Reflective, upbeat, and hopeful; offers honest insight into the real trials and tribulations of a cancer patient as well as...

The Cancer Card

DEALING WITH A DIAGNOSIS

A lung cancer survivor offers hope for patients, families, and friends.

Van de Water’s whole life changed in an instant when, at 47 as a healthy nonsmoker, she was diagnosed with lung cancer. In this debut memoir, she traces her illness with first-person candor and an eye for medical detail. She shares her thoughts and emotions openly; just as important, she demonstrates an uncanny strength to overcome fear. “The odds were not in my favor,” writes Van de Water, “and I decided not to pay any attention to that.” There is a real sense of being present at the author’s side as the chapters unfold. Van de Water chronicles meetings with doctors and describes what it’s like to have a CT scan, biopsy, and PET scan (with reprints of her medical results adding to the realism). She also discusses her operation, recovery, and subsequent chemotherapy. All along the way, the author is unafraid to reveal her most vulnerable self, yet she maintains enough composure to rationally tell her story and accurately document her experiences. One of the more poignant chapters, “Hair,” is itself an essay on attitudes toward hair loss caused by chemotherapy. “People don’t question if a man is ill or going through chemotherapy when he steps out with a shiny dome,” Van de Water observes. “Hair, for women, is different.” Later, she proclaims, “Have fun with it.…Here is your chance to never have a bad hair day.” It is this kind of refreshingly candid and humorous perspective in the face of adversity that contributes to the emotionally earnest book’s readability. Particularly helpful at the end of each short chapter are the “tips” the author provides for both the cancer patient and the patient’s “team.” Upon returning home after surgery, for example, Van de Water counsels patients, “Do not feel guilty.…Be unapologetically selfish for one year.” She advises the team, “Do not ring the doorbell unless you are expected.”

Reflective, upbeat, and hopeful; offers honest insight into the real trials and tribulations of a cancer patient as well as valuable advice for those facing treatment.

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4834-5496-2

Page Count: 178

Publisher: Lulu

Review Posted Online: Oct. 12, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2016

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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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AN INVISIBLE THREAD

THE TRUE STORY OF AN 11-YEAR-OLD PANHANDLER, A BUSY SALES EXECUTIVE, AND AN UNLIKELY MEETING WITH DESTINY

A straightforward tale of kindness and paying it forward in 1980s New York.

When advertising executive Schroff answered a child’s request for spare change by inviting him for lunch, she did not expect the encounter to grow into a friendship that would endure into his adulthood. The author recounts how she and Maurice, a promising boy from a drug-addicted family, learned to trust each other. Schroff acknowledges risks—including the possibility of her actions being misconstrued and the tension of crossing socio-economic divides—but does not dwell on the complexities of homelessness or the philosophical problems of altruism. She does not question whether public recognition is beneficial, or whether it is sufficient for the recipient to realize the extent of what has been done. With the assistance of People human-interest writer Tresniowski (Tiger Virtues, 2005, etc.), Schroff adheres to a personal narrative that traces her troubled relationship with her father, her meetings with Maurice and his background, all while avoiding direct parallels, noting that their childhoods differed in severity even if they shared similar emotional voids. With feel-good dramatizations, the story seldom transcends the message that reaching out makes a difference. It is framed in simple terms, from attributing the first meeting to “two people with complicated pasts and fragile dreams” that were “somehow meant to be friends” to the conclusion that love is a driving force. Admirably, Schroff notes that she did not seek a role as a “substitute parent,” and she does not judge Maurice’s mother for her lifestyle. That both main figures experience a few setbacks yet eventually survive is never in question; the story fittingly concludes with an epilogue by Maurice. For readers seeking an uplifting reminder that small gestures matter.

 

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4516-4251-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Howard Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2011

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