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Louis V. Cesarini
Survival Symphony

Adult; Memoir; (Market)

Survival Symphony is one cancer’s patient account of his journey to battle stage 4 lung cancer while using music to help depict his story. Amidst COVID -19, it's a lung cancer survivor story told against the backdrop of Beethoven’s triumphal 9th Symphony! After years of success in oncology sales and marketing, Louis Cesarini is faced with his biggest challenge of all when he is told he has Stage 4 lung cancer. Through his oncology experience, Louis begins his journey as an “informed” patient. He tells his story while sharing his love for the French horn and music.
Cesarini charts the peaks and valleys of fighting cancer in his powerful memoir. Seemingly healthy before he was first diagnosed in his early ‘50s, Cesarini started writing this day-by-day account of the trial of facing Stage 4 lung cancer in 2019, with a focus on knowing that he must continue to fight-- on choosing to live “rather than accepting a death sentence.” His background, coincidentally in marketing cancer drugs for a major pharmaceutical company, served him well when it came to advocating for himself and making treatment decisions, and as the many photos (and links to musical performances) in the text make clear, community and his passion for music (he plays the french horn) proved key sources of strength.

This diary of his struggle is inspiring in its clear examination of his trials as well as in sharing a spirit of hope. The material can get dense: Cesarini draws on his oncology expertise to explain his medical complications and thoroughly break down the logic of various treatment options, differentiating between CT scans and X-rays, and explaining, in footnotes, how to make sense of terms like “statistically significant.” The journal-style narration (“Sunday, September 8: I feel about the same today as I did yesterday”) conveys the grinding quality of a protracted health crisis but at times may prove monotonous for readers expecting the scenecraft of more polished memoirs. Cesarini’s candid photos throughout invite readers to feel a personal connection–as does his moving closing narration of an imagined vacation with his husband, a memorialization of a trip that Covid-19 made impossible.

Cesarini hoped, in writingSurvival Symphony, to offer hope to lung cancer patients, demonstrating people can live with the disease. In this, he succeeds. He illuminates the urgency of love and community and the importance of being empowered to make effective decisions. Cancer, in his words, “Is not how I’m going to die.”

Takeaway: This detailed memoir of facing cancer offers crucial insights and encouragement to keep fighting.

Great for fans of: Joy Clausen Soto’s Joy, John Kuby’s No Quit In Me.

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