CANCER IS A BITCH by Gail Konop Baker


(Or, I’d Rather Be Having a Midlife Crisis)
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You-are-there account of the author’s diagnosis, surgery and much more.

After her annual mammogram, Baker’s radiologist recommended a biopsy, which confirmed that she had intermediate-grade cancer. Readers will sympathize and share her pre-op fears and agonize with her during the wait for the post-op pathology phone call (taken by her husband, a radiologist). The news was good: Her cancer had been removed in situ, wasn’t invasive and other suspicious sites tested negative. Regular follow-up and watchful waiting were necessary; she didn’t require chemotherapy or radiation treatment, but Tamoxifen could lower her risk for recurrence by half. Baker opted for the drug (which has its own risks) and also went to the Mayo Clinic for further diagnosis and treatment. Most of the text, however, is devoted to the roots of her soul-searching, guilt-ridden persona. We learn that the Jewish author is a would-be novelist married to a Dartmouth-educated Protestant preppy, living comfortably in Madison, Wis., with two daughters and a son. We hear about her parents’ divorce, her mother’s breakdown, her brother’s suicide, her hostile stepmother. Baker dwells on past loves and current sex, marital ups and downs, her girlfriends and any number of day-to-day glad or sad events, including others’ cancer deaths. Some of this is funny, as when the author acknowledges her obsession with her breasts. But much of it is sad, particularly Baker’s voicing of the classic self-blaming cancer questions: What did I do wrong? Why me? Readers will weary of her zealous conviction that cancer can be staved off by leading the perfect life: keeping up with yoga, praying, marathon running, going “green,” eating organic—even making one’s own cosmetics. Her follow-up mammogram was negative, but that doesn’t make this self-indulgent narrative particularly useful to those recently diagnosed with cancer seeking wisdom and guidance.

More a let-it-all-hang-out gusher of prose than a cancer memoir.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-7382-1162-6
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Da Capo Lifelong
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 2008


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