Everyone knows someone who has been affected by breast cancer. Not surprising, considering that statistics show 1 in 10 women eventually will be diagnosed.
I am no exception: both my mother and stepmother are breast cancer survivors, as well as my maternal great-grandmother, and still others not too far from me in my family tree. And that’s not counting any friends.
The importance of recognizing October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month is that it serves to raise awareness about the disease and to remind us all how necessary it is to make those screening appointments.
But no matter how faithful you are about screening, if you happen to be the one who is diagnosed, it will change your life.
Writing is a therapeutic art, a healing art. For a writer who has been diagnosed with breast cancer, writing through the illness can be cathartic. And, of course, it’s also beneficial for all who enjoy reading and hearing others’ stories.
Here are some good reads on the topic:
“Bodily Harm” by Margaret Atwood is a novel about a travel reporter who is a breast cancer survivor and who, after her recovery, takes a Caribbean vacation, which leads to romance and political intrigue.
“Talk Before Sleep” by Elizabeth Berg is a novel about two female friends and how, when one of them is diagnosed with breast cancer, the other – along with their larger group of friends – rallies to care for the friend in the last days of her life.
“What Girls Learn” by Karin Cook is a novel about adolescent girls whose mother finds love, moves them to another city and then finds a lump in her breast, as well as the importance of the bonds of family.
“The Cancer Journals” by Audre Lorde, a classic cancer-chronicle text that presents excerpts from Lorde’s diary and tells the story of her journey through breast cancer from a feminist perspective.
“The Dog Lived (And So Will I)” by Riverside author Teresa Rhyne, a seriously funny memoir about Rhyne’s experience battling breast cancer as well as treating her beagle Seamus, who was diagnosed with cancer, too.
“Places in the Bone” by Carol Dine, a poet who turns to a memoir to write not just about her experiences with breast cancer but also about the abuse she suffered as a child. She discusses her writing career, which has included studying with the poet Anne Sexton.
“Cancer Made Me a Shallower Person – A Memoir in Comics” by Miriam Engelberg, described as: “a cartoonist examines her experience with breast cancer in an irreverent and humorous graphic memoir.”
“Cancer Vixen: A True Story” by Marisa Acocella Marchetto, which “tells the story of her 11-month, ultimately triumphant bout with breast cancer – from diagnosis to cure, and every challenging step in between.”
“Mom’s Cancer” by Brian Fies, a freelance journalist. While not about breast cancer – rather, lung cancer – this book is from the perspective of a son helping his mother go through cancer treatment.
“Divine Honors” by Hilda Raz, a finely crafted and accessible collection of poetry by the editor of one of the nation’s leading literary journals, Prairie Schooner, detailing her breast cancer journey.
“Her Soul beneath the Bone – Women’s Poetry on Breast Cancer,” edited by Leatrice Lifshitz, is a serious and unsentimental anthology of remarkable poetry written by breast cancer survivors.
“It’s Probably Nothing…* Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love My Implants,” a poignant and humorous collection of poems by Micki Myers.
And if writing is your thing, then consider putting your journey to paper – as a record for family and friends, and possibly as a resource and source of comfort for others going through similar circumstances.
One book that may be helpful in guiding you is “Writing as a Way of Healing – How Telling Our Stories Transforms Our Lives” by Louise DeSalvo.
Regardless of whether you are personally coping with breast cancer, encourage your friends and loved ones to take care of themselves by making and keeping screening appointments, in memory of those who have come before and for those who have yet to come.