Re-Blog: Review—Another Chance at Life

As I said on Tuesday, if breast cancer is caught early enough, there’s a higher chance of survival. Here’s one woman’s account of how she lived through it. She’s still going strong today. I reviewed this book here several years ago, but it’s worth a second posting.

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Another Chance at Life: A Breast Cancer Survivor’s Journey

by Leonore H. Dvorkin

Copyright 2009.

 

This is a short but to the point account of one woman’s experience with breast cancer. As the author states in the beginning, it’s for women who may develop breast cancer later in life.

Leonore Dvorkin starts by explaining how she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1998 and her decision to have a mastectomy. A resident of Denver, Colorado, she talks about traveling to Kansas City to visit her family and her mother and sisters’ wish that she would just have the lump removed simply because it was what they would have done. She also touches on her family’s reaction to her novel, Apart from You, before it was published in 2010. She discusses how she and her husband bought a Polaroid camera and took pictures of her naked body the night before her surgery.

She describes what it was like to have the breast removed, assuring readers that such surgery for the patient is nothing more than having a good night’s sleep. She knew what to expect, since she had numerous surgical procedures in the past for varicose veins and other difficulties, and she touches on those. I was amazed to learn that HMO’s normally expect a mastectomy to be an out-patient procedure. Afterward, the patient is monitored for a few hours for complications and then sent home. In Leonore Dvorkin’s case, because she suffered from nausea as a result of morpheme she was given for pain, she was allowed to spend the night. I’m so thankful I don’t use an HMO for insurance, but it’s possible that nowadays, things may have changed. I hope I never have to find out.

Leonore Dvorkin then goes on to describe her recovery at home and the relief she felt upon learning she didn’t need radiation or chemotherapy. She talks about difficulty sleeping as a result of prescribed pain medication and a shoulder injury that made her rehabilitation more difficult. She touches on how her husband cared for her, not just after the mastectomy, but after other operations she had beforehand.

Several months after the surgery, she was ready to return to her job tutoring foreign languages at a Denver college and resume teaching weight training classes in her basement. She describes how she went to a store in Denver and bought a prosthetic breast and a mastectomy bra. In the end, she explains her attitude and how reducing stress and changes in diet and exercise made her feel better and gave her more confidence. She also discusses how she will age gracefully. This book includes appendices with resources and information about her particular type of breast cancer.

I like this author’s attitude. She doesn’t take cancer lightly but doesn’t wallow in self-pity or poor self-image either. I especially liked the way she describes how a prosthetic breast fits into a mastectomy bra and gives advice on how to buy and use them. I hope I never get breast cancer, but if I do, after reading this book, I hope to be able to deal with it and move on.

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Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

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Thursday Book Feature: Love the Beat Goes On

Love the Beat Goes On
by Lynda Filler
Copyright 2017

This is not about Sonny and Cher, although I thought it was when I first glimpsed the title. In this short memoir, author and photographer Lynda Filler discusses her diagnosis of cardiomyopathy in 2008 and how she miraculously recovered. She starts by detailing events leading up to her diagnosis including but not limited to her experience with online dating following several failed marriages, her move from Canada to Mexico, where she lived for several years, and her return to Canada. She then describes her symptoms and how she came to be diagnosed and told to get her affairs in order because she didn’t have long to live. She then outlines her path to healing and subsequent recovery, providing tips to others suffering from the same malady. She often claims not to be a medical expert and encourages readers to follow the advice given by their own doctors. The book includes resources.

I felt two connections with this book. First of all, my father was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy about the same time as Lynda Filler. Second, my brother and his first wife honeymooned in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, during the 1990’s, at probably about the same time Lynda Filler was living there. Although I found her description of her healing process interesting, I was, and still am, skeptical. If this book had been released in 2008 when my father was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, he might have benefited, although I doubt he would have read it.

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Abbie Johnson Taylor
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems
My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds
Like Me on Facebook.

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Thursday Book Feature: Brain on Fire

<strong>Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness</strong>
by Susannah Cahalan
Copyright 2012.

And I thought the dream I had a few weeks ago in which I woke up in a hospital, not sure how I got there, was bazaar. This takes the cake, and it wasn’t a dream. In the spring of 2009, Susannah Cahalan woke up and found herself strapped to a hospital bed, not remembering how she got there. When she panicked, a figure in purple with a foreign accent told her to calm down. Thus begins her memoir about her experience with a rare autoimmune disorder in which the body attacks the brain.

The author explains how she first experienced symptoms while she was working as a journalist for the New York Post. It started as an obsession with bed bugs in her apartment. She then experienced numbness and other flu-like symptoms and gradually became forgetful, paranoid, and dilusional. Her gynecologist referred her to a neurologist who said these symptoms were caused by stress and too much drinking. Then, she had her first seizure, and things went downhill from there. Her parents were finally able to get her admitted to New York University Hospital’s epilepsy unit.

Since she doesn’t remember much of what happened after that, most of her information was gleamed from interviews with family and friends, her father’s journal, and footage from EKG video. She describes the battery of tests she endured and how she was visited by neurologists, psychologists, and other professionals who were stumped by her condition. She reverted from being paranoid with dilusions to a catatonic state where she could barely speak, let alone care for herself. Her doctors were about to send her to the psychiatric unit when a new neurologist joined the team. After performing a brain biopsy, running more tests, and conferring with other doctors across the country, he finally diagnosed her with anti-NMDA receptor autoimmune incephalitis. This neurologist pointed out to her parents that her brain was on fire, hence the title.

After being given medication to combat this disorder, she was discharged. She then describes the long, arduous process of recovery. Although she was able to move and care for herself by this time, her speech and thought processes were slow. She talks about how her parents, boyfriend, and other relatives and friends supported her during her stay in the hospital and recovery. After six months, she returned to her newspaper job, and she describes how she completed her first major assignment, an article about anti NMDA inhibitor autoimmune incephalitis and her experience with it. She provides more information about this disorder.

This book was an Audible daily deal, and I’m glad I picked it up. The narrator does an excellent job portraying the author’s first-person account of her story. I love this book’s beginning and ending in which the author describes waking up in the hospital’s epilepsy unit, then returning years later after her recovery for a visit and her encounter with a nurse who cared for her during that time.

I would like to have known more about Susannah Cahalan after she returned to work and successfully published her first major article. She mentions moving in with her boyfriend, but did she eventually marry him and start a family, perhaps balancing that with her career?

According to the author, this rare disorder strikes women of child-bearing age and is often mistaken for psychosis. At the time this book was written, a percentage of women afflicted with anti-NMDA inhibitor encephalitis ended up in psychiatric hospitals where they eventually died. So if you’re a young woman, I encourage you to read this book, and if you experience any of the symptoms mentioned, consult a neurologist before you see a psychiatrist.

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Abbie Johnson Taylor
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems
My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds
Like Me on Facebook.