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Again: Surviving Cancer Twice with Love and Lists
A breast cancer diagnosis at forty-nine forces Christine Shields Corrigan, a wife, mom, and meticulous list-maker, to confront her deepest fears of illness, death, and loss of control as she struggles to face cancer again. From the discovery of a “junky” cyst, to chemotherapy and surgery, sleepless nights filled with rosaries and “what ifs,” and shifting family dynamics, her adult experience mirrors her teen bout with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, with one exception—she no longer has parents keeping her in the dark. With the ghosts of cancer past hovering around her, Chris falls into the same overprotective traps her taciturn Irish-Catholic parents created, striving to keep her family’s life “normal,” when it is anything but, and soldiering through on her own, until a neighbor’s unexpected advice and gift move her to accept others’ help. With fierce honesty, poignant reflection, and good humor, Chris shares a journey filled with sorrow, grace, forgiveness, and resilience and offers practical guidance and hope to individuals that they have the strength to forge a path beyond a diagnosis.
Reviews
Corrigan, a contributor to numerous nonfiction anthologies, delivers a raw, honest telling of surviving cancer in this moving memoir. Through a firsthand account of her diagnosis and her aches and pains, worries and hopes, she details her battle with an illness that is too rarely discussed with such frank intimacy. Corrigan seamlessly transitions from flashbacks of her first run in with the Beast (her private name for cancer) as a fourteen year old girl diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease, to her adult experience facing breast cancer.

The inspiring Again exemplifies Toni Morrison’s insistence that "If there's a book you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it." Corrigan writes that she “wanted a trail map” when faced with her second diagnosis, one that offered valuable insight to cancer victims and reveals the formidable role that a loving support system plays in recovery. Each reflective chapter offers an account of a milestone in Corrigan’s treatment, with "The Practical Reality" sections offering hard-won advice, like “take your spouse, partner, family member, or trusted friend with you to your appointments.”

Corrigan's writing style is clear and relatable, eschewing medical jargon. Readers will feel like old friends as she pulls them in with her quirky to-do lists at the beginning of each chapter—such as “Listen to James comment on my incessant need to over-explain”—and shares her daily thoughts and activities: “I needed to make sure lunches were made, schedules kept, and deadlines met, all while dealing with chemotherapy, its side effects, surgeries, and their recoveries.” This unflinching story of strength and vulnerability pairs the practical with a heartfelt glimpse into the inner workings of healing. Corrigan has mapped out a touching journey and a helpful guide for anyone who has had to deal with cancer, through their own diagnosis or the diagnosis of a loved one.

Takeaway: This honest, warmly emotional memoir maps out a welcome practical roadmap for readers and loved ones facing a cancer diagnosis.

Great for fans of: Go Ask Alice by Beatrice Sparks, Susan Gubar’s Memoir of a Debulked Woman.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A+
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A+

Indie Reader

IR Approved: Author Christine Shields Corrigan’s ability to express her emotions and share practical advice for handling a cancer diagnosis are captivating and emotional and the grit and truth of her story--combined with her practical knowledge--make AGAIN a remarkable memoir for all non-fiction readers.

Kirkus Reviews

This no-nonsense debut memoir recalls Corrigan’s two-time battle with cancer and takes a pragmatic approach toward guiding other patients.

In 1981, at 14, Corrigan was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease. At 48, and now a wife and mother to three children, the author was told that the cancer had returned in the form of invasive ductal carcinoma in her right breast. In her memoir, Corrigan intertwines both of her survival stories, comparing 20th- and 21st-century treatments. The book describes in unflinching detail the realities of cancer treatment, such as the side effects of drugs associated with chemotherapy: “The bone pain was worse than the blistering rash I had on my hands, arms, and feet.” She recounts the periods approaching her mastectomy and following implant surgery. Corrigan also addresses how she handled post-cancer life, including coming to terms with her prosthetic breasts and with the psychological trauma of illness that persists in recovery. Corrigan’s approach is straightforward and forthright. About having a mastectomy, she writes: “I didn’t think too much about it. My boobs were trying to kill me, and they needed to go.” Despite this directness, her writing is never flippant. Corrigan carefully elucidates her emotions and shares her joys and insecurities. Following her breast reconstruction, she confides: “I felt more like a woman again and less like a doll. I was so thrilled, I posted, The girls are back in town! on my Facebook wall.” Corrigan’s writing is highly approachable, addressing a well-considered range of topics, from exercise to feelings of isolation. Again, Corrigan’s crisp frankness offers a valuable source of sensitive, nonmedical advice on subjects such as the importance of self-trust: “If something feels off, don’t stew on it or ignore it. Talk to your health care team.” Although this memoir may be of most benefit to those diagnosed with breast cancer, Corrigan’s candor and positive approach could well prove a guiding light for those facing any type of serious illness.

Candid, sagacious writing on illness and adaptation.

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