Book review: Be inspired

2017-11-19 05:52

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Cancer: A Love Story by Lauren Segal

MF Books

292 pages



Who would have thought a memoir with this sort of title would be so riveting and so beautifully written?

Obviously, as a professional writer, historian and museum curator for 30 years, Lauren Segal knows what she is doing, but there is a particular poignancy about her own story, which makes for compelling reading.

As she notes, her book is not just about the disease.

It also examines “how one person decided to tackle an unexpected set of traumas … about the redemptive power of love and community; about discovering courage and different kinds of hope … about writing as healing”.

If that sounds mawkish and New Agey, rest assured: the description of events is never anything but brutally honest – and, in places, very amusing.

Segal is quick to admit that she was privileged in terms of her journey and writes of her gratitude at having her path smoothed in ways many other cancer patients in South Africa cannot expect.

Nevertheless, to be diagnosed four times with cancer is not only extraordinary, but also devastating, and the author does not shy away from her fears or self-knowledge.

This includes recounting her first bout with cancer at the tender age of 23, and writing about undergoing a double mastectomy.

Segal’s memoir examines her competitive relationship with her brother and acknowledges her family’s reluctance to discuss emotional troubles.

As she endures the various procedures and treatments, operations and chemotherapy – all of them invasive, painful and scarring – she starts to come to terms with insights she may not have gained had she not been forced into a position of self-analysis.

Her hopeful and inspiring journey will surely also serve to comfort those in a similar predicament.

The memoir is courageous and fascinating, and should be required reading for anyone given a cancer diagnosis.

Read more on:    cancer  |  book review

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