An ongoing blog about the author’s experience with breast cancer is transformed here into a deeply personal, often darkly funny memoir.
Wisenberg (Creative Writing/Northwestern Univ.; Holocaust Girls, 2002, etc.) takes the reader from January 2007, when she was diagnosed, through surgery, chemotherapy and recovery, closing with a postscript in June 2008. This is not just a survival tale. The witty, opinionated author, a brusque intellectual and a self-described “Costumed Activist,” freely shares her likes and, more often, her dislikes, both serious and petty. She has harsh words for the indifference of some in the medical establishment and for corporate-sponsored pink-ribbon campaigns that fail to sponsor adequate research into the environmental causes of cancer. She also scorns women who wear stiletto heels. Readers who want to know more, or to view photographs of the mammary-shaped baked goods at her Farewell to My Left Breast Party, can go to the Cancer Bitch blog. Wisenberg doesn’t scant the disconcerting physical details about drains, scars and chemo, and she’s equally open about her fear, suffering and depression. Rather than her breast, surprisingly, it’s her hair loss she obsesses about. Eschewing wigs and turbans, she has a friend paint swirling designs and “US out of Iraq” in henna on her scalp, an act that says a lot about who she is and how she sees herself. Mostly though, she writes about carrying on her daily life during a stressful time: lecturing, reading, taking yoga classes, dining out with her husband, visiting friends, observing the Jewish holidays. The entry titled “What Is Mine,” which names peoples, animals, places and things the author likes and identifies with, seems a tad self-indulgent. Not so “An Accounting,” which illuminates and moves as Wisenberg sums up what she has learned from her experience.
Tart and scary.