I’m always pleased to share my thoughts on books and products that I feel you might be interested in. I’m feeling even a bit more pleased about this particular review of the new book, A Breast Cancer Alphabet by Madhulika Sikka.
Well, when I first agreed to take a look at A Breast Cancer Alphabet, I sort of expected to not like it.
For some reason, my initial reaction to a book with the title, A Breast Cancer Alphabet, was – oh, great. Here we go again. I expected an A-Z handbook full of let’s smile our way through breast cancer tips.
I was wrong. I did like it and it was not what I expected. Sometimes it’s nice to be wrong.
It turns out, the author, Madhulika Sikka, speaks my kind of “breast cancer language.” Her ideas, impressions and opinions about her breast cancer experience are refreshing, honest and not at all sugar-coated in pink goo. That old saying, don’t judge a book by its cover, or maybe in this case, by its title, is right on. In fact, I wish I had thought of this alphabet idea for a breast cancer book!
Madhulika Sikka follows the simple yet engaging format of selecting a word which she feels best describes her breast cancer experience, to match up with each letter of the alphabet.
A few examples are:
‘C’ is for Cancerland —
“Well here’s the thing about Cancerland–one minute you are minding your own business, living your humdrum life, and the next minute you are thrust into this strange land of surgeries, and drugs and side effects, and pain and anxiety, and you didn’t even have a minute to prepare for it.”
‘H’ is for Hair —
“Now in the grand scheme of things this (losing your hair) might not be such a big deal. Kill the cancer, lose the hair. That doesn’t sound like a bad trade-off to the rational mind. But when have we ever been rational about hair? It is okay. You are allowed to be irrational about this one because the hair thing is a big deal.”
Bravo! A woman who thinks like me about the hair!
‘M’ is for Mastectomy —
“… It is a brutal, violent thing to have happen to you, and it is perfectly fine to feel that it is an amputation, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise… On those truly dark days when you are in real pain, and you look down and the familiar landscape of your body is no longer there, it is a humbling and mournful experience.”
Personally, I think mastectomies should be called amputations too. And no, you don’t need to feel bad about grieving for your breasts.
‘P’ is for Pillows —
“In a time of enormous discomfort, pillows are an indulgence that you can afford and they actually make a huge difference. Who knew?”
This one hits a more practical note and reminds me of a pillow story I need to write about sometime…
So there you have a tiny sampling of what this book is like.
A Breast Cancer Alphabet is a quick read, each alphabet essay being just a few pages – another reason to give it a thumbs up because fresh into a breast cancer diagnosis, a woman’s concentration span isn’t that long, or at least mine wasn’t.
This book is sort of like having a breast cancer diagnosis guidebook at your fingertips.
However, and this is a big however, this guidebook does not downplay any aspect of, or the seriousness of the disease experience, nor does the author profess to knowing the proper way “to do breast cancer.” Heaven knows we don’t want or need more of that. Instead, with each well thought-out essay she offers observations, personal insights and practical advice – all delivered with intelligent wit, humor and a dash of sarcasm.
Ultimately, I enjoyed this book so much because Madhulika Sikka candidly shares her truths without suggesting that they should be mine or yours. In fact, I realized upon reading this book, that my choice words for some letters would be the same ones this author chose and for others, they’d be quite different. More on this to come…
A Breast Cancer Alphabet is like having a chat with someone who’s walked the walk and has a thing or two to share with you about it which just might make your walk a bit less scary.
For the newly diagnosed, or even the not so newly diagnosed, what could be better than that?
Note: You are invited to submit your letter to A Breast Cancer Alphabet’s Tumblr page here.