A breast cancer survivor recounts her arduous journey in this debut memoir.
Before her diagnosis in 2010, attorney Dunnewold thought of herself as the “queen of compliance”—she didn’t smoke or “fool around,” and she practiced yoga and ate organic food. Her worst vices, she says, were “expensive chocolate and Grey’s Anatomy.” So in July 2010, when she discovered a “weirdly grainy area” in her breast, she wasn’t immediately worried. She was later told that she had “several tumors on both sides” and that her only option was a bilateral mastectomy. In the space of two years, Dunnewold came to terms with the fact that she had stage 3 cancer while enduring lifesaving surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, followed by reconstructive procedures. Her memoir candidly examines all aspects of her fight against breast cancer, from her first mammogram to nipple reconstruction and areola tattooing, and she relates her story with a probing, dry wit. For example, she tells of writing an email with the subject line “A Bump in the Road,” announcing to acquaintances she had cancer, and she confides, “I did not entitle my email ‘A Bump in the Boob,’ although I was tempted.” This dark sense of humor may not be to everyone’s taste, but it successfully counterbalances the unsettling facts that the author faces head-on: “Don’t think you’re so special,” she writes. “Don’t think you’re exempt.” What sets Dunnewold’s memoir apart from others of a similar nature is that it directly addresses the question “Why me?” and presents this line of thought as being unhelpful: “Sometimes what happens to us is a mystery. But we can take credit for how we respond.” Her writing also sparkles with clarity and wisdom throughout: “You want to know what lessons cancer taught me? Here’s The Big One: Life is too short to finish War and Peace.” Overall, this book may provide a valuable lifeline to those facing similar challenges.
An appealing, sharply self-inquisitive remembrance.