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4.4 out of 5 stars
A Breast Cancer Alphabet
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on March 5, 2014
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
My mom is a month from her diagnosis and two weeks into her first chemo treatments. She said that although not everything is the same, the perspective provided by Sikka is spot on and helpful.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 27, 2014
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
Though I am only part way through my treatment and have yet to visit all of Cancerland, it's as if Madhulika spent some time inside my head while writing this terrific book that includes thoughts, feelings, and tips based on her own experience with breast cancer. While everyone will have a slightly different experience, I suspect that most women making their way through breast cancer treatment will feel the same. This quick, easy read tells it like it is, and does so without sugar coating the many challenges of having breast cancer. The illustrations for each letter of the alphabet are clever and add a touch of levity to the book, and the note taking pages at the end will be a good place for readers to memorialize their own letters of the breast cancer alphabet.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 10, 2014
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
This book was published two months after I finished radiation. I wish it had been available earlier. It has so many great thoughts and truths. I found myself shaking my head in agreement and thinking, "I wasn't alone in the way I felt." Thank you for this book. I have already recommended it to someone just beginning her battle.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 10, 2014
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
The name Madhulika Sikkah has been a familiar, but faceless part of every morning as I wake to National Public Radio's "All Things Considered." I was pleased as I read her book to put a face and real humanity to her public presence. Her book is part painful memoir, part social commentary decrying the culture that surrounds breast cancer, and part intuitive advice for a woman facing breast cancer. Her writing is surprisingly fresh and feels authentic without sentimentality. Her ability to pick the exact word to convey subtle shades of meaning makes this far more than a simple advice book. It is thinking that could apply more broadly to any type of loss in life, not only the oh too common disease of breast cancer. The book exceeded my expectations!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on March 2, 2014
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
How very much I appreciated Sikka's straightforward and honest discussion of cancer. I am just beginning my treatment for breast cancer and her stories and advice is so helpful.
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on December 11, 2014
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
From a man's perspective whose loved one receives a diagnosis of this dreadful disease, this is a very useful overview of a very complex, difficult subject. Having been a husband of a wife with brain cancer and close to two women who received a diagnosis of breast cancer, I know the value of having an overview. Ms Sikla has provided a very readable, accurate description of what she went through, and I found much of value here.

Of course, each person's experience will be different, the medical facts and medical providers and the medical facts will change over time. During the 34 years of my first journey, we got to know six leading cancer institutions all too well, were under the care of four different neurologists, three different surgeons, seven different diagnosticians, and underwent a number of procedures. No single book could possibly cover all of that material.

So, the as a first step for men -- and I am writing this review solely from a man's perspective -- this is a very good starting point, at least it was for me. Other sources of information that I found helpful in understanding both cancers included the websites of the American Cancer Society, Susan B Komen and Memorial Sloan Kettering (extremely useful even if your partner's treating institution is not Memorial). Links in the first Comment.

[I've asked several women with this terrible problem; they all agree that this book doesn't really address their experiences. But, from experience, when I got hepatitis, I had no knowledge about what my liver really did. Believe me, I learned; as someone once wrote, "The knowledge that you will be hanged in the morning, focuses your mind wonderfully."

But, let me repeat: for this man, the book had great value in giving me a starting point. Whether you are a man or a woman, this is a great starting point: for a man to start, for a woman to help your man get started. Believe me, it will help men get stated in a totally new area.]

For anyone dealing with this dreadful problem, my heart goes out to both patient and caregiver.

Robert C. Ross
December 2014
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on November 3, 2014
Format: Hardcover
This book dives deep into the world so many don’t want to talk about – Cancerland, as Sikka calls it. A Breast Cancer Alphabet is a wonderfully user friendly ABC of how to deal with the devastating news of having cancer. It will even help you try to get through it with a smile. This is advice from A to Z that should be read before, during, and after you are throttled with the unexpected news this is now your life.

I wish I had been able to read this book six months ago. That was when we found out a family member had found a lump and would be diagnosed with Breast Cancer. We have now gone through some of the stages talked about in this book and are still in the process of finishing the Chemotherapy. So much of the information would have been beneficial for us all to have read and known before hand. The way it is laid out makes it easy to understand and gives you something to shake your head at and say, “Yep, that is exactly what is going on. Glad I’m not the only one.” The personal experiences put forth on these pages couldn’t have been easy to share with the world; but for everyone who reads them; their experiences might be that much better for it.

It is a shame that we even have to have the need for a book such as this but we do. It is nice that it is given in such a way that it is easy to understand without tons of medical jargon filling the pages leaving me even more confused than I already was. I enjoy that something like this cuts straight to the point, gives me the facts and lets me process the information. Sikka did just that in a fun style that made me forget I was reading about a pretty depressing topic overall. This book is well written and needs to be read by anyone dealing with Breast cancer, or any cancer for that matter in my opinion, in any way. It will help and when dealing with such a thing that help is something we need most.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Not many of us can say that cancer hasn’t touched our lives in some way whether it be in our own life or in the lives of our loved ones. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and I always like to try and spotlight a few books that deal with breast cancer and those dealing with it. A Breast Cancer Alphabet by Madhulika Sikka is a little book that packs a big punch and should be one of the first things you gift a newly diagnosed breast cancer patient. This book will give them some insight into what will happen to them in terms of the medical side of things and also the personal side as well. The best way I can describe this book is to say it is very real and straightforward. Madhulika talks about sex, drugs, your feelings on your hair and breasts for that matter – she addresses so many things that really matter when you’re diagnosed with this devastating disease. As a note I used my own photo because I think it shows just how pretty this little book is and as frivolous as it may sound I think it’s important to have pretty things when you’re not well along with your favorite pillows (the author speaks about that), blankets, and of course your furry pet if you have one.

Yet this book isn’t just for those diagnosed with breast cancer. It is important for an individual’s family and friends to read it as well so they can gain a much better understanding of what their loved one is dealing with. Breast cancer has touched my family many times unfortunately as many carry the breast cancer gene and I lost a best friend to breast cancer as well. So many things that Madhulika describes I can still clearly remember one of my aunts and my friend dealing with. I wish that they would have had this book to help them understand what was happening to them or to even justify some of the feelings they were having in what Madhulika calls ‘cancerland’. The book is quite literally an A-Z guide and Madhulika presents everything in a very clear, very personal, and very practical manner. She makes it ok for the cancer patient to feel as crappy as they do most days. She addresses things like the anxiety, fear, and guilt that comes with diagnoses. She talks about what to expect during and even after breast cancer. It really is an indispensable guide for those dealing with breast cancer. From firsthand experience of being the family member helping a loved one deal with their diagnosis I have to say that I wish we had this book to help deal with many of the issues that came up.

I love the personal and conversational tone of this book as well as how it looks. It even has pages in the back of it for those all important notes you need to make yourself or for your loved one because the wealth of information you are receiving is overwhelming. I was lucky to have both the beautiful hard cover edition of this book as well as being able to listen to the audiobook. The audiobook is wonderful. It is narrated by Madhulika herself and she has a beautiful and soothing voice which made it very easy to listen to. What I loved about the audio is that I felt more connected to Madhulika and what she went through as she is personally relating it to her listeners in her own words and emotions which is very powerful.

Whether it be the book or the audio I highly recommend this beautiful little book to anyone dealing with breast cancer and to their loved ones. It’s both comforting and empowering to understand what is happening to you and around you. To Madhulika I wish you all the best and a continued cancer free check up in the years to come! Highly recommended!
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Format: Kindle Edition
During this month of October, I felt it was especially appropriate to share this book. A BREAST CANCER ALPHABET isn't just for the person with cancer, but for those who love and care for the person with cancer. I would even offer that even though this book focuses specifically, in certain chapters, about breast cancer, this book could be helpful to anyone with any form of cancer.

While working as a producer with NPR, Sikka found out she had breast cancer. As she traveled through chemo and hair loss, surgeries and sickness, she found there wasn't a book to tell you exactly what you wanted and needed to hear while going through the days of cancer. Sikka wrote this book to remind those with cancer and their families and friends that you can still smile, life still goes on and most importantly, you have every right to feel the way you do.

The book is laid out exactly as you would expect. Each chapter begins with a letter of the alphabet that explains a part of living with cancer. In the "A is for Anxiety" chapter, you will find that anxiety isn't a feeling experienced just during the waiting game after a lump is found, but a part of life that continues years after you are "cancer free". The anxiety during your treatments is just as real as the anxiety you feel in the back of your mind, always wondering if your cancer will come back. In the "E is for Epiphany" chapter, Sikka explains that all those dreams and wishes you had in your "pre-cancer" life are nothing compared to the dreams you have in your "after-cancer" life. Realizing that your life was pretty great just as it was may be the epiphany you needed. There are also practical chapters like "P is for Pillows" in which the author shares the practicality and necessity of a three-by-six-inch pillow.

I found A BREAST CANCER ALPHABET to be a practical, yet emotional book. Just because I am a woman makes me a large target for the wretched breast cancer beast. Reading this book made me fearful, yet encouraged. I get my annual mammograms. I perform monthly self-checks. But, I also have a family history of breast cancer. I know the risk for me is high and I found comfort in the pages of this book. Sikka was honest, thorough, and creative in her informative book. I am more aware of how cancer patients feel, physically and emotionally, because of her honesty. This is a book that should be shared with every woman you know. We can become better patients, caregivers, and friends with the knowledge in this book.
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on August 17, 2014
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
As a breast cancer survivor, I was eager to support this author and buy the book. While each cancer survivor's journey is unique, there are many things that we share: the shock of learning that we've got cancer, the fear of what will happen to us, and the pain of going through all the many diagnostic, surgical, chemical, and radiation procedures. Breast cancer affects so many women, and I hoped to read of Ms Sikka's experiences and find some new insights into my own physical, intellectual and even spiritual experiences. I also thought the book might be a sort of primer for women (and men) who have been newly diagnosed, giving them ideas about how they can begin the process of searching for doctors, assessing treatment options, etc. She herself says that she wrote the book to provide "some comfort and solace" to other individuals who have been diagnosed with breast cancer.

While I liked Ms Sikka's book structure -- little vignettes that illuminate some aspect of being diagnosed and treated -- I felt that she treated the entire subject in a determinedly breezy manner. It was as if she couldn't bear to acknowledge some of the real depths of despair that we sometimes experience. She would allude to it, but it was almost as if she was reluctant to shine a light into some of those darker moments. In the chapter "W is for Warrior", she writes that she had been been conscripted as a "reluctant warrior" into the war on cancer, and ends her two-page entry about this war by saying "Can I not be a woman warrior? Please?" It would have been so much better if she had extended her essay from that point -- that we don't have to accept the "war on cancer" metaphor. Do we need to think of ourselves in terms of waging war with disease, or is there another way to look at life with cancer?

In the end, I think this book is more useful as a primer for someone who has a friend whose just been diagnosed with breast cancer and wants a very quick read about some of the things that friend might expect. But then make sure you look at the American Cancer Society's website and the Susan B Koman website. Those are the places where you will get a lot more direct, detailed information about what your friend will be going through, and the decisions she is going to have to make. And if you are indeed that friend, make sure that you reach out to your newly diagnosed friend and let her know that you will be there to walk with her on the journey.
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