Yip-Williams chronicles her medical and psychological struggles with the metastatic colon cancer that killed her in March 2018; she was 42.
As she writes, the author barely escaped childhood. Born in Vietnam (to Chinese parents) with severe cataracts, her grandmother decided that, due to her blindness, she be “filled as an infant.” Thankfully, family and friends with moral consciences demurred, and the young girl eventually escaped with her family, arriving in the United States, where she pursued an education at Williams College, earned a law degree at Harvard, and commenced a career. The diagnosis came in 2013, and the author, who divides her text by years, journeys around in time in each section with evident ease. Her story is unquestionably painful—and sadly familiar to those suffering from terminal illnesses. Moving among doctors, hospitals, scans, tests, and surgeries as well as increasingly darker news and deepening emotional and psychological stress, on her and her family—these are the events she relates, sometimes with a reporter’s disinterest, other times with a sufferer’s anger, depression, and sorrow. Yip-Williams had two daughters, both early in elementary school, and her grief at not being able to be with them—to see them grow and mature—is palpable throughout. Along the way, the author considers a fundamental question: Is it more courageous to keep struggling (trying new meds and procedures, seeing new specialists) or to surrender to the inevitable? Eventually, she realizes, she will have to do the latter, and she enters hospice care. Although she is careful to tell stories of other sufferers she met, she does not talk about her great fortune of having a substantial income and a good health care plan. She confesses that she is not traditionally religious but does believe in a God and an afterlife.
The human confrontation with death—stark and painful and often inspiring.