Writer Gives Tour of Breast Cancer Journey, from A to Z

The cover of Madhulika Sikka's book, "A Breast Cancer Alphabet." (image via http://www.abreastcanceralphabet.com/)

The cover of Madhulika Sikka’s book, “A Breast Cancer Alphabet.” (image via http://www.abreastcanceralphabet.com/)

LBBC Writer and Editorial Coordinator Erin Rowley reviews Madhulika Sikka’s book, A Breast Cancer Alphabet.

Cancerland is a place you never planned to visit. Author Madhulika Sikka didn’t want to go there either. But through her book, A Breast Cancer Alphabet, she volunteers to be your tour guide as you navigate life after a breast cancer diagnosis. “This book,” she says, “is for all of you who have become members of a club you did not want to join,” as well as for your friends and family members.

A Breast Cancer Alphabet is a quick read – Ms. Sikka, a broadcast journalist who was diagnosed in 2010, writes that she wanted “a short book that wouldn’t tax my chemo-addled brain.” But she manages to address many topics, from the more obvious ones (B is for Breasts, D is for Drugs, M is for Mastectomy) to ones that may seem frivolous next to the question of survival, but are important to your quality of life (S is for Sex, H is for Hair, L is for Looks, F is for Fashion Accessories). In the chapter T is for Therapy, she stresses that treatment should go beyond chemotherapy and physical therapy. She says it should include psychotherapy and aspects of everyday life that are therapeutic for you, like watching a marathon of your favorite TV show or staying in bed (P is for Pillows, X is for eXhaustion, Z is for ZZZ’s.) Continue reading

Breast Cancer Awareness Month Recommended Reading, Part III: “The Emperor of All Maladies”

LBBC’s writer and web content coordinator Josh Fernandez concludes our three-part book review series for Breast Cancer Awareness Month (BCAM) with a write-up on “The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer.” The Pulitzer Prize-winning book was written by Dr. Siddartha Mukherjee, who spoke at our 2013 Annual Fall Conference: News You Can Use. 

The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer (Written by Siddartha Mukherjee, MD, PhD, published by Scribner, 2010)

After having to read Edward Jenner’s “Vaccination Against Smallpox” during my sophomore year of college, I thought I would never again pick up, let alone enjoy, another nonfiction science book. Despite the importance of that text, and my nerdy ways — I enjoy reading sociological and nutrition science text books, balancing chemical equations for fun and I recite “Battlestar Galactica” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” episodes by heart —nonfiction science books had been ruined for me.

Nearly 6 years later, I picked up a copy of Dr. Siddartha Mukherjee’s Pulitizer Prize-winning book, “The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer.” About 40 pages in, I was captivated by Dr. Mukherjee’s prose and storytelling. This renewed my appreciation for nonfiction science narratives. Continue reading

Breast Cancer Awareness Month Recommended Reading, Part II: “It’s Not About the Hair” and “Things I’d Wish I’d Known”

In Part II of our three-part book review series for Breast Cancer Awareness Month (BCAM) 2013, Living Beyond Breast Cancer staff members take a turn reviewing books near and dear to their hearts. Lynn Folkman, manager of volunteer programs, writers about “It’s Not About the Hair: And Other Uncertainties of Life and Cancer,” by Debra Jarvis, Mdiv, and writer and web content coordinator Josh Fernandez reviews Deborah J. Cornwall’s “Things I Wish I’d Known: Cancer Caregivers Speak Out.”

It’s Not About the Hair: And Other Uncertainties of Life and Cancer (By Debra Jarvis, published by Sasquatch Books, 2008)

In the vast sea of breast cancer memoirs, I am happy to say “It’s Not About the Hair: And Other Uncertainties of Life and Cancer,” by Debra Jarvis, Mdiv, provides the reader with an infusion (no pun intended) of humor. Debra combines her self- deprecating humor, spiritual nature and no-nonsense voice to produce a witty, tender memoir about her breast cancer experience. I am one who loves to discover and read about lessons, be it my own or others. Debra as an ordained minister weaves stories of patients she’s seen, along with her own cancer journey, to reveal wonderful nuggets of insights throughout the book.

Her voice and sense of humor are true to herself. She writes about the expanse and range of emotions that individuals experience during a diagnosis of cancer. Debra respects that everyone has their own journey and her job as a chaplain is to assist people in finding their own way to their own truth. Debra says, “It means you feel your feeling, give that a voice, and then move on.” Continue reading

Breast Cancer Awareness Month Recommended Reading, Part I: “Butterfly Wishes on Wings” and “It’s Always Something”

As Breast Cancer Awareness Month (BCAM) 2013 comes to a close, our dedicated staff, volunteers and contributors want to share recommended reading that will inspire you, make you laugh and, above all, help you realize you are not alone. First up, regular blog contributor Ronda Walker Weaver and LBBC board member and long-time volunteer, Margaret Zuccotti, review books that have personally impacted them during their breast cancer journeys. Margaret reviews “Butterfly Kisses and Wishes on Wings: When someone you love has cancer…a hopeful, helpful book for kids,” written by Ellen McVicker and illustrated by Nanci Hersh, and Ronda writes about the late comedienne and Saturday Night Live performer Gilda Radner’s “It’s Always Something.”

Butterfly Kisses and Wishes on Wings: When someone you love has cancer…a hopeful, helpful book for kids (Written by Ellen McVicker and illustrated by Nanci Hersh, self-published 2008)

“The other day my mom went to the doctor. She didn’t even look sick, but she said she had to go anyway.” And so opens the story “Butterfly Kisses and Wishes on Wings-When someone you love has cancer…a hopeful, helpful book for kids” written by Ellen McVicker and illustrated by Nanci Hersh.

Continue reading