Monday, February 1, 2016

Overdue Book Reports

I see I did review a couple of these.....

It's like high school all over again.  I am assigned People ask me to review their book and write a report review.  I love to read, and pretty much always agree that this is a good idea.  What is better than supporting an author?

In high school I geekily ended up reading the assigned book the first night. I was such a good student, I'm not quite sure how I graduated with an only 2.0 GPA.  Anyway...those thick glasses came in handy, I was a reader.   But somehow *cough ADD cough* I never did the report until the night before it was due, and then I'd be all crazy, writing until my hand cramped, staying up long past my parents went to bed, so busy scribbling I didn't have time to even to dot my i's with little hearts or smiley faces. (Yes, kids, back in those days we not only had to hand-write our papers, but we also had to draw our own emoticons.  It was a primitive time).

Now of course, I'm a mature adult.  I get the book in the mail and read it immediately.  And then I put it down to take a nap, as we adults must sleep a lot.   The next day is chemo.  On the third day, I decide to write about it but I just need to check facebook for a second......then instagram, then twitter, I don't want anybody left out.   And, of course, I haven't played Zuma in a while so maybe just a few games.  Wow, I'm tired, I better take a nap. (*see, adult)  By then, ADD, compounded with chemo-brain is in full force and the entire thing slips my mind.  Not only can't I remember that I had something to review, when I finally remember, the entire plot of the book has slipped my mind. Naturally, I have to flip through the book to refresh my memory, but where did I leave it?  It isn't in my reading room, it isn't in my bed.  It isn't anywhere!  Did the dogs take it?   I think those damn dogs have stolen them.  I have to search under their beds and look behind their bones or under their basket of stuffed toys to try to find them.

Yes, the dog ate my homework.

Greyhound bookmarks

And then because I have cancer and something hurts, and I can't walk around the house anymore,  I think "I'll do it later" and then chemo brain takes over again, and I forget what I was doing.  Until I remember again - and I go through this process over and over.  In the meantime, these poor writers are waiting for me, just as I wait to hear a comment on a post.  Eventually, they give up, sadly, and go about their lives of obscurity, all because I wouldn't review their book.

It's very mean of me, to be honest.  I'm a terrible person.

It's amazing how few of them remind me of my forgetfulness.  Perhaps they are sympathetic to my illness, or since many of them had chemo themselves, have completely forgotten about me.  But one sharp writer recently (and kindly) asked, "Hey, I didn't see your review of my book, did you ever post it?"


I thought I did actually. Unlike many, I remembered her because I see her on facebook.   I may have posted a review on facebook as I sometimes do. But you can't really go through old stuff on facebook and look easily.  However, I told her it'd be on my blog, and a search of this blog shows I never did review it here.  So, I need to be honorable and do what I said, so I began the search.  And this time, the dogs hadn't stolen it.  But when I found her book, guess what?

There was an entire stack of cancer books underneath it.

At this point, with a few exceptions, I don't remember what I was asked to read and what I read on my own, what I reviewed and didn't.

Considering I have a PET scan tomorrow that could give me the worst possible news, I think I better get this off my conscience, don't you?

So I am going to mention them all, with the exception of a couple I know I did review, or ones I think I bought myself.  They aren't going to get a full-fledged review anymore but I can assure you that each one I enjoyed and all are worth reading.

I feel miserable and guilty but what can I do?  I'm just a chemo-addled, ADD, crazy, lazy woman with dogs who like to read.

So here goes.

Renee in Cancerland by Renee Sendelbach.
Renee writes the blog, Team S, Living with Stage IV Cancer and is an amazing woman.   This is a touching and brave book about her life with metastatic cancer, which is in her brain.  If you are looking for a grammatically perfect book, this is not for you.  There are some typos and errors in grammar, as would be expected for somebody whose cancer is in the brain. (And who am I to judge?)  Don't take that to mean that she has nothing to say.  She goes deep into the heart of what it is like to live with a devastating illness that she knows will take her life.  She writes about her love for her husband and children, her hopes and fears.  There are photos of herself and family, and she shares the life lessons she's learned, along with a bit of poetry and a lot of artwork sprinkled in.  (She's a talented artist.)  This is raw insight into the thoughts and experiences of a metastatic cancer patient, and I recommend it.  I support her fully, and taking on a book when you have gone through the treatment she has - it's pretty much incredible.

Kicking Cancer to the Curb, by Carol Miele.
Despite the title, Carol has been living with metastatic cancer since 2010; hers is in the bone.  Carole has been an advocate for cancer patients, likely because of her nursing profession. Her book is full of advice, such as what people should say to patients with mets, and what not to say, as well as how one can manage it.  She also vividly describes her experience of living with metastatic disease, including things like the mental and spiritual changes she experienced.  She shares defining moments in her life that shaped her thinking as she faced this catastrophic disease.   There are poems and quotes that are meaningful to a cancer patient.  Her goal in writing the book is to impart information, support and approaches she has learned to make the experiences of others less burdensome, and she was highly successful.  If you have mets you will get support and advice here.

Beauty After Breast Cancer by Katelyn Carey and Joseph Linaschke.
It's hard to imagine a cancer coffee table book, but this is as close to one as you will get.  Katelyn is a nurse who had DCIS. When she discovered she needed a mastectomy, she realized there were no realistic photos showing what she might look like. She's right, it is a complaint all patients have - we want to SEE what we may look like, and yet there is nothing available.  Sure, plastic surgeons may have photos, but they only show their best case scenarios, and those photos are unrelatable -  it is a woman standing straight forward, her eyes obliterated if you see her face at all, and a lifeless torso from front to side - they are the mug shots of mastectomy.  There is no life in those photos and so nothing that we can see that gives us knowledge or hope.  So Katelyn decided to gather women who have had breast surgery and take realistic photos of women living their lives,  with the hopes that book ends up in physician's offices.  In this book, women will not only see what breast surgery looks like, but learn that this surgery will not end their beauty.  This book is full of women with single, double, partial mastectomies, with and without reconstruction - surgeries of all type.  Each tell their cancer story alongside their photos. They are not models, they are regular woman who had cancer and who overcame this body changing experience.  Not only do you get reality, you get it in a way that shows beauty does not leave just because cancer invaded your life. The professional and gorgeous photos of women is full of joy, and the attitude is that they may have lost a body part, but they didn't lose what is most important. Bravery is beauty, not breasts.™  This should be in every single breast surgeon's office.  I will be donating my copy, as beautiful as it is, to my own breast surgeon.  I always thought I should pop in and say hi to see if he remembers me.  Old-timers here will remember Rockstar Raja!

My Healthcare is Killing me! by Julie Klein.
I thought this book was hilarious, and I really liked it - but to me, it didn't have much to do with the description.  She said she had to confront indifferent and insensitive doctors, bureaucratic policies that prevented her from getting timely care and was in a healthcare maze. I expected her to not get treatment and have to deal with cruel physicians and be on the phone all the time fighting, and it didn't seem that she had a more difficult time than most of us have, in fact, it was  - easier in many ways.   As I read it though, I thought that she seemed to have pretty good insurance and her doctors seemed quite patient. It is interesting the different perspective we can have about the same thing, isn't it?   Aside from that difference, I thought her well-written and funny descriptions of her anxiety and the problems she faced going through breast cancer were all too spot-on, and I'm jealous at how funny she actually is.  Her characters are well drawn, her descriptions vivid and I found it charming.  Definitely worth a read if you are newly diagnosed.

Dr. Susan Love's Breast Book, by Dr. Susan Love.
I don't think this book needs much description - if you are reading my blog you have likely heard of Dr. Susan Love.  This book is considered the "bible" of breast health.  She came out with an update so that is what I have read.  My complaint with this version is the same as my complaint with the last - there isn't much about metastatic cancer.  It takes 509 pages before we get a chapter about mets (which ends 60 pages later) and that chapter is not only about mets, but includes regional relapse too. If memory serves, this is more space than last version, but still not very detailed.  No matter, this is the comprehensive book explaining pretty much every aspect of breasts and breast cancer.  This is the first book I think anybody diagnosed with cancer should get.  There are checklists, definitions, and basic information about breast cancer that everybody should know.  Don't let the size put you off, you don't have to read it cover to cover, just find the parts of interest.  You will handle your cancer much better if you have this as a reference.  You should know what the details mean.

When Cancer Hits Home by Patrick Maguire, MD
Not specifically about breast cancer, Dr. Maguire takes the most common cancers and gives an overview of each.  He starts with a patient story, then describes Risks and Causes, Signs and Symptoms, Diagnosis, Staging, and Treatment.  He seems to think that risk for cancers can be reduced by outside methods, something I'm not so sure about, but the descriptions and stories of each cancer will help anybody who may have cancer in their family and wants to monitor the details. Dr. Maquire has a degree in English, which means this is a well-written book.  A good, general reference for cancer.

Bald is Better with Earrings, by Andrea Hutton
This is subtitled "a Survivor's Guide to Getting Through Breast Cancer"  and it is chock full of tips for managing the symptoms that come with chemo, radiation and a mastectomy. There are tips on managing your port, your nails and your poor hair.  It is an amusing and insightful how-to guide for getting through early-stage cancer treatment, one I highly recommend it.

Death, by Todd May
Confession: this one is written by my cousin, who is a professor of Philosophy at Clemson University.  I have only met him once in my life and we haven't spoken in 40 years and he has no idea that I am sick so this is not pushing a family book.  I wasn't asked to review it - I was given this book by my uncle and found that it was fascinating.  He writes from the perspective of an atheist (guess it runs in the family) but does not diminish the role of religion in facing death.  He writes about what it is like to be human beings who understand our mortality and know what it means and to go on living in spite of knowing our end.  While it certainly reads like a professor wrote it, he brings up fascinating questions about the role death plays in our lives and our society.

Pilates for Breast Cancer Survivors, by Naomi Aaronson and Ann Marie Turo.
I must have said yes to this book when I was in remission and thought I could get healthy again.  Since the book hadn't been opened, I likely got the news of my relapse around the time it arrived.  I confess, I didn't read it in depth but I don't think it's necessary.  We all know Pilates is good for you, and this book has exercises for breast cancer patients with modifications for the injuries we sustain, and even the surgeries we have (such as DIEP or TRAM). They also understand lymphedema and work around that.   Despite the fact that I didn't read it or go through it in detail, I VERY MUCH recommend it.  I had a terrible time after my mastectomy, and had I exercised or had a program like this, I might not be living with the shoulder pain that I have today, 6 years after that surgery. Everybody who has breast surgery MUST do an exercise program.  Period.

A Cancer Companion, by Ranjana Srivastava, MD
Written by an oncologist, there is practical advice on what to expect after diagnosis, (including how to find an oncologist), what to expect before and after treatments both physically and emotionally.  While she doesn't focus on any particular type of cancer, she does describes the basics that are the same for everybody: what hearing "you have cancer" can do to you, what an oncologist should say, what to expect during chemo, how appetite may be affected - even what to say to your kids.  The book is written in a accessible, conversational way.  It is definitely a good book - and advice from an oncologist is always good to have, don't you think?

I hope I didn't leave any off.  From now on, if I do a book review, I'll post it on facebook as it is a place I find quick and easy to do and then I won't get so far behind. My final recommendation is one that I just read on my own, called:

When Breath Becomes Air by by Paul Kalanith
This book is in an entirely different category.  It is an unbelievably beautiful book, with gorgeous prose, written by a physician who died of cancer.  Paul captured the thoughts and feelings that those of us experience in such a truthful, graceful, unsparing way that it left me in tears. We may be able to understand and accept that we are going to die but we still feel the ineffable sadness at the loss of our future and frankly, at the knowledge of our obliteration, and Paul worked through this struggle and shared it with us.  It's a jewel of a book, this reflection on mortality. It will make you gasp with the beauty of his words and weep at the losses that cut so deep. We all die, and as a neurosurgeon Paul knew that better than most. Coming to grips with it at a young age is a struggle, as I well know. In the end, we look through our lives to see what our legacy will be. He left behind two beautiful things: his daughter and this book.  I believe it will be read for years to come and become the definitive book on human mortality. It's simply beautiful. I cannot recommend it enough but buy tissues for when you read it and you are warned - it is a hard read for those of us who are also in his shoes.

I really wish I could add, "Breast Cancer?  But Doctor, I Hate Pink" to this list but the publisher/editor I had was not working out.  She was a small, one person publisher, and I suspect that she didn't really have time to turn this blog into a book and after many months, still had not worked on it, giving me excuse after excuse.  So if you are a publisher who does want to publish my blog....give me a heads-up.  (I do not have the time or energy to self-publish, and I admire the women above who have!)

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for these excellent, very descriptive reviews ! You write very articulately and precisely, so the reader can get a clear picture about the content of each book. You've done a wonderful job ! Thank you again, from DLH


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