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“Cancer Was Not a Gift” – One Book Club’s Feedback

Some of you might remember (or not) a while back I invited book clubs to consider reading and reviewing my memoir. I offered to provide free books to the first club willing to not only read my memoir, but also to report back about the experience. Shortly after, I was contacted by Sandy who told me her club was willing and able. I shared with Sandy that I wanted nothing less than complete honesty. Be careful what you ask for, right?

I’m kidding. I love fair, honest criticism and praise, too, of course.

Sandy’s group read my memoir in October. Perfect timing! I sent a questionnaire for the group’s members to respond to. And now it’s time to report back. Okay, it’s past time; I’m slow.

Thank you to all the ladies in this club for reading and sharing so candidly.

The group presently has 10 members (I think), five have had cancer themselves. They all know someone who has. I’m sharing feedback to a few questions I posed that I thought you, my dear readers, might be most interested in. I received feedback from eight club members. The readers’ responses are shared here as they were shared with me; not everyone answered all questions. Two members read Nancy’s Point. (Thank you!) I refrained from commenting on responses. (Yes, this was hard!)

1. When you first read the title of my memoir, what was your reaction, and did it make you want to read it?

  • What? Someone said this?
  • The title was troubling.
  • Unsure, I am a cancer survivor, so not sure I wanted to revisit.
  • Curious and unsure
  • Not especially
  • Intriguing, as a survivor it gave me some sense of comfort being able to verbalize this thinking.
  • Yes, I wanted to hear your story.
  • Light-hearted; it sounded as if we wouldn’t be too depressed.

2. Did you feel the author was too angry or negative?

  • No
  • I thought she was very honest.
  • No
  • Sometimes
  • Negativity turned to anger that never resolved
  • Both!
  • Yes, yes, and yes!!
  • Never, as releasing emotion is a survival skill.

3. Do you feel this memoir will help others better understand what it’s like to be diagnosed with breast cancer and/or metastatic breast cancer?

  • No one can understand someone else’s experience.
  • Absolutely not
  • No, not at all, too negative a tone, not uplifting
  • Not having experienced cancer, I’d be reluctant to say.
  • A book to read after the diagnosis, surgery, radiation, chemo as there’s a little more fear and anger expressed which is good to acknowledge but not to get stuck in the difficulties.
  • I do. I knew very little.
  • Yes, but each person’s experiences and personality will personalize her thoughts, understandings and feelings.
  • Certainly from a procedural point of view

4. Will you recommend this book to other individuals, support groups, cancer libraries, book clubs? 

  • No
  • Yes, the more shared experiences the better.
  • Yes, one learns the entire process of breast cancer.
  • I’d decide on an individual basis.
  • No
  • No, it’s too negative.
  • No, it’s not a reflection of my experience.
  • Yes, because of your honesty and because I love memoirs.

5.  Sum up this memoir in two or three words.

  • One woman’s loss
  • Honest, gripping, emotionally encompassing
  • Descriptive
  • Pragmatic, heartbreaking, realistic
  • Very informative
  • Informative, detailed, negative
  • Defensive, specific

6.  What is your biggest take-away from this book?

  • I’ll continue to hope not to get breast cancer.
  • Sharing your personal story is wonderful and helps lighten the load.
  • Breast cancer can be cured if found early – have your mammogram.
  • It’s okay to have dark thoughts and feelings. Cancer doesn’t always have a happy ending. When anger and negativity can’t be resolved, get help.
  • Everyone has different experiences.
  • I felt profoundly sad that Nancy isolated herself from every opportunity to create a positive event in her life. This should have been a bonding time between she and daughter, she and her sisters and she and other patients. If you want to live, sometimes you have to fight for your life. I get a hospital news letter which occasionally runs a cancer patient’s story. Your story and theirs – very similar. Choose life no matter the struggle.

So, that’s a sampling. 

At first, my feelings were a little hurt that everyone did not love it. But immediately, okay, almost immediately, I reminded myself that first of all, not everyone likes memoirs, especially cancer memoirs. Secondly, many people will always expect a positive outlook, even regarding cancer.

There was lots more feedback shared, but I don’t want this post to get too long.

My main conclusion based on the feedback:  

Half the group felt I was too negative, wouldn’t recommend the book and so on. This is probably a good reflection on how people in general feel about cancer stories, including mine. Half prefer to read the uplifting, find-the-lesson sort of cancer story, while the other half appreciates the not-so-positive outlook sort as well.

I’m okay with reaching half. For now.

Thank you again to all the ladies who read my memoir and generously took time to share honest feedback. I very much appreciate it. I want to stress that all the ladies were supportive and more than willing to read and share. They even agreed to pose for the photo below. And a special thank you to you, Sandy. You’re a gem.

Note:  If you belong to a book club and are considering my memoir for your group’s selection, email me for special deals on bulk purchases. I’d give away more if I could, but…

Do you read cancer books? If you do, please share a favorite or two.

Does the title of my memoir make you want to read it? Why or why not?

Do you belong to a book club?

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A book club reads/reviews, "Cancer Was Not a Gift & It Didn't Make Me a Better Person

Thank you, ladies, for reading my memoir and for sharing some thoughts about it, too


My memoir

Cancer Was Not a Gift & It Didn’t Make Me a Better Person

Marcia DeVries

Tuesday 19th of February 2019

Hi, my name is Marcia DeVries. I am a breast cancer survivor and have a book to suggest for your book club to read. In 2016, my husband, our daughter and I wrote a book called Pink Ribbon Adventure: Amazing Works of God in the Midst of Breast Cancer. When I was first diagnosed with aggressive fast growing cancer, I had no idea the type of adventure we were about to experience. It was like--buckle your seat belts, you're in for a wild ride The book is sold on Amazon and CBD, but if you are interested, I would be happy to send you a free paper back copy or a free e-book stub. Thank you for listening to me. Marcia DeVries

Cancer Curmudgeon

Thursday 2nd of March 2017

Title not uplifting???!!!! WTF??!! splutter splutter the parlance of today's young people, I can't even.


Friday 3rd of March 2017

CC, I know, right? It's cancer for crying out loud.


Tuesday 21st of February 2017

I haven't read your book yet, but I will add it to my list! I have only read one cancer memoir so far - it was called "five lessons I didn't learn from breast cancer (and one big one I did)" by Shelly Lewis. I'd recommend it.

I am almost surprised that half the people liked your book - only because it seems like people have this inexplicable crazy bias toward believing that cancer is meant to be this great transformative experience that should be approached with gratitude. I thought those of us who didn't feel that were in the minority- I'm heartened by the response to your book!


Wednesday 22nd of February 2017

Noreen, I like the way you think regarding half of the group members liking my book. That's a good way to look at it. I will keep that in mind. Thank you for the memoir recommendation. I will have to check that one out. And thank you for putting mine on your to-read list. Appreciate your comments. Thank you.

Beth Gainer

Thursday 16th of February 2017

Hi Nancy,

It's understandable that at first you felt hurt that everyone in the group didn't love the memoir. As writers, we put our ideas out there into the world, and the world responds -- sometimes it goes our way and sometimes it doesn't. I thought your memoir was excellent, but everyone reacts to it differently. I know all authors experience these kinds of issues.

Keep on writing....



Sunday 19th of February 2017

Beth, You are right, of course. Thank you for your encouraging words.


Sunday 5th of February 2017

Nancy, my comment is going to be all over the place, because your post got me thinking a lot. I may be over-reacting a little with what I am going to say, but I am not a happy camper these days. I've been thinking about the feedback you received about your book. And about politics. And about how some people view the world. And how different behaviors have different impacts in our society.

I guess it's hard for me to understand people who are dismissive of other people's feelings (and other people's rights). And maybe it's more related to the fact that not everyone wants to expose themselves to their own reality. For instance, although I am still on remission, this isn't my entire reality. But it's also challenging for me to ignore all the patients who suffer and those who are dying. It's hard for me to ignore that it could be me or another family member who dies next. Oh! And what's up with people calling realists negative? And do people really think that by staying quiet, and brushing off our truths, that this would improve anything? That there will be more progress because we are being "positive" at all times? If we look at history, changes were introduced thanks to those who spoke up (no matter how painful it was). Those who spoke truth. Those who considered that other lives were important too.

I love the title of your book because of our similarities on how we view cancer. It's crazy to me that others would view cancer as a gift. And I will never see it that way. Not when I've lost family members and friends to this terrible disease.

I don't think your book was negative. It was real. And sometimes real isn't pleasant. And it's OK to express those feelings because how else are we going to evolve?

I am planning to read “When Breath Becomes Air” next. Almost done with "Bright-Sided" - another excellent book! Thank you for recommending.


Monday 6th of February 2017

Rebecca, I must admit, at first I was hurt the entire group didn't love my book, but then I realized the 50/50 split was probably pretty typical and gave me a nice reminder that many people will never see cancer the way I see it. And this is okay. I only wish to have my viewpoints about it honored and respected, too. And yes, sometimes real isn't pleasant at all. I just ordered "When Breath Becomes Air." Looking forward to reading it. Thank you for sharing your insights.

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