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Steph Catudal shares how her ultrarunner husband’s terrifying illness sparked transformation

In Everything All At Once, the Montreal-born author says Tommy Rivers Puzey’s cancer crisis revealed a path to self-acceptance

Author Steph Catudal Photo by: Nicola Harlem

Steph Catudal felt her world unravel in 2020 when her husband, famed U.S. ultramarathoner Tommy Rivers Puzey (a.k.a. Tommy Rivs), was diagnosed with a rare form of lung cancer that put him into a medically induced coma for 84 days. The crisis forced Catudal, who was born and raised in Montreal, to face not only an uncertain future, but also pent-up anger and unprocessed grief from her own past.

Cover of Everything All At Once by Steph Catudal

The author explores the heights and depths of her years-long journey to self-acceptance in Everything All At Once , which comes out May 30. From the tragedy of losing her father to cancer to her supporting Puzey on his road to remission and his being declared free of the disease, the memoir shares lessons Catudal says required time and patience to fully grasp.

“I started writing this book about 10 years ago actually, long before Rivs was diagnosed with cancer. I wanted to tell the story of my adolescent grief of losing my father—it was a story that affected me so deeply and throughout my life,” says Catudal. “I wanted to connect to other people who similarly experienced grief. But it never felt finished. The book never felt done even though I had typed the last words, so I kind of left it on the back burner.”

 

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Steph Catudal (@steph_outside)

“When Rivs got sick, I went through an entire self-transformation, and I realized part of the reason why my book didn’t feel finished was because my healing journey still wasn’t finished, and I hadn’t learned all the lessons that I needed to, that I ended up learning through Rivs’ illness. When he was sick, I wrote a lot and posted my writing on social media, and what I wrote resonated with a lot of people and it made me feel a lot less lonely during a lonely time–that human connection in a really isolated time in my life. So I think I wrote the book to further that connection, to broaden the network of those who have experienced grief, which everyone has experienced in life, no matter what the situation is.”

 

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by tommy_rivs 🏴‍☠️ (@tommy_rivs)

Catudal, who lives with Puzey and their three daughters, says that while writing the memoir was cathartic, she hopes the book can be an aid to others as they navigate their own unique challenges.

“Mostly I hope that it helps people learn self-acceptance,” she says. “It was a long road for me to accept myself. It’s important to accept all of who you are—the brokenness, the anger and also the gratitude and the joy—and just know that you’re OK wherever you’re at.”

 

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Steph Catudal (@steph_outside)

“Another hope I have for what people take from this is that no matter what we’re going through, there is love all around. It’s woven into every human experience, and you just have to look to see it. Even if you feel like you’re in the depths of loneliness, there is always love there.”

She says sharing her story with readers has given her a new opportunity to practise acceptance.

“It’s both really exciting and, in a way, nerve-racking to put so much of your life, your feelings and your introspection into a book that people can take and they could either love it or they could hate it. I just have to be OK with letting it go out into the world.”

 

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Steph Catudal (@steph_outside)

The publication of Catudal’s memoir also comes with the satisfaction of seeing a long, gruelling challenge to the very end—a feeling her ultrarunning husband knows very well.

“Rivs tells me that this is my own ultramarathon—the daily deposits of writing a page if I could, whenever I had the time,” says Catudal.

“I did it through newborn babies and grad school and sleepless nights, so there’s definitely a sense of pride and accomplishment.”

Look for our review of Everything All At Once in the July/August 2023 issue of Canadian Running.

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