Breast Cancer at 35: A Memoir
Amy Burns, author
Using a candid, raw, and humorous voice, Amy Burns wraps the reader in the intimacy and upheaval of her emotions as she struggles through her breast-cancer diagnosis. Her memoir offers unmatched insight into an experience that, unfortunately, has become far too prevalent and common among women. While sharing the news of her cancer diagnosis with her husband while still on the phone with the nurse, she writes, "I mouth it to you--the hard C of it choking my confidence and/ catching on my tonsils./ After the news,/ I see your eyelids like wet newsprint." Later, she admits that her “prayers are more fervent now,/ dogged like spring leaves,/ warm and sticky with a baited question." The language she carefully selects encapsulates the hopes and fears of any woman hearing the words, "This might be cancer," as well as anyone who's there to hold her hand. This is an honest story of hope, lightheartedness, and frankness for women who either have breast cancer or know someone who does.
At 35, Burns, a high school literature teacher and mother of a one-year-old son, discovers a lump in her breast that turns out to be cancerous. Unsure of whether her story is “worth telling,” she decides to share her experiences, letting women know that there are many possible scenarios for a breast cancer diagnosis. Burns undergoes a lumpectomy and radiation, and she is spared chemotherapy due to a favorably low Oncotype score (the result of a test that helps determine treatment). Sandwiched between her introduction and afterword, both of which are prose, are a series of poems that describe her first visit with the oncologist, “The Nurse,” “Appointment” “Radiation Treatments,” and glimpses of everyday life, such as playing with her son while trying to put worry about her future on hold. Burns’s observation that time is “more inestimable, more ours” will ring true to those who have faced the life-changing nature of this disease; the challenges of learning to accept, to relinquish control, and to value and enjoy the everyday moments are also explored. And though fear is a constant companion, Burns writes in “Anthem of Hope” that “acceptance heals.” The work reflects the author’s sense of hope, and her realization that though she can’t control cancer, she can control her “response to the life I have and all it brings.” Readers who are facing (or who have survived) breast cancer and their families will find inspiration in this cancer journey via poetry. (BookLife)