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Wisenberg may have lost a breast, but she retained her humor, outrage, and skepticism toward common wisdom and most institutions. While following the prescribed protocols at the place she called Fancy Hospital, Wisenberg is unsparing in her descriptions of the fumblings of new doctors, her own awkward announcement to her students, and the mounds of unrecyclable plastic left at a survivors' walk. Combining the personal with the political, she shares her research on the money spent on pink ribbons instead of preventing pollution, and the disparity in medical care between the insured and the uninsured. When chemotherapy made her bald, she decorated her head with henna swirls in front and an antiwar protest in back. During treatment, she also recorded the dailiness of life in Chicago as she rode the L, taught while one-breasted, and attended High Holiday services and a Passover seder.
Wisenberg's writing has been compared to a mix of Leon Wieseltier and Fran Lebowitz, and in this book, she has Wieseltier's erudition and Lebowitz's self-deprecating cleverness: "If anybody ever offers you the choice between suffering and depression, take the suffering. And I don't mean physical suffering. I mean emotional suffering. I am hereby endorsing psychic suffering over depression."
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A must-read for any cancer patient
I loved this book! Of course I agree with her on the Pink Ribbons idea, and I liked following along with the progress (up and down) of the henna on her head. I've not come across such well fleshed-out characters in an autobiography before and that made this one worth the read! I knew all her friends, doctors, characters, from the young woman who served coffee down the street to the people she describes as sunny side-up oncologists.
Perhaps part of the recognition lies in having been there, and known them all. Still, even if you are not currently in the cancer dance, the book stands alone as extremely well done. Brava!