Werth’s debut about her battle with breast cancer is a mix of prose and poetry that’s part autobiography, part memoir, part journal and part self-help guide for others facing similar “faith walks.”
On a particularly sunny, life-affirming spring day, Werth drove to her dentist’s office with the sunroof open, had her teeth cleaned, unexpectedly ran into her radiologist of the past 20 years, ran errands, went hiking with friends, enjoyed a picnic lunch, had a “serendipitous routine” mammography, was forced by traffic to run over a woodchuck and learned she had stage III, triple-negative breast cancer—an especially aggressive subtype of the disease. It was, as they say, the best of times and the worst of times rolled into one 24-hour period of the 62-year-old’s life. Her reaction to the news was to do what she’s always done at seminal moments in her life—to write. The words flowed throughout her “frightening and unfamiliar” journey into breast cancer. A self-described realist, Werth jumps right on the “Cancer Express” and takes the reader along for the visceral ride. She writes, “I must go forward…I cannot avoid the inevitable…It is what it is (one of my favorite clichés). The woodchuck is dead, and I have cancer.” Willing to have those difficult discussions about the “c” word, Werth goes to the places and topics most people refuse to visit. But this is not a tale of doom and gloom. Yes, there is fear, doubt and momentary anger, but those emotions are accompanied by hope, humor and gratitude as Werth discovers how to live in the moment and find the beauty, fragrance and delight of every day on Earth. Werth’s at her literary best in the prose sections; her recollections of her grandmother, who had “two radical mastectomies” 53 years earlier, quickly draw the reader in thanks to vivid images of the people, places and scars of that faraway time. Less enjoyable are Werth’s forays into poetry. It’s not that she’s not a good writer; it’s that the poems seem disjointed, incongruent and sometimes random. While traveling through the prose is a smooth, easy ride, venturing through the poems can feel cumbersome and laborious.
For those on their own unfamiliar, scary voyage with cancer, this book will likely inspire, comfort and perhaps motivate them to journal their way through the disease.