Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Book Review: Rollercoaster by Woody Weingarten

by M. J. Joachim

Breast cancer is one of those scary, taboo subjects nobody wants to talk about, despite the fact that millions of people are and have been affected by it throughout the course of history. It’s often considered a private matter, reserved for those going through it minus their loved ones and caregivers. It’s personal. Cancer always seems to be so darned personal.

For decades we’ve danced around the big C word, allowing research to progress as it will, cancer sufferers to fight as they will and caregivers and family members to cope as they will. Until now! How I wish this book had been around when my father and uncles died of cancer so many years ago! How I wish this book had been around over the years when I had two benign breast biopsies - one at 28, another in my mid 30’s where lymph nodes were removed as a precaution, drainage bag included, but more than a little thankfully, no big C and no toxic chemical treatments to follow. The only thing I had to deal with were rapidly mutating and growing lumps, taken out well before they could turn into anything that might kill me. Well that and a scar on each breast reminding me to be diligent about my breast health for the rest of my life. So far so good!

Yes, cancer is personal, which is why this book is so important and necessary for all of us to read. Weingarten is the caregiver of his wife Nancy and her breast cancer; years later, he is also the patient with cancer. Seems many of us get to deal with the big C more than once in our lives, and in various ways too. For all the research, money raised, government programs, medicines and treatments tried, things which Weingarten fully addresses in this book, we still don’t seem to find the answers we need to cure the dreaded big C. We simply learn how to (hopefully) lessen its effects and the toll it takes on family and caregivers. I say hopefully because this book doesn’t offer any false hope. Weingarten describes in scrupulous detail the evolution of cancer meds and treatments since the 70’s. It’s an important section in the book, and if I ever do get cancer, you can bet I’ll never opt to take tamoxifen, partly because of what I learned in this book.

All the big C talk aside, Rollercoaster is a love story about a man and a woman dealing with her diagnosis, treatment and side effects of breast cancer. (Those little things no one really wants to talk about like loss of sex drive, anger and anxiety, relationship challenges, an entire myriad of fears ranging from how to deal with hair loss to night sweats and coping with nightmares, even eating to deal with stress). Twenty years later Woody & Nancy are still happily married survivors of the big C that changed and redefined their lives forever. It couldn’t be more true. Once personally touched by the big C, there’s no turning back. It’s a thread in your fabric and a part of your life forever. As such, support is necessary and vital to coping and dealing with the disease.

Marin-Man-to-Man is a drop-in, dues-free support group open to any male whose partner has or has had, breast cancer (or another life-threatening disease).” Much of this book makes reference to this excellent resource and support group for male caregivers living in the San Francisco Bay Area, a group Woody himself attends. Closing chapters in the book are full of valuable resources and books for both caregivers and cancer sufferers alike.

If you haven’t personally been touched by cancer yet, you’re lucky. I strongly recommend this book to everyone, because cancer and everything about it is very real, and this book has the ability to make the dreaded big C diagnosis a little bit easier on us all.

Thanks so much for taking time to share your story, Woody. I trust and hope many people will be extremely fortunate to read Rollercoaster and benefit from you and your wife’s experience with breast cancer.

Thanks to all of you for visiting Writing Tips today. I hope this review proves valuable to you and look forward to your comments.

M. J.

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