Reviewed by: Alysa Cummings
The Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania
Last Modified: August 31, 2008
New American Library, 2008 | $14.00 US
Picked up Five Lessons I Didn’t Learn from Breast Cancer at Barnes and Noble over the weekend, read it cover to cover Sunday afternoon in one fell swoop and couldn’t wait to get in touch.
What can I say? I loved your book. Hey, I wish I had a friend like you years ago when I was going through treatment for breast cancer. Truth is, reading your book felt like having a leisurely cup of coffee with a caring friend who had successfully solved a problem that I was just getting ready to face.
This week I can’t wait to share your book with lots of ladies in my support group – for the tips, strategies and great advice, as well as for the laughter therapy that comes bundled right along with it.
Your take on denial (If I really did have breast cancer, I told myself, I would have it for like twenty minutes, and then it would be over...) and control (Telling this doctor you disagree with him is like telling Wolfgang Puck he ought to use more salt...) were right on the money. And the comments from other ladies who had gone through treatment for breast cancer that were woven throughout the book were tremendously honest and helpful as well.
There’s no doubt about it - you are one funny lady, Shelley, - and laughing may be the absolute best prescription for getting through surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, don’t you think? Page after page, I found myself cracking up at your lines:
I felt about Cancer Club the same way I did when I got my first invitation to join AARP. Yikes, no way am I doing this. Throw that thing out before someone sees you with it.
If there’s anything in Five Lessons that I would debate, it’s your stance (and occasional rant) that having a life threatening disease isn’t necessarily a life changing experience. As you say in the book:
Breast cancer wasn’t a journey that led me anywhere worth going, and you will never, ever hear me say I was glad I had it, for any reason...breast cancer didn’t transform me. It didn’t reform me. It did sort of deform me, but only a little...breast cancer didn’t change who I was; it confirmed who I was.
I know. I know. It must be all of these ladies with their pink ribbons flying who keep saying cancer was a gift that have tried your patience to the breaking point.
After almost ten years in CancerLand, I know this much is true: getting through treatment, healing and then helping other ladies find their way on their journeys is what it’s all about. In my book anyway. Shelley, Five Lessons delivers that and so much more. The rest is just semantics. To put this to rest, once and for all, I must quote the man (Bill Murray) and the movie (Meatballs): it just doesn’t matter.