Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Breast Cancer Awareness Month... by the Book

Here's a chance to learn about two wonderful women, their medical challenges, and the close ties they have to their families. While I may not go into a lot of detail here that's because I don't want to give it ALL away! What fun would THAT be?

Now you might wonder: WHY oh WHY should I read stories about women with cancer in the first place, especially if I don't have it? And if I have cancer, should I bombard myself more with terms, scenarios, images? And those are very good questions! But really these books are about so much more than illness, these books are about LIFE! In the end, it's about lessons and decisions we all, as women, can relate to.  
The two books I present to you today are about strong women. In fact, for one young woman it was all about saving her life in advance of diagnosis of even what might be the family condition, breast cancer. It is the unsuspecting events in our lives, author Kelly Corrigan points out, that end up making us the grown ups. I would say that is true for the other book and its author, too. I came across that book much earlier and wanted to read it purely because its author Jessica Queller wrote on the Gilmore Girls set. I was (OK, still am) a bit obsessed with Stars Hollow, Luke's Diner, Dragonfly Inn... OK, the post is not about eX-treme fast talkers, coffee addicts, and fall festivals -- as much as I loved 'em!
Defying Destiny, No Doubt 

Pretty is What Changes: Impossible Choices, The Breast Cancer Gene, and How I Defied My Destiny by Jessica Queller -- You are not even supposed to evaluate a book by its cover, according to the age ol' saying right? Well, forget that for now. The hardcover book resonates as it features a woman's body covering herself, arms wrapped around one another, elbows crossed, uneven, directly in front of one another completely covering her chest. Only hips and part of her pelvis and neck are still exposed. It's sensuous yet strong as it reflects the title: "defied my destiny." The first part of the title, "Pretty is what changes," is from Stephen Sondheim.
Besides my fascination and love for Gilmore, I was interested in the gene aspect of the book. Even though I don't have anyone in my family with breast cancer, many of you do know I have a genetic condition known as Neurofibromatosis/Schwannomatosis that runs through my Dad's family. I am interested in other people's stories as they battle their own medical challenges.

The author, at 31, faced what is known as the BRCA-1 gene mutation. She had an 87% chance of breast cancer before the age 50 and a 44% chance of ovarian cancer in her lifetime. She had a big decision to make. Leave it all up to God or go have surgery to remove her breasts in order to not face diagnosis down the road. It is an incredible journey the author takes the reader on, allowing us into the most intimate details of her life, her very own body.
The following excerpt enlightened me and allowed me to see I am not alone when it comes to my fears in the hospital and after surgery. It was as if I too could have set these very words on the page! A little too eery this close to a certain holiday:

"Nina and I talked about my choice to undergo the surgeries. [...] The fear had been the worst part. I was afraid I would feel deformed, afraid I wouldn't feel at home in my new reconstructed body, afraid my sexual partners would find me unappealing. Afraid that somehow the physical and emotional consequences of my choice would sabotage my ability to find love. None of this turned out to be the case." -- Jessica Queller, "Pretty is What Changes"

I remember reading this VERY section, highlighting it or underlining it, amazed someone out there felt the same way I did.
I would suggest this book to all new, recently diagnosed breast cancer patients. I would also recommend this book to those who have a genetic disorder. It's also just a great book to read for anyone.

4/4 Pink Ribbons

Daddy's Girl

I guess I'm sort of cheating by including this book. "The Middle Place" by Kelly Corrigan has had such hoopla surrounding it during its publication in 2008 that its hardly fair to bring it out now a few years later. Heck, though, why not? 1) It's a great book. 2) There's a slim chance we may have missed a few people along the way who didn't read it and they will get a chance to discover it. 3) For a "cancer" book, you might laugh more than cry, although the characters are easy to love in this memoir and you get to know them as your own family, so then again don't bet on it. Tissue, have it on hand.
I'd say this is basically for all my gal pals who love to read. I remember giving it to one friend from work in Idaho. I'll admit I was a bit worried to hand over a cancer memoir because most friends want to relax with a romance or a woman's lit title they saw on Amazon or at the big-box store. Deep down, I had a good feeling about it. Still, I wondered how this book fared on my co-worker's reading list. I knew she was a voracious reader and it would get its due near the aroma of a warm cup of tea or three. That was a Friday, I believe. Her bright smile greeted me Monday morning. "I hated it, " she said, jokingly, slapping it into my arms. She went on to say how much she enjoyed the book, the author, and asked if the author had any other books.
Whew! I found another fan! While this author is taking on illness (breast cancer), she is hit with an even bigger scare. She writes about both with honesty and insight. She adds that special Kelly blend of humor and reality. The thread of family is the spotlight here. Members of her family, especially her father, is a character -- one readers will love -- who helps her see things even more clearly. Its her writing style and flavor as an author that makes this a hit. Even listening to her speak (as you will soon see -- *please watch* so worth it!*)  makes you want to be her friend, her BFF! It's definitely different than other illness memoir books I've read. It's comfortable, like comfy socks or the perfect pair of jeans. That's what reading her books is like. How can you resist that? So I try to get as many friends as I can to pick up her book. 4/4 Pink Ribbons

*A few spoilers, though.

The Middle Place

Kelly {Corrigan} Live

Before I {I being Leslie to clarify} sign off, I wanted  to say it's great to celebrate October with a perfume bottle the color of spun cotton candy and shoes HOT HOT pink but please do YOURself a favor, too. If you are not seeing a doctor, please start going. I don't mean dating. Well, dating is OK but you still need to schedule a regular doctor's appointment. And start doing Breast Self-Exams. Part of it can be done while singing the Top 40 hits in the shower! That's not bad, right? Once you get the hang of it, the entire monthly exam is 10-15 minutes.

One more lil' reminder: we must get our girlfriends, aunts, moms and YES even ourselves to schedule THAT mammogram. Do a mammogram phone tree to ensure everyone in your family gets an appointment. No, it's NOT fun to get SMOOSHED but it can SAVE your life. Just ask Giuliana Rancic. BE PROACTIVE. Medical procedures are never the cocktails of our life but they are a necessity. Then, enjoy a mimosa, sparkling cider, or a champagne to celebrate! Cheers!

Honorable Mention Reads: 


* Hoda: How I Suvived War Zones, Bad Hair, Cancer, and Kathie Lee by Hoda Kotb

* What We Have Have: A Family's  Inspiring Story about Love, Loss, and Survival by Amy Boesky

#Autoimmune #Disease

* Two Kinds of Decay by Sarah Manguso

 ©The Healing Redhead

Photos are from this-is-glamorous.tumblr.com & www.amazon.com/ 

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