An intelligent, meticulously researched history of a controversial cancer treatment called “heated chemo.”
Galvin’s debut chronicles his wife Lisa’s struggle with cancer. When she was diagnosed with peritoneal carcinomatosis—cancer of the lining of the abdominal cavity—she sought the treatment of Dr. Armando Sardi at Baltimore’s Mercy Hospital. Sardi’s methods boasted a high survival rate but often met skepticism from the medical community. The treatment, cytoreductive surgery with hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (commonly called “heated chemo”), involves, among other things, bathing the abdomen’s internal organs in heated chemotherapy drugs. The author gives readers only brief glimpses of Lisa’s ordeal, instead spending most of the book describing her doctors and providing an in-depth history of heated chemo. Despite the trauma he and his wife endured, he writes about case studies as a scientist would, describing how a circuitous setup of clinical trials and analyses can delay potentially lifesaving procedures. In Galvin’s meticulous reviews of medical papers, featuring clear explanations of medical terminology, biological principles and evidence-based practice, he shares his hard-won insights and his gratitude for the people who saved his wife’s life. Two items are particularly noteworthy: successful cancer treatments involving white blood cell “assassins” and a different therapy that exposes cells to cancer in a laboratory and then reintroduces them to the body. Readers looking for an intimate, personal portrait of cancer survival may be disappointed, but those open to intellectual exploration will find much food for thought here.
An accessible, persuasive medical memoir.