How I Learned to Balance Love, Work, Family Friends...and Cancer at 23
Email this review


Cancer chronicle from a young Glamour editor that manages to be loutish and unlovely.

The unspeakable happened to Zammett, an attractive 23-year-old with a fashionable magazine job in New York City, a strong Irish family on Long Island and a oving boyfriend. After a routine medical checkup, she was diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML). This mysterious cancer is neither hereditary nor caused by environmental factors; Zammett’s oncologist likened contracting CML to being hit by lightning. The only known cure, her doctor explained, was a bone marrow transplant that required a genetically matched donor, had a 15 percent mortality rate and rendered survivors infertile. On the other hand, there was the miraculous, newly FDA-approved experimental drug Gleevec, which killed the cancer cells and left the others intact, though it did not cure the disease. The author and her parents embarked for the Oregon Health and Sciences University in Portland, where the drug trial took place. They were accompanied by a photo crew, because Zammett was writing a cancer diary for her magazine. “A Glamour staffer shares her battle to live,” regrettably, suggests this book’s overall level of insight and profundity. Certainly we’re relieved to read that within a year Zammett’s cancer was in deep remission. But despite the narrative’s inherent drama and suspense, it’s hard to get around the trashy colloquialisms of this University of Tennessee party girl. Each paragraph, it seems, has its own equivalent of the egregiously lazy (“I had pretty much learned to suck up the suckiness of the shots”), while vulgarisms from “fuck,” to “butt crack” abound. Of the many grossly superficial statements made in her affluent, competitive family, perhaps the most offensive is: “With cancer treatment . . . it’s all about who you know.” It’s no surprise that when her sister is diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, they invoke the “healing power of shopping” and splurge on $300 Chanel sunglasses.

Sustaining an appropriate sympathy for this character is, sadly, not easy.

Pub Date: May 9th, 2005
ISBN: 1-58567-643-8
Page count: 270pp
Publisher: Overlook
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 2005