When I was first contacted to review Cancer: A Love Story, I was apprehensive. Cancer frightens me. Why oh why would I want to read a book that would probably do nothing, except heighten my anxiety. But then I remembered a study I’d read, many years ago, during my time in the infertility trenches, that found that infertility sufferers were second only to cancer patients in the lengths they’d go to to find a cure.

So I read the book & found so many correlations between Lauren’s thought process and my own during my own journey.

When Lauren Segal, successful historian and curator, wife and mother, receives a call from her husband one wintry morning in 2014, the furthest thing from mind is her biopsy results. For two years she’s been living a cancer-free existence after a double mastectomy that has put her in the clear. The call shatters the foundation of her world as she hears the news – the lump she thought was scar tissue is malignant. Her cancer is back.
Cancer: A Love Story is the intimately searing memoir of a four-time cancer survivor. The book breathlessly tracks Lauren’s journey to come to terms with the untold challenges of facing the dreaded disease. Forced to face her needle phobia, the author leads the reader into her crumbling world as she confronts the terrors of treatment – from debilitating chemo to nuking radiation. Death is her uninvited companion.
But in the midst of her lonely horror, in a quest for deeper meaning, Lauren discovers the unexpected gift of awareness of unanticipated opportunities that cancer presents – to confront her unmasked humanity – her fears, strengths and weaknesses.
“I have come to understand that in the same way that the majestic lotus flower has its roots in murky waters, so too does the emergence of beauty in life sometimes depend on life’s darker events. Throughout my arduous journey into the world of cancer, I have discovered that proximity to death brings with it a new proximity to life. I have learned that luck and unluck, happiness and distress, hope and despair are tightly coiled into a life well lived.”

Achingly beautiful!

That’s how I’d describe Lauren’s words and her journey. I took so much from her words and from how she chose to fight her battle. With love and introspection. Her journey shone a bright light on how I’d chosen to walk my journey through infertility and recurrent pregnancy loss.

Granted while my struggle was not life threatening, there were many moments when I wished I could just die. I related so much to Lauren’s story of being on the wrong end of the statistics. Infertility and recurrent pregnancy loss taught me that even when it was statistically impossible and highly unlikely, when it came to me and my journey, if something could go wrong, it would. I learned to expect and brace for the worst case scenario, I lived 7 years being on the wrong end of statistics and being bitter because of it.

“Throughout my ardous journey into the world of cancer, I have discovered that the proximity to death brings with it a new proximity to life. I have learned that luck and unluck, happiness and distress, hope and despair are tightly coiled into a life well lived.”

Reading Lauren’s story gave me an opportunity for deep introspection. While Lauren chose to surround herself with love of her friends and family, to use that love as a warm blanket of comfort, I shunned and pushed away everyone in the depths of my despair. I wonder now, how different my journey could have been, had I been able to let others in, let them see my pain and comfort me through it? Instead of keeping myself closed off and seeing the comfort of others as my own weakness.

There’s a moment in the book that really struck me. Lauren was on one of her last chemo treatments and she described how she felt sitting in the waiting room, surrounded by other patients, both new to chemo and those nearing the end of their treatment. It reminded me so much of a time in my infertility journey, I think it was my 6th or 7th year of treatment. I’d had 6 miscarriages already and so many rounds of failed treatments. I was bitter and my soul was tired. My fertility specialist suggested we trial a new treatment, I’d be the first patient at the clinic to have this treatment of intralipids. Ironically previously used in cancer patients. Like Lauren, I also suffered terribly prior to my journey with an extreme needle phobia but after 7 years of needles and tests and humiliation and injections and surgeries, I didn’t care anymore. The Dr had struggle to get the needle into my vein and my vein had blown during the insertion of my drip. I came walking into the treatment room, packed with hopeful infertility patients, carrying my IV bag and ready to settle myself into a lazyboy for the four hour treatment. My arm hurt, the intralipds made me hot and cold and lethargic and I looked around in the day ward at all the hopeful faces, their eyes wide at the sight of me walking in carrying an intravenous bag and all I felt was extreme anger. Why me? Why am I STILL here? When will this end? How much MORE must I take. 

A Powerful Read

I’m not usually a fan of memoirs, but I really did enjoy this one. It gave me so much food for thought. I took so many lessons about life and love and especially self love from the book. I’d highly recommend it to everyone to read. Whether your struggle is cancer, or infertility or any other of life’s great struggles, I can assure you, you will be both comforted and inspired by Lauren’s story.

“Together, our family has learnt to find the treasures in the snow when it seems like there is only whiteness….Amidst the multitude of challenges we grow our bonds. It’s in this sense that cancer is my love story.” 

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T & C

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