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The Red Devil: To Hell with Cancer--and Back [Hardcover]

by Katherine Russell Rich
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)

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Book Description

September 21, 1999 0609603213 978-0609603215 1
The Red Devil is a bold, wickedly funny tale of illness, joy, and the improbable triumph of love in the midst of despair.  

When Katherine Russell Rich was thirty-two, a newly divorced, high-powered magazine editor living a glamorous life in New York City, her ten-year (and still counting) ordeal with cancer began. Soon she was bald, scrambled, and living in two worlds simultaneously: the world of the ill, filled with treatments, exhaustion, and doctors as focused on avoiding malpractice suits as on healing; and the "normal" world, where dating, career, vacations, and 401(k) plans still matter.

Alternately wise and wise-cracking, Rich serves up vignettes from the surreal world only the ill know: the MS patient who crashes her support group, the alternative practitioner whose gifts come from extraterrestrials, the doctor who fires her patient, dating while bald, working without a brain, and smoking with cancer. Here is a woman who has been brought to her knees by disease several times, only to get up and learn to dance, with grace, even.

Editorial Reviews Review

Nothing's off limits in Katherine Russell Rich's gutsy account of her breast cancer treatment, from harsh insights about her relationships ("I was a stiff-lipped, bloodless, manners-obsessed WASP. He was Ricky Ricardo in a bad mood") to the wrenching details of her disease's progression to stage 4 status. For example, the tumors break through bone and into her spine, making her bones crack from within: "After months of straining against its leash, the fury of pain broke free and ripped into me as I bent down, slashing through my back, tearing into flesh, pressing without mercy onto bone.... I struggled to make myself stand, and felt--heard--something rip in my back." She holds back nothing--the pain of her tests, the apathy of many of her health providers, the intimate details of relationships, and the necessary wit ("Cancer humor is like the Zen laugh; it's a way of gathering back forces, a means of breathing in absurdity, darkness, and pain and blowing them out in one great joyous guffaw."). You follow her journey from being meek and fearful to the kind of "kick-ass cancer patient" she comes to respect. This is a riveting book that will change your understanding of what it's like to be treated for--and live with--cancer. --Joan Price

From Publishers Weekly

Diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 32, Rich, currently a senior editor at Allure magazine, recounts how, over the past 11 years, she has survived a lumpectomy, radiation, several protocols of chemotherapy and hormones, a bone marrow transplant and alternative healing techniques. Her sharp eye for detail and caustic sense of humor (she refers to her ex-husband as Ricky Ricardo in a bad mood) serve her well in this gripping account. Navigating the medical universe of a cancer patient by the seat of her pants, Rich became dissatisfied with several medical professionals before she finally found a physician who had her best interests at heart: her first breast surgeon (male) had been prepared to operate without doing a mammogram until her mother intervened; another oncologist (female) did not return her phone calls and consistently undermined her until Rich finally got the message that she was no longer interested in treating her. Rich also explores the difficulties that having advanced cancer caused in her personal life: she was fired from one job, and a serious romance that had brought her a great deal of happiness ended. Three years after her bone marrow transplant and one week after her mother died, her cancer recurred. Although Rich suspects that her cancer is somehow connected to emotional loss, she evinces a terrific determination to go on living. She is now involved in a combination of alternative treatments and chemotherapy that her oncologist is convinced will stabilize, if not cure, her disease. Anyone who reads this feisty memoir will cheer her on. Agent, Elizabeth Kaplan, Ellen Levine Literary Agency. (Sept.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Crown; 1 edition (September 21, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0609603213
  • ISBN-13: 978-0609603215
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #184,761 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

KATHERINE RUSSELL RICH was born in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. She's the author of The Red Devil and Dreaming in Hindi and has written for the New York Times, the Sunday Times Magazine, the Washington Post, Slate, and O, the Oprah Magazine, among other places. She's received a New York Foundation for the Arts Award, and fellowships at the New York Public Library's Center for Scholars and Writer, MacDowell and the Corporation of Yaddo. She teaches in the low-residency MFA program at Lesley University in Cambridge, MA.


Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hey Oprah, Here's your next book club book! February 11, 2000
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Katherine Russel Rich is an excellent example of a strong womanwho has a serious story to tell. Breast cancer is scarey enough for meto think of, but after reading this remarkable experience, it is definitely something I would NOT wish on my worst enemy. The terrible experiences she suffered through weren't only caused by her cancerous body, or the medications pumped into her, but by other people and their unbelievable reactions to her and her disease. I laughed. I cried. I got really mad that someone could go through such a time. I feel Katherine is a part of my family now. I'm eager to hear more. I hope and pray for her complete recovery, both physically and emotionally. She has touched my heart and soul through her words. Everyone should read this book. Maybe more people would be sympathetic towards cancer patients and survivors if they did. I never quite realized what it all meant until reading her story. END
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Powerful Story April 16, 2000
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book was recommended to me by my sister, a breast cancer survivor. She said it was the best book she had read about a woman with breast cancer. My sister is correct. Katherine Russell Rich has hightened my awareness of the breast cancer experience. Every health care provider should read this book, especially physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants, especially if they work with cancer patients. Unlike others who have reviewed this book, I not only could "put it down," I had to put it down often. It was a story so powerful and emotional, I could only take it in parts, but it delivers a very important message. Katherine Russell Rich, thank you for writing and sharing your story.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Touching and ironically humorous November 26, 2000
By Sara
I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in May of 2000; I am seventeen years old. Although this memoir deals with breast cancer, I still found it extremely helpful, funny, comforting, sad, etc. It illustrates the experience of cancer as not only harrowing, but as a learning experience. Ms. Rich attacks her disease with truth and strength. I recommend this book to ANYONE, involved with cancer or not.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Red Hot Writer January 10, 2000
By A Customer
kathy rich is a true fighter and she brings a unique, inspiring perspective to the fight against breast cancer. she shows that you can fight in your own personal way and discover a tremendous amount of inner strength in the midst of this horrible disease. a great book for women who have battled cancer and for women facing other battles as well.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Courageous January 19, 2001
For a cancer survivor to record the whole nasty experience and not succumb to the fear that the words she writes will be her last is so courageous and selfless. They don't have to share, but they do. My mother-in-law is in her second remission from ovarian cancer. As a family member who so dearly loves her and wishes this evil cancer would be silenced, Kathy's novel is refreshing. I agree with the fact a cancer patient has to keep her head in the game. Trusting one doctor is foolish when you're gambling with your life. It's better to ask, then lose time. Loved it.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read this awsome book December 13, 1999
By A Customer
I saw Katherine Rich on Good Morning America and was totally blown away by her humor and positive attitude in the face of a devastating disease. I have since read the book (twice: once for the story and a second time to savor her fabulous use of language) and am even more impressed with her life. What a role model for anyone facing a crisis, or just "real life"! I can't wait for her next book. What a terrific new author.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A darkly humourous, truly striking take on cancer November 30, 2006
Katherine Russel Rich's stirring memoir of her struggle with breast cancer takes the reader on a harrowing journey from the end of Rich's marriage in 1988 and her almost immediate discovery that she had cancer, through chemotherapy, to the discovery that her cancer had metastasized into her bones, and finally to her resolute remission and the reconstruction of her life. Rich, who was only 32 and living a fast, glamorous (booze, fatty food, and cigarette filled) life as a magazine editor in New York, was floored by the realization that she had cancer, and at first tried to downplay the terrible physical and psychological effects of her disease and treatment. Yet Rich finds that denial and isolation only make her chemotherapy more painful and exhausting, and that the wry wit she uses to fend off her feelings of hopelessness, victimhood, and dependency can only last so long.

Despite the way the author lays bare her emotions, this book is no made-for-T.V. movie or sappy Hallmark card. Rich is acerbic and analytical, looking back on her experience and pointing out both her triumphs and her failings. At 32 she considered herself far too young to develop cancer, and her doctors felt the same way. Some of the book's most powerful moments are those in which Rich realizes her doctor's failings--discouraging her from having a mammogram or a biopsy, failing to explain her disease in anything but technical jargon, rushing her into procedures without helping her determine what would actually be best for her.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Read
This is a memoir of a cancer journey as experienced by the writer. There are a lot of parts in this book that are not sugar coated, but the tough parts are leavened by the author's... Read more
Published 19 months ago by MidMom
4.0 out of 5 stars The Red Devil To He'll with Cancer and Back
I received the book in excellent condition. It was well worth what I paid for it. I read it and enjoyed it. I will be passing it on to my sister who is a cancer survivor.
Published 19 months ago by Kindle Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Still worth reading, I hope it will be reissued
I bought this edition of the book years ago and just picked it up again recently after hearing about the author's death almost 25 years after she was diagnosed with stage IV breast... Read more
Published on April 18, 2012 by Jaylia3
5.0 out of 5 stars Still worth reading
I picked up this book again recently, after hearing about the author's death almost 25 years after she was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer, and surprised myself by reading... Read more
Published on April 18, 2012 by Jaylia3
4.0 out of 5 stars riveting
I found the book riveting couldn't put it down. I didn't care for her second book , Dreaming in Hindi at all. But this book is truly engrossing. Read more
Published on July 25, 2010 by C. Ledger
5.0 out of 5 stars Beating The Red Devil
I,too,am a breast cancer survivor. The Red Devil took me back through my journey, the highs and the lows of the whole experience. Read more
Published on June 4, 2010 by Lesley Bolduc
5.0 out of 5 stars Great True Story
(A "Medical System Nightmare?" This isn't a health care rating, it's a rating on the book.) Great writing; gripping story. I couldn't put it down. Read more
Published on May 17, 2010 by Twain Marcus
3.0 out of 5 stars "People my age told all."
I came to THE RED DEVIL deliberately -- after first reading the author's later book, DREAMING IN HINDI. We have only the author's word that her experiences in both books are real. Read more
Published on July 17, 2009 by T. Patrick Killough
5.0 out of 5 stars The Red Devil:To Hell with Cancer--and back
This was a very interesting book! The author has a wicked sense of humor.I have a friend battling cancer and it gave me a lot of insight and a new sense of understanding what she... Read more
Published on February 18, 2009 by Celeste Wiitanen
5.0 out of 5 stars A Monument to Courage
I read this book shortly after I was first diagnosed with breast cancer and again after my second diagnosis. As Ms. Read more
Published on February 9, 2009 by Bonnie Brody
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