This in many ways is a unique book that to some extent belongs in its own category. It certainly cannot be described as ‘conventional’. ‘Memoir’ covers it to some degree but in reality it is far more. This is one woman’s account of how she battled and lived with an unusual cancer after having been, eventually, told she had one to eighteen months to live.
Initially, with the constant talk of medication Midge Rylander (the protagonist) was taking as well as the pain she suffered, a reader may become concerned this may turn into a tedious read. However, it is anything but.
This is a very human tale recording what to many would be a bitter experience. Indeed, it was bitter but Midge Rylander does not allow herself to become embittered. She makes clear in her journal she chose to record her daily experiences in the hope of it helping others. A very generous attitude as it must have taken a lot of effort at times. In many ways it was also a brave thing to do.
The reader will discover a woman who wants to be honest but at the same time wishes to spare readers too much of the horrific distressing details. She is also very honest about her desire to overcome the disease by means of positive thinking, hope and, sometimes, denial. Many would probably behave similarly if faced with such a destiny. Her sense of humour also comes through as she deals with those hopes and expectations. The fact she had always been a determined character is evident; she continues to plan a future especially with regard to her garden and the forthcoming birth of a grandchild. The reader cannot help but admire her.
Sometimes Midge mentions family upsets which stressed her and how these impacted negatively upon her condition. It would have helped the reader if the narrator, Rachele Baker, Midge Rylander’s daughter, had added a little background detail with the earlier incidents. Later Midge herself, remember the book is predominately her diary, does add a little more when recounting subsequent similar occasions. These make the read more interesting and avoids the reader being left to wonder and guess at what had been going on.
An attribute of the book is the way Midge Rylander mixes everyday events with a record of how the pain affected her and how the medications helped, or not. This indeed forms a unique diary in which she shares her hopes, expectations, frustrations and disappointments. It is particularly sad she was not provided with more information about her condition and what to expect. This of course is a primary reason for her keeping the journal; so others, whether a patient or relative, would not have to go through the experience blindly.
As mentioned this is a very human account, in which many aspects not solely related to cancer are also shared and discussed. Many are applicable to other life experiences. Anyone who is themselves or has someone suffering serious illness, let alone terminal, together with consultants and doctors would benefit from reading this book. Consultants and doctors in particular should take time to understand what their patients are experiencing and, more to the point, what they want to know. For those who are fortunate enough not to be in or facing any such situation this does make for an informative and eye opening read. As mentioned previously the book does not only relate to cancer. It also provides insights, should the reader take the time to see them, on how to deal with life’s ups and downs as well as recording the difficult frightening times and situations a sufferer faces.
This is an emotive and emotional read. It is comprised of honesty and humanity together with clear explanations and information. It is a book most would benefit from though it is not an easy read. It is sad and distressing at times but also reveals a human, genuine character who really is not that different. Four stars (4*).
Rachele Baker is to be thanked for fulfilling her mother’s wishes by having the courage to publish this book.
The book is available as an e-book:
About the author:
Dr. Rachele Baker is a veterinarian and writer living in California. She has been a veterinarian for over sixteen years. She is currently in the process of writing a series of short books about medical problems in dogs and cats. For more details, visit her website: http://rachelebaker.com