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Agalia Baker
If Cancer is a Gift, Can I Return It?
Agalia Baker is a retired advance practice nurse with over 40 years in nursing. Despite all her knowledge and experience, she was an incredibly unprepared patient when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Searching for solace from the emotional hell she endured and unable to find answers, she decided to write the book she needed at the time. The result is an irreverent blend of health care provider information and a glimpse through her eyes as she lived it. If Cancer is a Gift, Can I Return It? is a memoir that patients and caregivers have been waiting for. In her story, she provides a perspective that only someone who has been both a practitioner and a “Breast Cancer Veteran”, a term she has adopted to reflect the multi-front, large and small battles faced by patients from the initial diagnosis through treatment and recovery.
In this informative, emotional memoir, author Baker shares her inspiring and traumatic story of being diagnosed with breast cancer and navigating the five stages of grief—denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance—that can come with facing a life-changing diagnosis. Through personal anecdotes, medical insights drawn from her 40 years in nursing, and the compassion and wisdom she gained as a breast cancer survivor, Baker tells her story with power, exploring the in-depth and complex emotions one faces before, during, and after cancer—and reminding readers throughout that each of us matters.

Baker notes that this is her effort at creating the book that she needed herself during one of the most difficult times in her life. Providing actionable advice on ways to cope, maintain, and endure through a life-threatening diagnosis, Baker manages to keep the text upbeat and positive while still shedding light on the hard realities of chemotherapy treatments, struggles with unbearable pain, and the emotional toll of it all, especially grief and loss. Even there, though, Baker finds some hope, pointing out “Changes bring loss, and some of my losses brought gains,” such as strengthened relationships with those who matter most. Baker also addresses the importance of individuals who care for cancer patients, from friends and family to medical professionals, and explores the tricky question of what not to say to cancer patients, from empty platitudes to unwanted advice to quips like “You can get a pink wig now.” (“There really isn’t any upside to losing all your hair,” Baker notes.)

Helpful advice abounds, including tools like the 4-7-8 breathing method, plus guidance on mindfulness tactics and refocusing techniques that readers will find helpful during every stage of grief. Written from hard-won experience and spiced with wit and warmth, If Cancer is a Gift, Can I Return It? is an empowering, illuminating memoir that will resonate with cancer patients, their caregivers, family and friends. This is a frank and honest narrative, blending personal experiences and professional expertise, from a writer who pulls no punches from diagnosis to remission.

Takeaway: Insightful, advice-packed account of a nurse’s cancer diagnosis.

Comparable Titles: Claudean Nia Robinson's I Forgot to Cry, Alison Porter's Stronger than Before.

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