Book description:

GROWTH is about shattered expectations of motherhood.

GROWTH is about the intersection of medical gaslighting, people-pleasing, and a child's deterioration. What could possibly go wrong?

GROWTH is about a women's naive expectations of motherhood and her inability to speak up, even when her child's survival depend on it. 


Karen is a happily married, slightly frazzled mother of two when her eight-year-old son, Matthew, develops a strange eye-rolling tic. Matthew’s tics quickly multiply. He becomes clumsy and lethargic, a gifted program dropout. Karen tries to get her husband and their pediatrician to acknowledge what’s happening, but they dismiss her concerns. As a people-pleaser, Karen lacks the skills to assert herself and stifles the growing dread in her heart. For three years, Matthew steadily deteriorates while Karen questions if she has the fortitude required of motherhood. Finally, desperation breaks through her fear of conflict, and she demands answers, only to be horrified by the truth.

Matthew has a brain tumor.

A delicate surgery and promise of complete recovery convince Karen her battle is over. But she is wrong. The ensuing years launch her on a journey of perseverance and personal growth she never imagined, teaching Karen just how weak she is--and then exactly how strong.


Can a woman who never learned to stand up for herself find the courage to speak up for her son?

What happens when “the most important job in the world” demands more than you have to give?

When medical gaslighting, people-pleasing, and a child's deterioration intersect, what could possibly go wrong?

People-pleasing is a liability when your child is sick.


  • People-pleasing; listening to your gut 
  • Societal and internalized expectations of mothers
  •  The education system’s expectations of children and parents
  •  Extreme demands of motherhood
  •  Childhood medical crises; mourning the loss of the child you knew 
  • Parenting a neurodiverse child; 
  • The healthcare system’s dismissal of women’s concerns
  • Living with a mild cognitive impairment
  • Binge eating disorder
  • Perseverance. Love.

Target audiences:

  • Mothers
  • Women who struggle to speak up for themselves
  • Parents of children with neurodiversity and educational challenges
  • Individuals in the brain tumor/injury communities and their families
  • Those who have fought to be heard in the healthcare system
  • Readers who enjoy memoirs, medical mysteries, and inspirational stories 

Trade Reviews:

Midwest Book Review. D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer:

“Growth: A Mother, Her Son, and the Brain Tumor They Survived is a memoir about parenting, health challenges, and the process of fighting for a child's life.

When her son Matthew was eight, he developed an odd tic which evolved into other symptoms that mother Karen DeBonis found alarming. Her efforts to alert her husband and Matthew's pediatrician that something was wrong fell on deaf ears, as neither wanted to accept that Matthew could be facing a dangerous health condition at such a young age.

Years passed before a frightening diagnosis was obtained; but even then, DeBonis found herself constantly in the position of advocating for her son's treatment and recovery.

DeBonis is especially adept at charting the changes to relationships that Matthew's trials introduced: "I’d rarely seen my father cowed and apologetic. He looked vulnerable, and I wanted to yell at him again. In a flash of anger, our relationship experienced a subtle shift. I had become less his little girl and more Matthew’s mom."

DeBonis is candid in both her self-assessment of her abilities and how far she will go to pursue options for Matthew: 

"Some moms travel the globe in search of treatment or a cure for their sick child ... I was not that mom. I wasn’t a world traveler, and my sense of direction was so bad, I didn’t trust myself to navigate a big city. What good would I be to Matthew if we both got lost? Plus, I wouldn’t intentionally abandon Stephen to move away with his older brother, even temporarily. Maybe if Matthew needed to relearn how to speak and walk and eat, I’d have hopped on the nearest bus to Timbuktu. But he didn’t, so I wouldn’t. We had to make this work on our own turf."

Any mother who has faced a child's illness and is called upon to be proactive in ways she never has before, in environments she is both familiar and unfamiliar with, will find in Growth a powerful set of examples on how motherhood can be tested. A mother can experience growth from all kinds of events, even from one's own child.

The eye-opening revelations of disparate sources of growth that come from within, one's children, and life itself makes for a story that embraces the wellsprings of strength, revised perceptions, and choices in taking different courses of action not just for a child's sake, but for the family as a whole.

More than a memoir about living with a tumor and handling medical challenges, it's a saga of personal transformation and resilience that will resonate with any parent charged with acting in their child's best interests, against all odds.

Libraries and readers seeking thought-provoking additions to parenting collections will find Growth not only suitable for personal enlightenment, but a fine recommendation to book clubs looking for memoirs about parenting, health advocacy, and growth.”

GROWTH book cover art