Cancer Schmancer

Reviewed by: Carolyn Vachani, MSN, RN, AOCN
Last Modified: March 10, 2003

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Against the Odds cover Author: Fran Drescher
Publisher: Warner Books, 2002
ISBN: 0446530190

OncoLink Rating: 2 Stars

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Like most cancer survivors, Fran Drescher (best known for TV's The Nanny) knows that cancer has changed her life, in a good way. Friendships and relationships are stronger and more meaningful, she has developed friendships she might never have had without cancer, and her compassion for others has grown tremendously. You may think the trials and tribulations of a star's cancer experience could not possibly relate to the average Joe, but you would be wrong. Fran's story stresses the importance of listening to your own body and being your own advocate in the health care arena. Despite eight different doctors dismissing her symptoms, Fran presses on until the ultimate diagnosis of uterine cancer by doctor #9.

What follows is a very frank and occasionally humorous discussion of life, decisions, and side effects. Some might even be offended by Fran's frank discussions of sexuality and bowel issues, but those who have been there understand the importance. These are real issues in the lives of women with gynecological cancers (or any cancer for that matter). These are often issues that health care providers neglect to talk about with their patients. But for a survivor, these are real issues, faced every day.

Prior to surgery, Fran turns to the Internet for information. I hope readers take from this that seeking information much earlier in the game might have been helpful (although most people do not). A well-informed patient is able to make the best decisions on their behalf. The Internet has given patients and families the ability to find extensive information about their disease, but consumers must be careful. This information is not regulated, and can often be misleading or just plain wrong. Health consumers should review "Cancer Website Evaluation Guidelines for Patients", written by Dr. Joel Goldwein, Vice President of Medical Affairs for IMPAC Medical Systems and founder of OncoLink, for advice on how to recognize quality information on the Internet.

Fran again seeks the advice of many to make a well-informed decision to forgo radiation therapy. Some may think that her stardom has gotten her better treatment, but I disagree. It is her perseverance that ultimately gets a diagnosis, and her willingness to be her strongest advocate throughout the saga, that gets her to where she is now. Take a lesson from Fran - this is your life - don't let anyone else plan it for you! I highly recommend this book for any woman.


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