Thursday, August 25, 2011

Review: From Zero to Mastectomy by Jackie Fox

When I found an e-mail in my in-box asking me if I would be interested in reviewing this book, my first instinct was to say no. I mean, I like to bury my head in the sand whenever possible so reading a book about one woman's experience hearing the diagnosis of breast cancer and then undergoing treatment went against every molecule of my being. So I did what every self-respecting fan of denial does, I was wishy-washy in my response, punting the decision whether she wanted to send me the book back onto the author. Decisive, that's me. But Ms. Fox didn't give up and the book landed in my mailbox. I placed it on a shelf and eyed it warily for rather a long time. I've finally read it and while I am still hopeful that I can ignore the statistics about breast cancer and women, I am starting to be touched by these terrible numbers in ways I would never wish. First, a friend of mine was recently diagnosed. And now I've found a small lump in my own breast so I suspect I'm headed to my first mammogram (which was coming like a freight train anyway as I'm closing in on a rather significant numbered birthday). Much too close for comfort. And while I imagine that things are fine (I come from lumpy-breasted women who also worry terribly so this won't be posted until after I have more info to allay their fears), it certainly makes the sand my head is currently buried in a lot more translucent than I would like.

Subtitled What I Learned and You Need to Know About Stage Zero Breast Cancer, this memoir tells of Fox's experience from diagnosis through treatment. It also has a final chapter made up of questions and answers from Fox's own team of doctors. Stage zero cancer is DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ) and while it is the most curable form of breast cancer, it is still cancer and diagnosis with this carries with it all the emotional freight of cancer in other stages. Jackie Fox was not entirely surprised to get the diagnosis but she certainly wasn't ready for it either. And she wasn't ready for the roller coaster ride that she would shortly take both emotionally and physically as a result. This book is the result of her ride and her desire to share her experience with other women. It is, of course, intensely personal and uniquely her own but it has advice and wisdoms universal enough to share.

The short chapters in this book definitely recall the newspaper essays that were the original form of this "mammoir" as they are fairly self-contained. The writing is conversational and Fox directly addresses her readers on many occasions. She offers her experience and her suggestions, making this a sort of hybrid memoir/self-help combination. I personally would have prefered straight memoir and think it would find a bigger audience as such but Fox's stated objective in writing this was not straight memoir and so any perceived failing is on my part. Who knows? Perhaps after my doctor's appointment this week I'll be very grateful for the advisory parts of the book. I sure hope not though! (Edited to add that I wrote this months ago and I can happily keep my head in the sand for a while longer.)

Thanks to the author for sending me a copy of this book for review.

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