by Annie Belasco, reviewed by Dr Kathleen Thompson
As the author of a breast cancer guide myself, I was keen to review Annie Belasco’s book.
Was it another of those personal accounts of cancer? Well yes … and no.
Annie tells a gripping tale about having breast cancer in her early twenties and dealing with the fear, the surgery, and the gruelling chemotherapy.
But what makes Annie’s story stand out is the journey into her psyche – and the impact of a life-changing diagnosis on the mind of a young woman – and it isn’t always pretty.
At the start, Annie is looking for her Prince Charming amongst the bars of Benidorm. She gives on-line dating more attention than the rather large lump in her breast. After all, that was probably just a cyst.
Except it wasn’t, and totally shell-shocked, she has to face urgent decisions she just doesn’t want to make – like should she have her eggs frozen in case the chemotherapy affects her fertility? Damn it, she hasn’t even got a partner. And yet, she has to decide, and quick.
Through her treatment, she continues her quest for a soul mate. Amazingly she finds the wonderful Sammy, who is not phased by her wig, or the fact that one boob is currently AWOL. He really is Mr Perfect, and Annie admitted to me when we spoke, that in some ways it was because of her cancer that she found him.
So did she spend all her time telling this hero how much she loved him? Well, no, not really …
And this is where Annie is frank about the psychological effects of cancer. We know that, when people are undergoing any catastrophic life situation, they go through stages of denial, anger, bargaining and depression before they can finally accept and deal with it. During this process, at least some of the time, they can be irritable, unreasonable, confrontational and generally not very nice – often to those they care about most, and Annie illustrates this beautifully in her account.
This very normal behaviour can of course affect relationships, particularly if loved ones don’t understand that it isn’t ‘personal’. Fortunately Sammie was made of sterner stuff and Annie’s book has a happy ending.
This is a fabulous book for anyone trying to deal with a serious illness, directly or indirectly and consequently it was snapped up by TriggerPublishing.com, a publisher which specialises in mental health issues.
Annie is hopefully speaking at the Pink Ribbon – RSM Conference: What Causes Breast Cancer? What Cures It? On 14 September 2018 at Royal Society of Medicine, 1 Wimpole Street, London. This is an excellent conference with world-class breast cancer experts, so do come along and listen to Annie and her fellow speakers.
By Dr K Thompson, author of From Both Ends of the Stethoscope: Getting through breast cancer – by a doctor who knows