I lost three aunts to breast cancer. I have a cousin undergoing treatment right now. It's been a year since one of our library managers died of cancer. And, it takes more than one hand to count friends and acquaintances who have had breast cancer. Yes, Gail Konop Baker's memoir is right, Cancer Is a Bitch.
Baker is at times angry, melodramatic, triumphant, and funny. She deserves to be all of those things. She's sharing her story, and emotions, with other women who could go in for a mammogram, and discover there's a problem. She's one of us, married for over 19 years, mother of three, living in Wisconsin, with a husband who is a radiologist. Gail Konop Baker's memoir is messy and complicated. Which of us doesn't have a messy, complicated life?
Baker wanted to write novels, but, instead, found her voice to talk about her cancer. The book not only talks about her messy family life, but also her attempt to find her voice. The two elements are intertwined. Baker's parents were divorced; her brother committed suicide; she and her sister don't get together. She's had problems in her own marriage because she's never been comfortable in the role of doctor's wife. But what is her role in life? For years, it was mother. As her children grew, she hoped it would be writer. But, her novel about a woman with breast cancer was rejected at about the same time she discovered she, herself, had breast cancer.
Cancer Is a Bitch will not be a book for everyone. The title itself reveals that. The book stems from Baker's column called "Bare-Breasted Mama" where she "wrote about her fears, her pain, and her shock at being diagnosed with cancer." If nothing else, Baker gives women a voice that says, you can be angry, cry, hold your loved ones close, reject people who love you. Cancer is a messy disease that tears apart the victim, the victim's family, and loved ones. Cancer Is a Bitch.
Gail Konop Baker's website is www.gailkonopbaker.com
Cancer Is a Bitch: (Or I'd Rather Be Having a Midlife Crisis) by Gail Konop Baker. Perseus Publishing, ©2008. ISBN 9780738211626 (hardcover), 272p.