In his humorous debut memoir, Williams envisions his shambolic prostate cancer saga as the education of a “medical dope” into “healthy hope.”
A Pulitzer Prize–nominated journalist and editor based in Boca Raton, Florida, Williams embarked on an unwelcome medical odyssey after a biopsy revealed he had prostate cancer. Unfortunately, that was just the beginning of a three-year comedy of errors. The radical robotic prostatectomy went well, but it was followed by hernias, MRSA, kidney failure, shingles, and eye troubles. Doctors failed him with a “prescription fiasco” and a canceled surgery. This might all have made for an overwhelmingly depressing litany of suffering were it not for Williams’ winning second-person, present-tense narration. By recounting his journey like a set of instructions to a hapless new patient, he involves readers on an intimate level and gains wry perspective on his own circumstances. Along the way, he gives readable accounts of bodily processes and treatment history, such as a description of early dialysis. In one memorable chapter, he also recalls four previous occasions when he faced down death: pneumonia at age 4, two reckless teenage car accidents, and incarceration in a Malawi prison. “Humor is the best doctor you will ever know,” Williams insists, and he follows his own advice by finding the funny side of every situation. That doctor who caused a prescription snafu—which gave Williams blisters all over his groin and legs—attended “the 10,623rd best medical school in the world.” Even catheterization and erectile dysfunction offer a few laughs, the latter entailing a special class and a penis pump. Clip art and stock photos heading each chapter and in advertising postcards at the end seem gimmicky but add color and whimsy. Yet Williams stresses that patients must demand answers and hold their physicians to account. There are serious warnings here, too, often delivered in short “Warrior Patient rule” aphorisms at the end of each chapter. For instance, “If you need help, get it. Bravery is for dead people.”
Equally sardonic and informative—definitely not your average cancer memoir.