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.)
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