Photo credit Christina McPherson
I’m a writer. (I’m also a mom, wife, sister, and daughter.) I write about food and wine (I’m a culinary school graduate and former cookbook editor) but since my battle with cancer I write about what it’s like to be a patient. Becoming a cancer patient changed my perspective on everything, but particularly what’s it like to be a patient. When I’m not writing, I’m hanging out with my two kids and my husband in Northern California, chasing after our dog, cooking, going to the movies, reading, hiking, or paddle boarding. I’m a survivor/thriver, finishing a clinical trial chemotherapy drug in May 2015 with no sign of cancer returning.
I was 37 years old with two small kids when I was diagnosed with Stage IV inflammatory breast cancer. I went from feeling like I had the flu to a serious cancer diagnosis. Getting through the months of treatments, surgeries, and entering survivorship gave me a patient’s perspective like no other. My family helped me navigate the strange world of cancer but there simply wasn’t time to discover and use all the resources out there. When I was first diagnosed, I pictured the Hollywood version of my sick self: a scarf on my head, a blanket on my lap, and an IV in my arm with one doctor and a few nurses hovering and a family that supported and cheered me up. Basically me but bald and slightly nauseous.
It’s not like that.
It’s a team of doctors, endless nurses, endless scans and blood draws and procedures and confusion and frustration and exhaustion. And that’s just the first month.
Now I know that after you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, life will never be the same again. I know you will wish, hope it, pray for things to reset and go back to “normal,” but they won’t. I know now that cancer changes everything.
Oh, how I wish someone had told me that on day one. How I wish someone had given me a book that said it all, in honest/grave/mordantly funny language, and saved me a lot of time and whiplash.
I wanted a book that said things like: chemo will be like the flu times a thousand and leave a lingering chemical taste in your mouth for months; your children won’t want to look at you when you’re bald; you won’t be able to manage your life without an entire community helping out; and this will go on for much longer than you think.
This is the kind of stuff you’ll find in the book:
Instead, the best I could get were somber hospital brochures titled “Coping with Cancer,” filled with photos of half-smiling patients and their caregivers drinking tea against a grim beige background.
This is Cancer: Everything You Need to Know from the Waiting Room to the Bedroom includes all of my insider tips on getting through it (including an extensive list of patient and caregiver resources). Said another way, This is Cancer is a chronologically ordered, voice-driven primer, a “what to expect when you’re expecting” reference book for the diagnosis you don’t want but are stuck with. This is the book that you and your loved ones or support system keep in your “heading to the hospital bag,” because it’s the only one that tells them what’s going on.
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“The world is round and the place which may seem like the end may also be the beginning.”