Nancy Manahan & Becky Bohan
Authors and Activists



 “. . . one of the finest books I have ever read! Impeccably written . . . .”

I’ve looked at roughly 2000 books a year for 14 years. One of the books that has most impacted me--not just this year but in my life--is Living Consciously, Dying Gracefully. It is one of the finest books I have ever read!  

Impeccably written, it makes a huge topic accessible. It feels like a good friend chatting with you over tea and a warm fire, helping you to feel cozy, all the while talking about cancer and dying and the moment of death and after the death! The book is juicy, alive, and vital--a compelling read about a woman I wish I'd met, who has become a role model of living fully and dying gracefully.

It's impossible to read it and not be moved, feel more human, open one’s heart, and feel connected to Life. 

Krysta Kavenaugh, M.A.
Editor-in-chief, Marriage Magazine



"a tribute to Diane, . . . a lesson in dying"

Death is a sacred event that can have profound lessons for not only those left behind, but for those who are experiencing their final moments on Earth. It isn’t often, however, that we learn or talk about different approaches to the final phase of life. One woman diagnosed with breast cancer decided to live fully in spite of death, and her story is told in Living Consciously, Dying Gracefully.

Diane Manahan lived an active life brimming with accomplishments that ranged from extensive travel and volunteer work throughout the world, running a marathon, and receiving an extensive education in health care. It wasn’t out of character, then, when diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 55 that she dedicated the rest of her life to appreciating the time she had left. Diane passed away in 2001, and during the nearly six years she lived with cancer, she lived how she thought was most meaningful – by connecting with friends and family, enjoying nature, and not letting herself feel deprived.

Although Living Consciously, Dying Gracefully is a tribute to Diane, it is also a lesson in dying. The authors include reactions of the events immediately following Diane’s death from the washing of the body to traveling with it to the crematorium. For many of the people involved, the whole scenario was a new experience, but felt sacred and even provided closure. Others received a measure of peace or comfort from visits they say Diane paid them after her death.

For others who are interested in learning more or may be experiencing a similar event in their own lives, the authors include several appendices with information and resources to cope with the process. It’s another world explored in this book. Death is not a comfortable subject to speak of, but facing the experience can bring the most meaning to the departure of a loved one.

                                                Beverly Jenkins-Crockett


"the most profund book on death I've ever read"

Nancy Manahan and Becky Bohan team up to write a beautiful tribute to the life of Manahan’s deceased sister-in-law in “Living Consciously, Dying Gracefully: A Journey with Cancer and Beyond.”  The authors hope not only
to remember their loved one in print but to share her extraordinary passagefrom unthinkable diagnosis to dignified death.

“Living Consciously, Dying Gracefully” is the touching story of Diane Manahan – wife, mother, grandmother, sister, colleague, and friend – and her deliberate pathway toward the unavoidable end of her life.  Stricken with cancer, Diane received the short gift of remission before the disease returned with a vengeance and ultimately caused her death.  Although countless families have had to endure such a painful ordeal, Diane’s story brings an enlightened hope and calming peace as she looks at her situation with an unusual perspective.  To most, death is the ultimate unknown – terrifying and avoided in conversation.  Instead of settling in this mindset, Diane chose to live and love each day to the fullest while openly communicating her final wishes on most of her burial and memorial services.

“Living Consciously, Dying Gracefully” is not only a deeply heartfelt story of a woman’s life but a guidebook for those facing similar situations and would like to intentionally leave behind a beautiful legacy.  Both Diane’s story and the authors’ lessons from her life touch the soul and encourage the heart to see death as more than merely ‘the end.’  Manahan and Bohan write with such emotion and love that I found myself mourning Diane’s death but conversely, rejoicing in her conscious life.  They perfectly capture this woman’s spirit with their style, one which brightly radiates from each page.

Since death in inevitable for everyone “Living Consciously, Dying Gracefully” is a book many adults will find of great interest, especially those having to watch a loved one suffer from a terminal illness.  Further, those undergoing a disease themselves and wanting to approach their deaths with more purpose would also greatly benefit from reading this book.  I found that the most profound aspect of Manahan and Bohan’s writing was that Diane – a non-violent person – didn’t view her treatments as a ‘fight,’ a ‘war’ going on between her medicine and the invading cells, or that she was a victim of cancer.  Instead and more positively, she was simply living with cancer – a peaceful journey full of love and mature acceptance even during her conventional and complementary therapies. 

“Living Consciously, Dying Gracefully” is probably the most profound book on death I’ve ever read. 
Manahan and Bohan present a beautiful story of their loved one while offering hope to others that may be facing similar circumstances.  A life lesson for anyone wanting to leave a more powerful heritage behind, “Living Consciously, Dying Gracefully” tugs at the heartstrings, lifts the spirit, and pulls the conscious mind towards a more meaningful life and dignified ending. 

                                                                Vicki Landes for Reader Views

Off the Shelf

"Diane was an exceptionally generous soul who frankly shared her experience with her family, friends, and nursing students."

Living Consciously, Dying Gracefully by Nancy Manahan and Becky Bohan is the poignant story of Diane Manahan's 5 ½ year journey with breast cancer, telling how she and her holistic physician husband pursued treatment and prepared for her life celebration and death.  Diane was an exceptionally generous soul who frankly shared her experience with her family, friends and nursing students.  The book includes her writing and poetry, photos, reflections and observations by friends and family, plus resources for others facing life-threatening illness (descriptions of complementary therapies, ideas for emotional and social support, books and music, websites).  It contains a wealth of knowledge, strength and comfort.  

                                                                                                               Carol McCormick, Storyteller and author of
                                                                                                  A Bridge for Grandma  (Beaver's Pond Press, 2007),
                                                                                                a groud-breaking book to ease childrens' fear of death

University of Texas Medical Branch
Integrative Health Care Newsletter

"This book is much bigger than a biography of life and pathography of death. It reflects a deep passion for healing when curing is no longer possible."

My intention is to
Live out in full color
Live with passion,
Ignite ideas, laughter, wonder
And kindness
Spreading hope in times of darkness

This quote from Diane Manahan’s Life Celebration, after her death from breast cancer, provides a glimpse into the powerfully personal nature of this remarkable book. Diane, a nurse, married to one of the founders of the holistic medicine movement, Bill Manahan, thrived while battling a five and a half year journey with breast cancer.

Written by her sister-in-law and a close friend, this book is a chronicle of what might be called optimal living and dying. The book does not sugar-coat the emotional roller-coaster many cancer patients feel with treatment, recurrence, organ failure, pain, and accompanying social and physical challenges. Indeed, it confronts these directly with a heroic tale of one woman’s approach to making the most of her life and death experience with cancer. . . .

In a fitting tribute to a nurse who dedicated her life to healing, the book closes with an enormously practical and well-thought out Guidebook, Appendices, and Resource sections. These include sensitive and heartfelt advice for those having been diagnosed with a serious illness, going through treatment, in a support group, and on the details of planning an end-of-life experience. . . .

In summation, this book is much bigger than a biography of life and pathography of death. It reflects a deep passion for healing when curing is no longer possible. It offers hope when to some, all hope might be gone. As the title speaks, it truly celebrates conscious living and graceful dying. I highly recommend it to those who care for people with cancer, as well as patients, friends, and families.

              Victor S. Sierpina, MD, W.D and Laura Nell Nicholson Family Professor of Integrative Medicine
                                                                                                    Professor of Family Medicine
                                                                      University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, TX

For Dr. Sierpina's full review, click here



Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing
September 2007, Volume 3, Issue 5, page 543
“an invaluable resource for lay people . . . an important resource for health professionals”

Living Consciously, Dying Gracefully is a compelling and intimate story of a woman and her family’s journey with cancer and beyond.  Diane Manahan, a wife, mother, grandmother, friend, and nursing professor extraordinaire, maintained a journal following her diagnosis with breast cancer in 1995.  In writing about her decision to be open throughout the journey of living and dying, Diane voiced her hope that by being authentic, honest and non-perfect, she might enable others to be vulnerable and to deal with life’s gifts and uncertainties.  The book, authored by Diane’s sister-in-law Nancy Manahan and partner Becky Bohan, includes writing and poetry by Diane and reflections and observations by a rich and diverse circle of friends and family that surrounded Diane and her holistic physician Bill Manahan over the 5 ½ years that Diane lived following her diagnosis with breast cancer.

Part I of the book opens with Diane’s reaction to the shocking diagnosis of cancer that came 5 days before Christmas.  As a reader, I experienced a roller coaster of emotions as I read about the steps she took to gather information, the complexity that surrounded getting a second opinion, having surgery, receiving the pathology report, making the difficult decision to receive chemotherapy, and exploring a wide array of complementary therapies.  The book is unique in the way that it offers the perspective of not only Diane but also those around her.  As such, it is raw, poignant, funny, and provocative but above all, inspirational and instructional.

The second part of the book describes Diane’s death and the days that followed.  Diane chose to die at home in her own bed and to have the visitation there. After her death, her husband and women friends washed her body with warm water infused with lavender oil, dressed Diane and prepared her for the visitation.  Following the visitation, family members took the unusual step of accompanying the body to the crematorium.  Here, rituals were performed that help family members absorb the finality of Diane’s passing.  A Life Celebration was held in a nearby park. First person narratives of several people give voice to experiences that people at times experience following the death of a loved one. The accounts reflect mysterious, profoundly meaningful and healing experiences not often publicly verbalized. The experiences, as described, provide reassurance that life goes on and that connections with those we love are maintained.

The final part of the book is a guide that provides detailed information on how to deal with serious illness and death. Beyond telling the story of how this family chose to face death , this book provides exquisite detail and instructions on topics including  making plans for after you die, how to care for someone having a seizure, washing and caring for the body after death,  planning a visitation or vigil, and holding a memorial service. 

While Living Consciously, Dying Gracefully is an invaluable resource book for lay people facing a serious illness and death, it is also an important resource for health professionals. It provides a different view of death and dying, one that few health professionals have experienced.  Patients and family member looks to nurses, physicians and other health professionals for information and advice.  This book provides accessible wisdom and guidance that demonstrates beyond a doubt that both life and death provide an opportunity to radiate grace, dignity and  beauty.

Mary Jo Kreitzer Ph.D., RN, FAAN
Director of the Center for Spirituality and Healing
Professor, University of Minnesota School of Nursing   



International Association for Hospice and Palliative Care, September 2007 e-newsletter 

"[I] was also impressed by the photographs of [Diane] playing the cello and finishing the Twin Cities marathon."

This is the story of one woman’s five-year journey with breast cancer. She was a remarkable woman, a professor of nursing who integrated complementary therapies with orthodox cancer treatments. Her manner of dealing with a life-threatening illness inspired many of those around her; your reviewer was also impressed by the photographs of her playing the cello and finishing the Twin Cities marathon. The book contains a useful guide to dealing with day-to-day issues surrounding death and dying.

Roger Woodruff, MD
Director of Palliative Care, Austin Health
Melbourne, Australia

New Spirit Journal
Aug. 2007, p. 15

 "a valuable book that gives insight, encouragement, and many ideas and support for those who wish to approach the experience of illness and dying in a conscious and loving way."

It seems that more and more spiritually-aware people - people who live holistic lifestyles, meditate daily, and who place their spirituality at the top of their list of important things - are experiencing a dance with cancer. This book will be of special value to these people, their families, and to others who are involved in any sort of serious illness.

The authors take us through Diane Manahan's five-year experience with breast cancer, the choices she and her husband made, and the remission of the disease only to have it return three years later, through her actual death and cremation and how she prepared for the experience. This is not an easy book to read if you have a life-threatening illness yourself or if you have walked the death-path with a loved one. Some of Diane's actual journey entries are included which makes the book even more impactful and helpful.

It is a valuable book that gives insight, encouragement, and many ideas and support for those who wish to approach the experience of illness and dying in a conscious and loving way.

Krista Gibson. Editor-in-Chief, New Spirit Journal






May 2, 2007

 "an important book for anyone working in the field of Hospice."

This book chronicles one woman’s mindful journey of intention and attention from cancer diagnosis through treatment, remission, recurrence, planning/preparing for her own death, and beyond. Diane Jansen Manahan was supported and accompanied throughout by her devoted husband, family, friends, colleagues, students and by both traditional and complementary medicine professionals and healers. 

It is clear that Diane made this journey as she had lived her life…from the heart. In this lovingly written book we not only share Diane’s experience, but are offered many invaluable resources: descriptions of various healing philosophies and complementary therapies, ideas for emotional and social support, books, music, websites and more.

 I believe this is an important book for anyone working in the field of Hospice. Diane was a nurse, teacher, adventurer and visionary. The book is available at,, or at bookstores.

Reviewed by Judith Ingram, Volunteer, Methodist Hospital Hospice
May 2, 2007Hospice Alert, an e-newsletter of Hospice Minnesota



A woman faces death with all of the love and passion that had filled her life. Diane Manahan was known to her family and many friends as strong, energetic, irreverent, generous and loving. Here, Diane’s sister-in-law and her partner share how Diane chose to live out her remaining time and how she chose to die. She had been a nurse and a teacher throughout her adult life, and when she learned that the breast cancer that had been in remission for a few years had returned and metastasized, she gave up neither of those vocations. Instead, she incorporated her experiences of treatment and pain into her teaching in order to help her students become better nurses. With her physician husband, she also explored and incorporated alternative therapies into her treatment.

When it became clear that her death was imminent, she began to make detailed plans for her life celebration and for the handling of her remains. Manahan (On My Honor, 1998) and Bohan present this book not only as a testament to Diane, but also as a preservation of her legacy of good works, and to share the resources that she and her family drew on during the last months of her life.

Through Diane’s journal, letters, photographs and family and friends’ memories of her, the authors create a vivid portrait of this extraordinary woman, and offer necessary guidance to those living with cancer and their loved ones, about how to continue living, and, if and when the time comes, dying, according to their values.

A wealth of knowledge, strength and comfort.

Kirkus Discoveries

The Midwest Book Review: A Heart-touching Journey
July 2007

Living Consciously Dying Gracefully: A Journey With Cancer and Beyond is a memoir reminiscing about and paying tribute to nursing professor Diane Manahan, a courageous, warm and loving woman. When she was diagnosed with breast cancer, she chose to blend complementary therapies and orthodox cancer treatments, and she lived a full and vibrant life for five and a half years until her death. Written by Nancy Manahan and Becky Bohan, life-partners who were both graced to know Diane, Living Consciously, Dying Gracefully isn't just about illness and death, but also life and spirituality. A heart-touching journey, and uplifting inspirational resource for anyone going through life-or-death trials or witnessing such challenges visited upon a loved one.

The Midwest Book Review

Armchair Interviews: Stunning story of living and dying
April 11, 2007

Authors Nancy Manahan and Becky Bohan weave the inspiring story of a woman's five-year experience with breast cancer. We are given the ending in the title of the book, Living Consciously, Dying Gracefully: A Journey With Cancer and Beyond but the essence of the narrative is more about the celebration of a life well-lived in every way.

I did not want to read this book. We may all have a loved one who has traveled this frightening journey in some way. Perhaps it is our own path. My own sister is now a seven-year breast cancer survivor, and I certainly did not want to relive those helpless years when my family was consumed in grief and on an emotional roller coaster, living each day in fear for the next.

But this is the story of a very different model of one woman's choice to "deal with life's gifts and life's uncertainties as they have been thrust upon me." From her initial journal entry on the first page, Diane Manahan, a nurse, a teacher, and sister-in-law to Nancy Manahan, invites us to experience the life she tried to live in "an out-loud way."

The book is in four parts:
-- This Long Journey with Cancer as My Companion
-- A Graceful Death
-- Living On. The authors reference Diane's own journals, interviews with her family and friends, as well as their own personal relationship with her.
-- The last section, Guidebook: Lessons from Diane on dealing with serious illness or death, contains practical suggestions for individuals, caregivers, and anyone seeking a loving and spiritual experience in "living consciously and dying gracefully."

This is an unforgettable, deeply touching and honestly written book and I highly recommend it. It's not about fearing death--it's about embracing life.

Armchair Interviews says: It is a difficult journey that we might all face one day. Learning how others handle such situations is helpful. 

Armchair Interviews

Autographed and personalized copies of Living Consciously, Dying Gracefully: A Journey with Cancer and Beyond may be ordered from the authors’ website. The book also may be ordered from the publisher or