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Peltason, an editor and breast cancer survivor, founded and hosted the "First Person Plural" Web site project, an online forum for women facing the disease. Their dialogue provides the content for this book, culled from the entries of 800 women across the U.S. and around the world. Peltason organizes the material into three general parts: "Diagnosis," "Living with Breast Cancer" and "The Big Picture," with such subtopics as "Sharing the News," "Being Womanly" and "Anniversaries and Milestones." Participants use screen names for privacy, approaching their disease with candor and freely discussing their feelings about their bodies and their relationships. At times, those overcome by anger and fear far outweigh those with a bright outlook, but when these survivors "look in the mirror" at the conclusion of the text, many envision a hopeful future. Perhaps the most poignant entries are from younger women, some of whom have been driven into early menopause and infertility by chemotherapy. Although this is an informative book, some survivors may discover that these raw entries churn up disturbing emotions; others will find comfort in these voices, and in the knowledge that they aren't alone-either in their sorrow or in their strength and courage. (Feb.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
"A moving and comforting book.... Consumer health libraries looking to develop psychological-support literature should definitely consider." (Xpress Reviews, 1/22/08;
Sharing the News
"How do you tell your family news you can barely comprehend yourself?"
There was nothing laudable about how I learned that I had breast cancer: the surgeon who performed the biopsy literally said, "I'm so surprised. You have a malignancy," as I was walking into his office and before I'd even closed the door. Welcome to my world. I had just turned thirty-five. (Ironically, I had been humming an old Streisand tune "Happy Days Are Here Again" on my way to the doctor's office—indeed!) In the couple of seconds it took this doctor to speak, my life was forever changed. That was also the last time I ever heard an ill-spoken word from a doctor and marked the first time I took my care into my own hands—I changed surgeons and have been happy ever since. But back to that day: after the appointment I went to my office and called one of my best friends. Without skipping a beat, she came immediately—we cried, and then I left the office without saying a word and took off the rest of the afternoon. I remember we went out for lunch.
To this day, however, I still can't recall the specifics of calling my parents in St. Louis to tell them I had breast cancer. For one thing, I remembered that my mother's brother died at the age of fifty-four from bone cancer and that my grandparents felt a lifelong sadness because of that. Was I going to die before my parents, too? Weren't children supposed to outlivetheir parents? My father's response was simple and direct: "Come home" and be treated there; I was already very uncomfortable having the discussion, but I stood my ground, saying that I felt the best doctors were in New York. What else? I'm sure they asked questions; I'm sure I tried to answer those I could.
Jump ahead twelve years. I had a recurrence and this time the stakes were higher. And by this time my father had passed away. Again, I called that same best friend. Maybe she called my mother; maybe I called my brothers. Maybe some variation on this occurred. It was not a happy time, and I was weirdly calm, in that calm-before-the-storm sort of way. As for my friends and colleagues: I think the news trickled out, on a need-to-know basis. Memory, as I have learned, can be an unreliable witness.
Sharing this kind of news is an active process fraught with emotion. As a sign of modern technology, often the most efficient (and least stressful) way to communicate is by e-mail, typically with the so-called calmest family member designated as "sender." Understandably, the following accounts detail highly charged experiences. And while the conditions are similar—the women have just learned they have breast cancer—their stories are unique.
I just wished my mom wasn't by herself when she was told. She lost her husband of 48 years to cancer and then me getting it was like a nightmare. I can only imagine what she is feeling, but I know how horrible it would feel if one of my children were diagnosed with any kind of cancer. My youngest daughter came to see me later that evening and as soon as I saw her I started to cry and told her I have never even flown a kite so I was going to fight this with all I could. She assumed the role of mother and was there during my emotional outbursts and helped me to gain my composure.
My mother-in-law cried every time I talked to her. That was very upsetting for me. I felt I had to comfort her instead of the other way around.
I had to tell my parents over the phone as they were on vacation and that was so hard. It makes you cry twice, because you have to all cry again when you see each other.
My husband was a seven-hour drive away on maneuvers with his Air National Guard unit. I got him on his cell phone and told him that I might have cancer and to stand pat. I might need to have the Red Cross bring him home. (My wonderful husband was by my side a day later.) My parents were local. They were out of the house and on the way to the doctor's office within 5 minutes and we all waited for me to go in to have the ultrasound.
I so didn't want to scare them, but I was scared and needed my mommy and daddy there. When the results of the ultrasound showed positive for cancer, we had a group hug and they held me as I cried. Then I held my mom as she cried—her mom had died of breast cancer and she always taught me to be vigilant in preventive measures. My eyes met my dad's and I became resolute that I would beat this. He'd been through too many tragedies in his life—he lost his whole family in the gas chambers of Treblinka. I would not have him lose a child. That was simply not an option.
Since my sister had died from breast cancer in 1986 at age 43, my husband had been secretly waiting for "the other shoe to drop." My husband, who is very protective of me and has been my soul mate for the last 33 years, assumed the job of the "teller." He broke the news to our sons, which was so difficult for him. My close girlfriends, who are like family to me, took the news so very hard. They were with me through my sister's horrific illness and they saw what it did to me. They were not sure I was strong enough mentally to make it through the same horrendous treatment again. But, I guess I found out that I'm stronger than anybody thought I was. Now, 5½ years later, my doctors tell me that I am well and healthy. I am truly a lucky girl.
Posted March 23, 2008
This book should-WILL become a key resource for any woman (or man) who has recently been diagnosed with Breast cancer. It will also bring those who have lived with the disease in remission or hence eradicated, with a sense of comraderie that you rarely glimpse once you are 'years out', as we say in the world of survivors. Anyone reading this collection of online dialogs will be able to relate to what is being said. Those who have 'been there' will smile, laugh, cry and nod in agreement while reading through the hundreds of passages that have been included in this rich, compassionate and inspirational book. The author Ruth Peltason has also added her own notations peppered throughout, to share some of her own experience as a 2 time Breast Cancer survivor. These women GET IT! I believe this book will also aid those who have stood by watching helplessly as someone they love is effected by this horrendous disease. It allows others to see and feel what these women really went through. Buy this book for a friend, a co-worker, a loved one, or to share with a medical professional. The wisdom, the humor, the warmth that these women have shared online and now in book form is a personal journey that touches the soul. Highly Recommneded!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 25, 2008
I Am Not My Breast Cancer is a book for every woman who is diagnosed with breast cancer, her family, her friends, and all who want to understand her journey. I Am Not My Breast Cancer takes the reader through the journey that a breast cancer diagnosis takes women thru. Unlike many books, I Am Not My Breast Cancer is not a medical book, it does not help a woman decide what chemo she should have, or if she should choose one medical option over another. What it does do, is bring you through the journey, through the eyes, minds, humor and hearts of many women. The women share, with honesty, and an openess that has never been seen before, about the journey of a Breast Cancer diagnosis. I Am Not My Breast Cancer will take you through many emotions from many different women, from all over the world. You will feel anger at the disease, you will laugh, and you will cry with these women. You will feel the hope and sense the courage that these women possess, you will feel the love and be held in some of the most supporting hands and hearts, that you will ever find.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 12, 2008
Reading I Am Not My Breast Cancer is like attending a support group for women with breast cancer, only better. Instead of hearing the experiences of one or a few women, the reader shares the cancer journey with hundreds of women. The 800 women who participated in the original project from which the book is drawn are from all across the United States and from several other countries as well. They shared their feelings and experiences with openness and honesty. They laughed and cried together, gave each other advice, and bonded with each other. Ruth Peltason took those many and varied threads and wove them lovingly into this book. I Am Not My Breast Cancer is not a medical resource, it is a practical resource. It is not the story of one woman¿s breast cancer, it is the distillation of hundreds of women¿s experiences with breast cancer¿young women, women in midlife, older women, women with early stage disease and women with metastatic disease. Ms. Peltason, herself a two time breast cancer survivor, treats each woman¿s experience with dignity and respect. Any woman touched by breast cancer will find herself in the pages of this book, and it will help those around her understand a little better what she may be going through. Cancer centers and doctors¿ offices should be sure this volume is added to their libraries¿it fills a void and meets a need like no other book out there. As a breast cancer survivor, I say, 'Thank you, Ms. Peltason, for writing I Am Not My Breast Cancer!'Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.