Maria Quiban Whitesell: You Can’t Do It Alone

By Anna Griffin, Editor in Chief

For those who watch her daily weather forecasts on Fox 11’s Good Day LA, Maria Quiban (Whitesell), is a familiar and friendly face. Her warmth is infectious and broadcasting from home through a pandemic, she is an uplifting breath of fresh air. Until recently however, few people knew that Quiban had endured a devastating loss. Her beloved husband, Sean, was diagnosed with Glioblastoma, a rare and deadly form of brain cancer that tragically took his life in December 2015.

In June, Quiban released her first book, You Can’t Do It Alone, which details their experience from diagnosis to his untimely passing 18 months later. An honest and poignant account, Quiban takes us on an incredibly moving and personal journey that details their love story, and how as a couple and parents to their young son, Gus, they united in strength in their fight against the disease.

You Can’t Do It Alone is a book for our times that any reader will effortlessly fall into. Heartfelt and inspiring, Quiban courageously shares her story in the hope of raising awareness and helping others, while gently reminding us that we can’t (and don’t need to) do it alone.

Coco Eco:

One of the things that impacted me was reading about yours and Sean’s courage, and your mindset to be positive. I found this remarkable considering what you were both going through, as individuals and as a couple with a young son.

Maria Quiban:

That’s why I wrote the book, because I really hope it can inspire people. We all have our unique stories and our journeys, and have all experienced loss to some degree. I am hoping that the book will inspire others, but it’s also a chance for me to talk about our love story while bringing awareness to Glioblastoma and brain cancer. This particular type of cancer lacks funding and awareness and it’s still one of the rare cancers, meaning it doesn’t affect as many people as some of the cancers that are out there, but it needs attention. It truly can affect anyone: Young, old, male, or female at any time, so we need to focus some attention and funding to that disease. 

CE:

What are some of the ways you’re doing that?

MQ:

First and foremost I try to talk about it, especially in May, which is brain cancer awareness month. I do my best to wear grey, which is the color of brain cancer and represents the grey matters of the brain. I try to talk about it as much as I can on the air, and mention how it is one of the rarest forms of cancer and needs funding. I also talk about it at different events I am asked to speak at, so I can raise more awareness because so many people still don’t know about Glioblastoma or brain cancer.

CE:

You and Sean found so many things to laugh at together, and going through all of his treatments, were still able to find joy. You write how you were even able to have belly aching laughs, which is really inspiring.


MQ:

You can’t forget that, even now. They didn’t cancel joy and the more we gravitated towards that, I am grateful, because laughter is the best medicine. It’s an expression that we all hear, but it’s literally true, so we made an effort everyday to find joy and to try to laugh. Even if it was renting a funny movie or sharing funny videos or memes, it’s a way for us to release that stress and feel better. So yes, laughter is the best medicine.

CE:

This book really is a gift, and while reading it I felt a sense of your mission. It’s valuable that you are reminding us that there are people we can connect with and to just ask for help, because I think we all forget that sometimes.

MQ:

My contributing writer, Lauren Schneider, is an amazing wealth of information. She is a licensed therapist and deals with grief, specifically with children. Going through what we went through with Gus, who had just turned five when his father passed, and the language that I had to learn to speak to him about cancer, death and illness, I am so thankful that I had those tools and we found our village.

I hope the book can encourage others to find their village and that support system, because like the title of the book, You Can’t Do It Alone, we truly can’t do this alone. You may say to me, “I don’t have a family like you do, Maria. I don’t have that support system that you did,” but guess what? We have technology. We can still connect with each other. They’re out there so ask for help, and I hope my book can help people find those ways of doing that along with Lauren Schneider’s tips.

CE:

You mention the importance of diet after a cancer diagnosis. How has experiencing Sean’s fight against the disease impacted your life now?

MQ:

I am definitely more aware of what I put in my body and I do try to limit my sugar content. Going through the different treatments with Sean - the fact he lived for 18 months and how he lived for 17 out of those 18 months - were really quite remarkable in terms of how healthy we were. I really attribute a lot of it to the ketogenic diet he was on, which we adopted as a family.

It was a high protein diet with lots of green vegetables, zero sugar and very few carbs. I do keep at the back of my mind about inflammation and the things that go on in your body when you eat a lot of meat, especially processed meat with all the steroids. 

CE:

You also discuss how you used CBD, which I am a big advocate of because it’santi-inflammatory properties. Can you tell us how it helped?

MQ:

Yes, it’s all related and all about inflammation. When Sean was diagnosed he had all these symptoms and side effects, not just from the tumors, but also from the chemotherapy, radiation, and different kinds of treatments. We turned to CBD. Doctors still consider it anecdotal, but they definitely recognize that there are some positive results from taking it in different forms. We got our cannabis cards, and it really helped Sean not to be as nauseous. It helped him to regain his appetite back because with radiation and chemo, the last thing you want to do is eat. It also helped him with the pain, so yes I am a big proponent for cannabis and I hope it passes Federally because with further research, we can get more positive affects from it. 

CE:

What are some of the ways people can support you, and get involved in raising awareness for Gliobastoma?

MQ:

You can start my educating yourselves about Glioblastoma and brain cancer. Purchase the book, not only for someone who has been touched by brain cancer, but really for any loss. There are some universal stories that can apply to everyone, particularly now during this pandemic and this sense of helplessness that we’re all feeling globally. Some of the feelings I went through are so applicable now.

CE:

Speaking of now, how have you and Gus been finding your joy through this pandemic? What have you two been up to?

MQ:

We do the normal things. We click onto YouTube videos, and we thankfully have a backyard and a small pool, so we jump in there and we just try to find the joy and the funny, because trust me, It’s out there everyday. You just have to look and if that’s your mission, you’ll find it. 

CE:

What’s next for you? Restrictions are eased and you have this amazing book. What plans do you have to promote it?

MQ:

I can’t believe the book is actually finished. It took me almost two and a half years to write it, and the fact it’s actually finished, I’m trying to enjoy and cherish that. My goal is to really promote it.

That’s what I am going to do, and I am going to dive right in there. I am thrilled and terrified, but mostly thrilled about sharing our story and being able to help someone, because that really helps heal my heart. I have a broken heart right now and it’s healing, but I know there is room in there for other things. Watching Gus grow up to be a fine young man, like his older brother and his father, gives me so much joy. Helping other people through this book gives me joy and helps heal my heart, so that’s my focus.

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