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Eight Billion Steps: My Impossible Quest for Cancer Comedy Paperback – June 8, 2013

4.9 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Jeffrey Penn May has won several short fiction awards. His story “The Wells Creek Route” received a Pushcart Prize nomination, and his novel Where the River Splits, an excellent review in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Merging his outdoor interests with his writing, Jeff has published mountain climbing articles, short stories and poems. He has also written education articles and technical writing guides. His work has appeared in the US, UK, and Canada. He wrote and performed a short story for Washington University Radio and was a consultant to a St. Louis theater company. After earning his a B.A. in English and Psychology, a Masters in Secondary Education, and a Writer’s Certificate from the University of Missouri, Jeff worked as a waiter, hotel security officer, credit manager, deck hand, technical data engineer, creative writing instructor, and English teacher. He was the principal of a small alternative school where he organized a fund-raising, climbing expedition and appeared in television and radio spotlights. Born at Fort Ord near Monterey, California, and raised in St. Louis, Jeff comes from a family of all boys and has always been compelled to explore the outdoors, leading to many questionable “vacations.” His adventures include, but are not limited to the following: floated a home-built wood and barrel raft from St. Louis to Memphis, navigated a John boat to New Orleans, drove an old Volkswagen alone 8000 miles around the west, spent a month in a dirt floor shack in west-central Mexico digging for Pre-Colombian artifacts, climbed mountains from Alaska to South America, and spent several days in the Amazon jungle. Jeff teaches writing and fly-fishing and is a cancer survivor.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 246 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (June 8, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1484835646
  • ISBN-13: 978-1484835647
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,319,995 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Although an existing fan of Jeff's writing (in particular Where The River Splits), I was maybe a little more reluctant to read this book. It's about Jeff's experience with a particularly nasty cancer (if any cancers can be described as nice)at the same time as he is experiencing other problems. It's perhaps a brave decision to write about all of this, and the reader can feel a bit like a fly on the wall sometimes. But what shines through Jeff's writing is his determination to beat the cancer, to resolve his other problems and to get on with his life. 'What a fantastic read' seems a bit lame, but on the wow factor scale of 1 to 3, this has to be a 4.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Cancer is dreadfully common. We all have to struggle with it eventually- in ourselves and/or our loved ones. What is not common is to have a guide through cancer's terrifying landscape- especially one that illuminates the hospitals, procedures and mental states with such a combination of honesty, humor and tenderness. Mr. May kept me following closely around each bend in his trail. The author is obviously someone who loves life and appreciates his ties to other people and to the land around him. I have little doubt that this love is what brought him through, in the end. Three cheers for this life-affirming account. Highly recommended.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Not all the books that you buy are books that you will finish. This is one that you will. Not because it's funny (though it actually is at times) but because you're going to come up against similar circumstances at some point and you will feel less alone and scared because you read this.
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Format: Paperback
“Cancer Comedy” is the epitome of an oxymoron; however, for a skilled writer with a honed sense of humor such as Jeff May, the quest to find the “funny” in his battle with the disease and then write about it was a no-brainer.

Diagnosed at 58 with a rare cancer of the jaw and tongue, Jeff and his wife, Kim, set out to learn as much as they could about his particular disease before deciding how to attack it. Kim, who was going through some tough times of her own (her 25-year teaching career was being undermined by a boss-from-hell) did most of the research and scheduled appointments with cancer specialists both at home in St. Louis and out-of-state. Jeff, an avid outdoorsman and runner who was in great shape (except for the cancer thing), maintained his normal routine. He preferred to take a back seat and let Kim handle the details, insisting that she only tell him what he absolutely needed to know and spare him the details.

Eight Billion Steps: My Impossible Quest for Cancer Comedy describes their “adventure,” going from doctor to doctor, hearing various prognoses and surgical procedure recommendations, and dealing with varying levels of bedside manners. (Spoiler Alert: Superior knowledge and skill does not necessarily correlate to superior communication ability.)
Ultimately electing to have surgery at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, Jeff continued his search for the comedy in cancer by describing his experiences with various members of the staff as well as family and friends before and after the procedure and during his subsequent treatment and recovery. His hallucinations when awakening from the anesthesia are funny-strange. The immediate response of Nurse April (“Shut up! You’re scaring the others!
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Format: Paperback
It’s truly a rattling book,
the intro was all it took

to sucker this reader in,
humor being a perfect spin

on Jeff's trek through hell
deep in the big C well.

Jeff's indomitable spirit shines through the threat we all face in today's rampant cancer march across our lives. Positive attitude does matter, and having a strong fighter beside you is crucial. I love how he champions his wife and friends for their part in his struggle.
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Format: Paperback
A realistic and honest look at living with and the journey through a cancer diagnosis and treatment. Written with integrity, and in a nod to the author's dislike of clichés, a real page-turner. Whether he is writing about attempts to maneuver around a new town or describing his complicated diagnosis in a way that is accessible to the reader, May's skill and attention to detail is obvious.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Thank you for adding some humor to this horrible journey my husband and I recently finished. The first good laugh at an otherwise miserable disease. I wish he would have had the chance to read this book before he passed. Definitely a MUST read for caregivers and patients....
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Wow, Wow, Wow. I really don't know that I would have made it through all that Jeff endured. Hard to read through some of it, such a harrowing experience. Even to the extent that it is at times hard to read it also is a testament to the human spirit and the will to "beat this thing"! A must read! An honest account of dealing with life's worst with the power of perseverance, a great attitude, humor and love and support of friends and family. A great reminder of what is really important!!
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