Cancer is a Bitch: (Or, I'd Rather Be Having A Midlife Crisis)
After completing her second novel (one about a woman dealing with breast cancer that her agent wasn't very excited about), Gail Konop Baker was actually diagnosed with the disease herself. In this book, she takes the journals that kick started her column "Bare-Breasted Mama" and turns them into this smart, funny, insightful, and intimate book about an event in her life that really rocked her world.
I selected this read because it seems like cancer has been creeping around the six-degree-edges of my life lately. Neighbors, coworkers, friends of friends—every week I hear about someone else who was diagnosed. People who seemed to be the picture of good health are suddenly meeting with doctors and surgeons to form battle plans, knowing that any treatment they select is still going to be unpleasant. And I imagine some of their experiences are not so unlike Baker's description of trying to dress for the exam:
...waking that morning in disbelief that I had an appointment with an oncologist. Oncologist? That word was for other people, older people, unlucky people. People who die. I stared into my bureau drawers, agonizing over what to wear, wondering why they didn't send that information with the postcard appointment reminder and how I was supposed to navigate all these decisions without more guidance? You get an instruction booklet with a toaster oven but no instructions for marriage or motherhood or cancer.
Cancer is the antagonist in this story, but the real trip is an inside look at the messy, emotional, day-to-day of a woman's life, a woman who by chance also happens to be a very funny, witty, and exuberant writer. I not only laughed out loud reading Cancer Is a Bitch; I also paused to consider my life as a mother and as a human being while continually nodding my head as I thought of yet another friend that I wanted to recommend it to.
It is the small observations that make this book. Her own analysis of her twenty-year marriage, of how love can ebb and flow with seemingly irrational meandering and then come back to center. Like when she describes dropping her daughter off to start college:
And as I stand here in the quad I feel the rush of all the years passing in this moment. I didn't mean to rush it. I didn't mean to ever feel frustrated and bored, to want to get everything done, to ever think, 'When she finally grows up I'll get my life back,' because it isn't true. She was and is my life and I'm not ready to let go...and we're both crying now, our bodies trembling as she whispers, 'It's okay, Mom. We're both going to be okay.'
That voice is what I enjoyed so much, because of its ablity to freak out and yet still see the irony, and the humor.