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.