I want to thank Miriam for writing this book which is a real-life account of her battle with cancer in 2008. In the foreword, she says, ” Life is precious and it’s worth fighting for. If I died, my pain went with me, but I would leave pain with my loved ones. My life is worth living.’ This very honest, straight-from-the-heart line, sets the tone of the book and forms the backbone of her fight against cancer. It was this line that made me read on. It reminded me of my very recent brush with the hospital and how I felt when I was wheeled into the operation theatre. I thought, ‘Well if it ends, the pain is gone. But, there’s so much love to live for.‘
Miriam recounts her experience with the dreaded ‘C’- the chance identification of it, the subsequent tests, and adjusting her life so she could continue to work. Gratitude, faith, prayer, support from family and friends and her immense willpower to get through it, saved her. She says, ‘ What if there was no hysterectomy? How would I have found out about melanoma? There was no pain or any warning symptoms. I’m grateful for the hysterectomy. The treatment provided by Doctors is pretty much the same in most countries which are fairly well-developed.
In a frank, candid manner Miriam talks of real-life challenges that a family goes through when a family member is detected with cancer- not just the emotional and physical challenges but practical ones such as getting leave from work for the treatment and rest thereafter but also managing the costs involved. The author explains the illness, the after-effects of the treatment, getting back to work and the rules of the educational system with regards to leave, pay and gratuity – those that I’d heard my mother speak of when she went through it in 2006 ( at the time, I remember wondering why she cared about her job so much and couldn’t just leave ).
From August 2008 to October 2008, three months after detection, while Miriam waited for the necessary insurance approvals so the hospital can begin treatment, the cancer was spreading. It is ironic that a patient must wait even when everybody knows that cancer does not wait and that the longer it takes for the treatment to begin, the greater the damage that needs to be fixed. Yet, that’s how the medical system works. Reading this book made me realize that things were no different in the United States in the early 2000s than it was in India. The author shares her fear; one that may be true for every cancer patient, ‘ Oh no, my cancer is spreading. It’s true that melanoma spreads fast. I must wait for an entire month before the surgery. How fast will the cancer spread during this month? Will it spread to my brain before the operation?’
Miriam gives the little details that nobody tells you when you go to the hospital for a surgical procedure. She says, ‘They asked if I could scoot from the gurney onto the operating table. I did it with little effort. The anesthesiologist greeted me and injected the anaesthesia into the back of my left hand. He told me Dr Eisner was on the way. In an instant, his face faded away.’ In 100 pages, she manages to write an informative, heartwarming, inspiring story of strength.
Miriam’s hope to see her daughter’s wedding and grandchildren, thereafter, kept her going. In the book she says, ‘ My mind came to a halt. There are two roads in front of me. Which one should I choose? The road to the single chemo drug is ineffective, It may lead to a dead-end, eventually. The other road is unknown, with a slim chance of leading to healing. The Road not Taken by Robert Frost came to my mind, especially the last few lines.
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
I found quite a few things interesting and informative in the book, apart from how the author dealt with the Cancer. For one, how the Church provides support by sharing information amongst the community and how everybody pitches in to help. I know for certain, this does not exist in Hindu temples. Another thing that I found interesting was the concept of the Catastrophic Leave bank, where teachers can deposit one sick leave day to become a member. Then, after exhausting their sick leave days, they can withdraw days at the bank, 20 days at a time to receive half the pay, up to a maximum of 100 days. In addition, to this under the Teacher’s union, after a teacher has exhausted her or his sick leave balance, they can get 50% pay for 100 days, which effectively means that under the two plans, the author was able to get her complete pay for 100 days. There were a few other things too that were new to me but you’ll need to read the book to find out.
For information and simplicity of language, I’m giving this book, five stars. In this world where there’s no dearth of bad news, it’s important to read stories of survival and community spirit. Despite the tragedy of the situation, this book is inspiring and there’s a lot you can take away from it. The photographs of the author with her family (the people mentioned in the book) at the end of the story will leave you feeling satisfied because who does not like a happy ending?
The book is for :
This is a good book to read, if you know someone who is dealing with cancer ( it will help you understand and support them better because there’s so much to it than the knowledge that the body is being attacked from the inside) , if you’ve lost someone to cancer ( you’ll understand what they went through if you were not in a position to understand it earlier) or for someone detected with it ( it’s inspiring to know that you can get through it). It’s a good book to read for awareness of how hospitals function. Had I read the book earlier, I might have grumbled a little lesser about my own recent visit to the hospital. It seems like it’s the same, world over.
‘The Winding Road’ is available of kindle- free for Kindle unlimited subscribers and Rs 159 in India, for non-subscribers.
P.S. I read the book 10 days ago but couldn’t post the review earlier as I’m moving countries. This note is for those of your who follow my blog regularly, that I will not be writing regularly over the next one month as we move, travel and settle down.
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