult experiences by relying on her faith. This book would be a great tool for grief groups to use to realize that life will get better and you can survive. Although I'm sure this was painful to relive in the writing, Mrs. Curtis has created a lasting memorial to her husband, her children, and to herself through her imagery of loss and grief.

5.0 out of 5 stars Real life at its best and worst, February 24, 2013
By Pam
This review is from: Just Keep Breathing (Paperback)

Joan Curtis' book is a riveting story of survival during life's most traumatic moments. Her real life story depicts how she and her family overcame the death of their precious husband and father. Due to her husband's sacrifice for Joan's brother, Denise Curtis contracted HIV/AIDS. This book shows all of us that life is not predictable, but the responses to the unknowable may be successfully navigated with faith in Christ, support of family, and genuine love from friends.

Curtis' writing style is conversational, so her book is an easy read. While reading it, I can hear her simply sharing her story with a friend while sipping a cup of tea. Quite honestly, I could not put the book down upon beginning it. This engagement with the book is due to the simple style as well as the desire to know how the author thrived during life's darkest moments. The inspiration within this story makes me want to share it with everyone I know. I am left thinking, "If Joan and her kids can overcome this insurmountable obstacle then my day is a walk in the park!" Dr. Curtis' strength and courage is contagious!

Buy three copies because you’ll want to give to the person who is attempting to navigate the unforeseen obstacles of life. Thank you, Joan Scott Curtis for taking the time to write your story of love and redemption.

5.0 out of 5 stars Faith and optimism during adversity, February 10, 2013
By avid reader
This review is from: Just Keep Breathing (Paperback)

I had been looking forward to Joan Curtis's memoir Just Keep Breathing for some time. When it finally arrived, I began reading it right away and could not put it down. Curtis's gift for writing and her details of the events leading up to her husband's death and the effects on her and her family and friends did not disappoint. This is a true story of one woman's courage, optimism, and faith during a time of extreme adversity and how she came out of the experience and has gone on to live her life in a satisfying and positive manner. Hurrah for Joan!

5.0 out of 5 stars Ever wonder how far the human spirit can bend without breaking?, February 8, 2013
By G. W. STRUNK "gwsdds" (Texas)
This review is from: Just Keep Breathing (Paperback)

As I read this book, I kept thinking.... "what else could possibly go wrong?". Joan has shared with the reader, the journey she and her family traveled when the worst news possible blanketed them. Read it. You will be inspired.


5.0 out of 5 stars Real Life, February 3, 2013
By Gayle Baar
This review is from: Just Keep Breathing (Paperback)

Just Keep Breathing, a memoir by Joan Scott Curtis, is real life in print. Joan skillfully tells her story of loss, struggle and faith. I literally could not put it down. Love and perseverance, faith and devotion to family, shine through. Thank you Joan, for sharing your story, and for showing others that there is life after loss.

5.0 out of 5 stars gripping, February 1, 2013
By Tonya
This review is from: Just Keep Breathing (Paperback)

I couldn't put this book down. Just Keep Breathing is an inspiring story of enduring through tragedy. Great advice! Thank you for writing it.

5.0 out of 5 stars This book will touch everyone, regardless of where you are in the cycle of life, January 30, 2013
By Kamsab
This review is from: Just Keep Breathing (Paperback)

I started reading Just Keep Breathing at 10 pm last night and finished 2 hours and 59 minutes later. I could not put it down. Inspiring story of true love, family, friends and the importance of the support groups we all need to keep going when facing one of life's worst tragedies.

5.0 out of 5 stars Empowering, January 29, 2013
By Amanda
This review is from: Just Keep Breathing (Paperback)

Reminding us that a life is made not by what you do but by the people you love, Just Keep Breathing pulls you in with honest and masterful storytelling and sends you back into the world empowered. A great gift for so many occasions, buy two today!

5.0 out of 5 stars Very heartfelt & touching story, January 29, 2013
By K.A.
This review is from: Just Keep Breathing (Paperback)

Very fast read, couldn't put it down. A glimpse into the life of a wife and mother faced with losing her husband too young and left to pick up the pieces of her own as well as her 5 children's lives. Gives anyone who is grieving over the loss of a loved one hope that life will go on. Highly recommended!

5.0 out of 5 stars "Just Keep Breathing" by Joan Scott Curtis, January 27, 2013
By Judy Cashell, Longview, TX.
This review is from: Just Keep Breathing (Paperback)

"Just Keep Breathing" by Joan Scott Curtis is a must read. On a personal level we were classmates, even tho we didn’t travel in the same circles. I was touched by her story, never dreaming she would not have the perfect life as I would imagine. Losing her young husband of Aids, raising five children, financial troubles and yet her Faith in God got her through those devastating times. All I can say is she an awesome woman with a life story that is touching, real, and inspirational to others, as we all have a story. I won't speak of the end of the book, you will be surprised and smile. Thank you for sharing, Joan.

5.0 out of 5 stars Read this book!, January 26, 2013
By juan
This review is from: Just Keep Breathing (Paperback)

Curtis' Just Keep Breathing (2013) is a gem, eloquently detailing an inspirational story of love, loss, and new found strength.

5.0 out of 5 stars An Inspirational Woman with an Inspirational Story, February 24, 2013
By Brandie Wiley "Amazon Addict" (Fort Worth, TX)
This review is from: Just Keep Breathing (Paperback)

I read this book in two sittings. I just could not put it down. Dr. Curtis writes of her and her family's journey in such a way that the reader just cannot walk away from the book. She is a wonderful woman with a strong faith that helped her at each new bump in the road. I, too, am a mother, so I felt like I could empathize with her feelings and could understand many of the actions she took. But her faith in God is what really impressed me throughout the memoir. I was so moved by the courage and attitude that she had as a result of her prayers and the strong relationships with those around her. I am so glad that she chose to share this story with the world. I have already lent my copy to my mother to read, and my sister is next in line. It is a story worth sharing. Buy the book. Read it. Share it with others. You'll be glad you did.