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Breast Friends Newsletter - Summer 2013
Your Guide Through Her Breast Cancer Journey.
Katherine Formosa Bown.
Urban Traffic Publishing, 2012. 72pp.
If ever I needed a reminder that Cardiff is a very small place, this book is it, written by someone I have never met, but who is the sister-in-law of a former colleague and friend of mine. Along the same lines as handbooks published by various cancer charities, Katherine Formosa Bown’s book aims to show partners, family members, and friends how they can help their loved ones following diagnosis and through treatment. This book differs from others because the author addresses the helper rather than the patient. Her premise is that a breast cancer patient can benefit more from support if her supporters actually understand what she is going through.
Bown was diagnosed in 2009, just after I had returned to work after my own round of chemotherapy treatments and surgery, and so her information is current and relevant, and especially so for our Breastfriends readers, because her treatment was done locally in South Wales. As a young woman with breast cancer (she was 33 at the time of diagnosis), her writings about her experience with treatment fill a gap in knowledge that often needs to be filled, since most women diagnosed are much older. The concerns of younger women with breast cancer are often different and overlooked; however, there is much we can all learn from Bown’s experiences.
This book is manageable, portable, and set out in easy, straightforward chapters such as “Diagnosis,” “Surgery,” and “Support,” so the reader/helper can go straight to what s/he needs to be able to understand and help, and Bown’s guidance is interspersed with snippets of her own experiences of breast cancer. She makes it very clear that her opinions and experiences are just that - her own - and that what she has written is to be used as a guide, for research, for assistance, but not as a map for every woman’s experience through treatment. I particularly liked the chapters on Support and Chemotherapy, the latter being one of the most comprehensive chapters, covering everything from cold caps to eyebrows. This is also one of the only books on breast cancer that I have read that even mentions the fertility problems arising from chemotherapy treatment. I would argue, however, that fertility should be the first thing mentioned in this chapter after the first treatment of chemotherapy is the wrong time to have those discussions about fertility and any partner/friend/supporter should be made aware of this.
Your Guide Through her Breast Cancer Journey has a useful index and appendix, and a no holds barred attitude toward telling it like it is (or was, for Bown), and the reader/helper can dip in and out of the book, depending on at what stage the patient is. And, although written for the helper/ supporter, it should be easily readable by the patient also.
Overall, the book could have benefited from better editing (the overuse/misuse of semi-colons often interrupted the flow of the author’s sentences), and I felt slightly uneasy that the final chapter, “A New Woman,” ends with the word “panicked.” However, in the “Message for You” at the very end of the book, Bown’s positive, energetic attitude clearly shines through the fog of treatment. She shows us that it is completely possible to get through the breast cancer journey and emerge perhaps stronger, healthier, and more motivated than ever before. Good for her for writing this!Liz Reyes
*thanks to Katherine for sending me a copy of her book. I know she has done a lot of fundraising and awareness raising for breast cancer charities, so check out her website also: