A blend of scholarly research, spirituality and personal experience shapes this memoir of growth and loss when coping with cancer.
After her mother’s death from breast cancer, the author decided to write about her experience as a caregiver and advocate for breast cancer awareness, with a focus on the nonmedical aspects of the disease. The author and her mother embraced alternative treatments and preferred to take a holistic approach to understanding the illness, seeing the physical and calculable aspects of cancer as only one component of a disease that is also shaped by self-awareness, interpersonal relationships and community. After a period of remission, the author saw a connection between her mother’s anger—at friends, family and events beyond her control—and the recurrence of her cancer. Although anger isn’t directly implicated as the cause of the cancer, the theme of the anger and cancer returning together is repeated over and over again throughout the book. Woven into the story of the disease is the author’s memoir of her developing relationship with her mother and the changes in responsibilities and understanding as both take on new roles. Transitions between the United States and the Philippines also shape the story, particularly when her mother returns to her native country for treatment and when dealing with crises related to health insurance on an international level. The book concludes with analysis of various similar texts and academic articles, perhaps a product of the author’s advanced degree in psychology. Generally, the book is straightforward and readable, but its overuse of italics and quotation marks sometimes draws attention away from the narrative. Positioned somewhat outside a mainstream understanding, the author’s holistic interpretation of cancer may not resonate with readers less interested in emotions and introspection, but the research she cites is evidence that understanding a disease’s psychological impact on patients and their families is a field of growing importance.
A poignant mother–daughter story that adds a personal touch to the science of suffering.