An astute and valuable resource for both cancer physicians and patients.

OFF OUR CHESTS

A couple share their up-close and personal story of trouncing cancer.

In this memoir, the Marshalls take readers to the front lines of their triumphant battle against a cancer that invaded not only the wife’s body, but also their 22-year marriage. Liza was 43 years old when she was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer, one of the most virulent and deadly forms of the disease. Ironically, her husband, John, was a world-renowned oncologist who had witnessed more than 1,700 of his 2,500 patients die. He voices strong opinions about the state of medical care in America in these pages. The book stands out among other first-person accounts about surviving cancer because of the authors’ striking frankness throughout the 340 pages. That’s not to say that the story is a downer. Although the account is flat-out honest and holds back nothing, the Marshalls inject lighter touches that balance the gravity of the situation. (“A brief history of my breasts. There were two of them.”) The couple’s emotional experiences at times diverge. A telling moment was their shopping trip to choose a wig for Liza. She and the couple’s children embraced the excursion as a fun family adventure. But John was roiling inside because the trip made Liza’s disease more real than he could handle. He notes that cancer is an entire family experience and that “whatever skeletons are hiding in the closet rattle louder.” A rare blowup happened when Liza wanted an expensive medication for her unrelenting nausea. John retorted: “Do you know how much that drug costs?” The Marshalls’ book is exceptional because it is multifaceted, deeply insightful, and brings readers right into the room. Liza delivers extensive details, including that her diagnosis came a few days before Thanksgiving at 2 p.m. Monday, Nov. 20, 2006. After months of agonizing tests, she opted for surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation and participated in a clinical trial, with John largely supporting her selections. He was against or had mixed feelings about other choices but stayed silent because he felt they should be her decisions. Ultimately, the treatments were successful and Liza remains cancer-free.

An astute and valuable resource for both cancer physicians and patients.

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64687-048-6

Page Count: 340

Publisher: Ideapress Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 2021

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Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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Lorde’s big heart and fierce mind are at full strength on each page of this deeply personal and deeply political collection.

THE CANCER JOURNALS

The groundbreaking Black lesbian writer and activist chronicles her experience with cancer.

In her mid-40s, Lorde (1934-1992) was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a radical mastectomy. Through prose, poems, and selected journal entries beginning six months after the surgery, the author explores the anger, pain, and fear that her illness wrought. Her recovery was characterized by resistance and learning to love her body again. She envisioned herself as a powerful fighter while also examining the connection between her illness and her activism. “There is no room around me in which to be still,” she writes, “to examine and explore what pain is mine alone—no device to separate my struggle within from my fury at the outside world’s viciousness, the stupid brutal lack of consciousness or concern that passes for the way things are. The arrogant blindness of comfortable white women. What is this work all for? What does it matter if I ever speak again or not?” Lorde confronts other tough questions, including the role of holistic and alternative treatments and whether her cancer (and its recurrence) was preventable. She writes of eschewing “superficial spirituality” and repeatedly rejecting the use of prosthesis because it felt like “a lie” at precisely the time she was “seeking new ways of strength and trying to find the courage to tell the truth.” Forty years after its initial publication and with a new foreword by Tracy K. Smith, the collection remains a raw reckoning with illness and death as well as a challenge to the conventional expectations of women with cancer. More universally, Lorde’s rage and the clarity that follows offer us a blueprint for facing our mortality and living boldly in the time we have. This empowering compilation is heartbreaking, beautiful, and timeless.

Lorde’s big heart and fierce mind are at full strength on each page of this deeply personal and deeply political collection.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-14-313520-3

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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