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Memoir of a Debulked Woman: Enduring Ovarian Cancer [Hardcover]

by Susan Gubar
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 30, 2012 0393073254 978-0393073256 1

A 2012 New York Times Book Review Notable Book

In this moving memoir, a renowned feminist scholar explores the physical and psychological ordeal of living with ovarian cancer.

Diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2008, Susan Gubar underwent radical debulking surgery, an attempt to excise the cancer by removing part or all of many organs in the lower abdomen. Her memoir mines the deepest levels of anguish and devotion as she struggles to come to terms with her body’s betrayal and the frightful protocols of contemporary medicine. She finds solace in the abiding love of her husband, children, and friends while she searches for understanding in works of literature, visual art, and the testimonies of others who suffer with various forms of cancer.

Ovarian cancer remains an incurable disease for most of those diagnosed, even those lucky enough to find caring and skilled physicians. Memoir of a Debulked Woman is both a polemic against the ineffectual and injurious medical responses to which thousands of women are subjected and a meditation on the gifts of companionship, art, and literature that sustain people in need.

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Staggering, searing… even the most skeptical and finicky reader—even the healthy reader, even the healthy male reader—will not put this book down… Ms. Gubar deserves the highest admiration for her bravery and honesty.” (Abigail Zuger - New York Times)

“Clear-eyed and exquisitely written.” (Cynthia Crossen - Wall Street Journal)

“Delivered in a voice that is intelligent, feminist and devastatingly honest… Unlike many accounts of life with cancer, it is neither relentlessly upbeat nor melodramatic. Instead, it is straightforward, realistic and incredibly brave.” (Elsa Dixler - New York Times Book Review)

“Starred review. True to her no-nonsense feminist roots, Gubar pulls no punches.... This raw narrative is as close to therapy and is written as close to the bone as one is likely to find among cancer memoirs. Even so, there is a certain beauty that only someone of Gubar’s prodigious abilities can impart to such a painful experience.” (Booklist)

“In this brave, honest book, Gubar grapples with the reality and symbolism of cancer. …[H]er tone is intimate, unsentimental, and darkly funny.” (Boston Globe)

“Not just a grueling memoir of facing a deadly disease but a powerful exposé of the failure of medical science to find better ways to detect and treat it.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“Gubar’s passionate and brave polemic is critical reading for anyone concerned with the state of women’s health care in America.” (Publishers Weekly)

“An extraordinary testament to the human spirit—at least, to Susan Gubar’s indomitable spirit—a rare mixture of honesty, eloquence, humor, and passionate curiosity about the truth.... The ‘voice’ is so utterly intimate, the reader will find herself, or himself, drawn into sharing the author’s deepest thoughts, fears, and wishes. The memoir is a treasure-chest of wonderful, uncommon cultural allusions and lines of poetry; the reader feels honored to be in the presence of a first-rate, restless mind, being taken to a place of devastating clarity. There is pathos here, but not self-pity; amid the tragic and sorrowful, sudden flashes of wit.” (Joyce Carol Oates)

About the Author

Susan Gubar is the coauthor of The Madwoman in the Attic, a foundational work of feminist criticism, and the coeditor of The Norton Anthology of Literature by Women. She lives in Bloomington, Indiana.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (April 30, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393073254
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393073256
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.9 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #569,651 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
41 of 42 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
This is an astonishing memoir about a woman's "enduring" ovarian cancer. That is to say, not a "cure" or even assurance of survival, but author Susan Gubar agreed to undergo a radical, surgically difficult treatment for ovarian cancer, and she's also a fantastic writer. So not only does she share her experience, she is able to write poignantly and meaningfully about going through absolute hell to survive one of the more difficult types of cancer.

I personally was unfamiliar with "debulking"--having had studied some aspects of oncology as part of my graduate work in immunology years ago, I had become familiar with many of the new treatments (Whipple surgery for pancreatic cancer, seeding prostate cancers, lumpectomies, etc) but had NOT heard about this method of dealing with one of the worst of women's cancers. In general, only about 50 percent of ALL ovarian cancer patients are alive after five years (including early and late detection) as compared to breast cancer patients who have over all an almost 90 percent five year survival statistic. Part of the issue is that breast cancer has early detection methods (self-exam, mammography, ultrasound) and ovarian cancer is silent except for vague symptoms that mimic other things (bloating, pelvic pain, or--sometimes, nothing at all until it's into late stages.) And there are far more chemotherapeutic drugs for breast cancer than for ovarian at this point.

Debulking is the removal of affected organs, whatever can be spared, from the abdomen.
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Having a Mom who passed just before Mother's day this yearI can relate to what Ms. Gubar is sharing about the debulking procedures and its effects. My Mother had that endured similar peritoneal & metastatic ovarian cancer for 3 yrs. Debulking's horrific nature and the hollow it leaves behind in the corpse and spirit cannot be understated. However, please don not regret your decision, as your sacrifice is a gift to your family that they will treasure forever. The alternatives just are not there, I suppose. Whats worse is the adhesion's that form and inhibit what systems are left functional. I pains me to think another family must endure this. We must support more research for less invasive procedures to isolate tumors from the organs they bind to. Debulking with a knife is barbaric. It may be the best we have, but its NOT good enough.

Please share and support 'Memoir of a debulked Woman: Enduring Ovarian Cancer' by Susan Gubar via @amazonkindle Bless her, and her family.

REVISED EDIT: Regarding other review comments, it appears several readers fail to comprehend the pain that the author underwent as she penned this and that the writings are infused with a lifetimes worth of reflections, anecdotes and personal comment that are fluid and diverse. The Author is a professor, and hence the excessive references and due diligence. A debulked survivor may be heavily medicated to alleviate pain and anxiety. Its is important to realize that this is a memoir of the feelings and thoughts of a survivor. Its not a medical reference nor a inspirational book - it is a unique perspective of a person who has enormous strength to put her feelings in words under the most challenging circumstances. It is herculean accomplishment that someone in this condition actually authored a book.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A GEM of TRUTH May 22, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The experiences shared in this work are odd. This is because they are exposed in an unusually honest and true manner.

This memoir is a difficult read. The "pill" of knowledge contained here is not coated. This is an uncomfortable book to digest. No question about it if you are "familiar" with cancer. The author's candor provides gems of truth and knowledge that a similar study wrapped in colorful ACS or institutional bows can never accomplish.

As Styron did for depression, Susan Gubar has accomplished, with honesty, for cancer and the "treatments" thereof.

Difficult to call this book wonderful...but that it truly is. Honesty can do dat to and for us all.

Thank you Susan Gubar

PS 3.4.13: The light of my life, my bride Cindi, passed away 3.7.07 six years following a diagnosis of transitional cell carcinoma unknown primary site (rectum). The wisdom of Susan Gubars book would have been highly beneficial to us during the journey. In ways Ms. Gubars humanizing considerations have been very helpful to me in the years since Cindis' death.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another Survivor's Point of View May 23, 2012
Format:Hardcover
As a 1 year late stage Ovarian Cancer survivor I understand where she is coming from. It's incredibly hard for us to see all the advances for other cancers and nothing for Ovarian cancers. It honestly feels like a bizzare high school clique that we can't get into. I'm left constantly dumbfounded as to why. Why is my cancer, the cancer that is so deadly, not discussed. There's no test, there's no public discussion about the symptoms, there's no good treatment, and on and on.

I, unlike the author, do have hope that I can beat this or that a treatment will be found in time for me. My differing view may be due to our age difference, I'm in my late 30's. Still, I would not recommend this book to a newly diagnosed women. You need to be very focused to deal with the surgery and chemo. This type of introspection should be saved for once your feeling back to "normal".

This book is excellently written and really has me thinking about the "silent" in the Silent Cancer reference. The silence is really in the fact that women are not screaming from the rooftops about this horrible cancer, it's symptoms, lack of test and depressing mortally rate. Please help us bring this cancer to into the public dialogue.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A call to action
This grueling personal account by one of the top feminists in academia details the horrors an ovarian cancer patient usually undergoes and display just what little progress has... Read more
Published 7 days ago by Jeanne Holland
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating book
This book is exquisitely written. I will warn you that you will have to have intestinal fortitude to read it, and it is almost unimaginable what the human animal is capable of... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Carol Bakker
4.0 out of 5 stars A horrendous experience and an important book
What Susan Gubar has had to go through in being treated for ovarian cancer is horrendous. It's horrible. It's unthinkable. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Naomi Karten
5.0 out of 5 stars Intelligent reading!
I am in awe of Susan Gubar's courage as she faced her cancer ordeal but I am also in awe of her outstanding skill in writing this memoir. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Sabbeth43
3.0 out of 5 stars Extremely Troubling,
Very difficult to read.. I suppose the reality scares me. Well written but very disturbing to read about all of the horrors she endured.
Published 8 months ago by Mark A. Reiss
5.0 out of 5 stars An Honest Look at the Struggle to Survive the Disease of Ovarian...
As another rare survivor of ovarian cancer, this was a difficult book to read. Susan Gubar's honest and gritty memoir of her fight to survive ovarian cancer is a raw and tough... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Peridot
5.0 out of 5 stars Love it?
Love it is not the terminology for truth about cancer. I have had little experience with the disease, but this book put me in the middle of the horror that besets its victims. Read more
Published 10 months ago by marygraykaye
4.0 out of 5 stars A Searingly Sad Testimony about Ovarian Cancer
I picked up Memoir of a Debulked Woman after seeing it appear on the NY Times 100 Notable Books of 2012 list and I am glad I did as I learned a tremendous amount about a horrible... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Joseph Landes
5.0 out of 5 stars A book worth reading for those who have loved ones with ovarian cancer
A dear friend of mine passed away with ovarian cancer, and it has disturbed me ever since her diagnosis. She was only 49 when she passed. Read more
Published 11 months ago by David M. Spencer
5.0 out of 5 stars A literate and deeply searching book about ovarian cancer
The author has had a searing medical journey in her treatment for stage four ovarian cancer. As she looked for insight and comfort through literature and poetry, she found many... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Reader in D'town
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