One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. The greatest risk for developing breast cancer? Being a woman. Is there anyone who doesn't know that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month? I'm sure Madhulika Sikka, executive producer of NPR's Morning Edition was aware of that month before she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010. But, she wasn't aware of all the little things that go hand-in-hand with that diagnosis. That's were her book comes in, A Breast Cancer Alphabet.
With her opening and closure, Madhulika Sikka illustrates that anyone can be diagnosed with breast cancer. There she is, at the White House, when she receives her news. And, a year later, there she is again, after going through everything involved in that diagnosis. Sikka is a reluctant member of the pink ribbon club. She says right out loud, "It sucks to get cancer." And, she takes readers through all kinds of subjects that aren't usually discussed. "A is for Anxiety." Sikka says there's nothing like all the fear and anxiety that comes with diagnosis, and gives women the permission to be anxious. Why are women always expected to be strong, to be warriors in a fight? She doesn't talk about nutrition or fighting through the pain. She talks about pain, and not ever being hungry, the need for pillows. She's brutally honest about going bald, and wanting to look better despite everything a woman goes through during chemo. And, she's honest about the days when she just couldn't force herself to get out of bed. And, she says it's all OK.
Sikka's book is an absorbing warning, a look into the world of a breast cancer victim. The author manages to add traces of humor, but the best part of the book is the honesty. And, each chapter, each letter of A Breast Cancer Alphabet, is short, informative, and comforting in that honesty. I do wish, though, that I could show you the stunning illustrations by Roberto de Vicq de Cumpitch. They truly illustrate Madhulika Sikka's words.
I do have one problem with this book. When do you give this informative book to someone? Do you give it to every woman you know in October? Do you wait until someone is diagnosed, and they're too stunned to care? Or mid-way through a year, when they can see themselves on these pages? Madhulika Sikka's A Breast Cancer Alphabet would be a valuable gift. What is the etiquette of passing this on?
Madhulika Sikka's website is www.abreastcanceralphabet.com
A Breast Cancer Alphabet by Madhulika Sikka. Crown Publishers. 2014. ISBN 9780385348515 (hardcover), 209p. (Also available as an ebook and on audio from Random House.)
FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.