Friday, December 12, 2008

Review: Cancer is a Bitch

Summary: “I want to be brave. I want to be big. I want to be gracious and cool. I want to be the Audrey Hepburn of cancer...” Gail Konop Baker was a runner, yoga practitioner, and lifelong subscriber to Prevention magazine. As her forty-sixth birthday approached, she looked forward to a time when she could at last take a deep breath, with one child heading off to college and the other two busy with their lives. She finally felt as if she was getting her life back. Then, right before Valentine’s Day 2006, she heard the words that would forever change her: Just to be safe, I think we should biopsy. It was the beginning of her year-long struggle with breast cancer and its fallout-one that would upstage any midlife crisis she’d fretted was waiting in the wings. “I want to feel bad about my neck. I do,” she writes. “But I feel bad I may not ever get to feel bad about my neck.” Gail was suddenly faced with the truth that awaits us all-this was her life, and she would do anything to hold on to it. As a doctor’s wife, she knew more than she should about her diagnosis and treatment. As a mother, she found unbearable the idea of not being there for the next birthday, next graduation, next anything. And as a woman who’d put her dreams on hold for years, she was determined to make every minute count. But Cancer Is a Bitch is about much more than the “C” word; it's about the outrageous challenges of marriage, the joys and unpredictability of motherhood, about figuring out what it is you want to do with your life, about wanting to live now. Funny, raw, and moving, this story will resonate with every mother and wife, and with anyone who has been affected by cancer. It is one woman’s unforgettable, beautifully told account of juggling midlife and motherhood with a rogue boob-and, ultimately, triumphing. -- Da Capo Press

I won CANCER IS A BITCH: OR, I'D RATHER BE HAVING A MIDLIFE CRISIS by Gail Konop Baker from a contest on one of my favorite sites The Debutante Ball. Since I follow this grog everyday, I try to read each of the author's books as they come out. So I was thrilled when Ms. Konop Baker sent me a personalized, autographed copy of her book. The book came wrapped with a pink ribbon and a red dog tag heart engraved with "Cancer is a Bitch." She also sent me a CANCER IS A BITCH playlist which listed the music mentioned in the book as well as an adapted recipe for her Chunky Apple Walnut Cake. I was very happy indeed!

I had heard wonderful things about this book from some other bloggers, but I was anxious to see for myself whether I would like this book. Let's just say that I read it in less than a day, and I couldn't put the book down -- I absolutely adored this book. Ms. Konop Baker is a terrific writer; and while I read this book, I felt like she was just talking to me and telling me about her life. But what really impressed me was her ability to make me laugh (even though I didn't find her situation to be funny in the least) as well as her brutal honesty about her cancer.

I will say that, at times, I did find it difficult to read a book about a woman with breast cancer. Breast cancer is a very scary thing to me, and I know it will touch my life in one way or another. One out of eight women will get breast cancer. With odds like that, one woman in my book club, two women in my bunco group, and three moms in my son's preschool class will get breast cancer. As I approach my forties, more and more women that I associate with are finding out that they have cancer (or they are at least having some scares.)

In my opinion, Ms. Konop Baker is one incredibly strong woman and a very gifted writer. As I read this book, I just marveled at the strength and grace she showed when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Even though I've never had any health issues (kind of like Ms. Konop Baker pre-cancer), I could totally relate to her feelings. I think I'd have so many of the same reactions she did, and her fears about her children losing their mother were painfully real to me. Not only did I appreciate how open she was about not only her fears and insecurities of having breast cancer, but I was also very impressed with her honesty about her relationships with her husband and mother.

There was one part of this book where Ms. Konop Baker's writing really struck a chord with me. It was on page 202 when she was describing her feelings about becoming a mother for the first time. "She took a little breath and it sent a shiver through me and I thought, So this is love, love in its purest form, love based on biology and evolution and the feel of her buttery forearm. This is the reason I was put on earth. To hold my baby in my arms, to slow my breath to the rhythm of her breath." I know exactly what she meant with her beautiful prose.

Even though I was a little depressed while reading the beginning of the book, I was definitely left with a positive, hopeful feeling after I finished it. Like many people who have a serious health scare, Ms. Konop Baker became a better person as a result of it. She know realizes how precious life is, and she appreciates it so much more. I hope she doesn't mind that I'm sharing this with you, but here's what she said to me about her book, "My hope is that by living vicariously through my ups and downs and ups again you will be inspired to not be afraid to be your most amazing self and live your life as if it matters. All of it. Right now." What a perfect way to describe how I felt after reading her book!

I highly recommend reading CANCER IS A BITCH. I think every women would enjoy this well-written memoir; however, I think this book will really resonate with women who are diagnosed with cancer. And since this disease is going to affect all of us in some way, it really is a wonderful gift idea for any woman in your life. As an extra incentive, Ms. Konop Baker will donate a portion of the proceeds from CANCER IS A BITCH to some very worthwhile causes so go buy a copy or two!

Also reviewed at:
The Written Word

5 comments:

bermudaonion said...

Holy cow! Didn't you just start that book? How do you find so much time to read during the holiday season? Great review, by the way.

S. Krishna said...

Great review! I really enjoyed this one as well.

Gail said...

Hey Julie! Thanks so much for posting this great review! I'm honored and flattered.

And hello bermudaonion! And hey s. krishna! Good to see you both here!

Stephanie said...

I just read this book and found it helpful. You can see my review here: http://thewrittenword.wordpress.com/2008/12/01/cancer-is-a-bitch/#comments

avisannschild said...

I love reading The Debutante Ball, so this book's been on my radar for a while. Glad to hear it's that good!