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by Tanya Taylor and Pamela Thompson (editors)
MacAdam/Cage, 2002
Review by S. V. Swamy on Aug 18th 2003

The Cancer Monologue Project

The Cancer Monologue Project is a collection of 30 monologues written and presented by survivors of cancer and in a few cases by their close kin. Two of them are about one person, written by the person and his spouse. In the space of a few pages, each account took me deep into the psyche of the sufferer. I got a close-up view of the problem. The accounts are totally frank, since the participants in this project have chosen this way to face with the issue themselves. I came across all shades of human emotion. Fear, denial, grief, shock, anger, resignation, whatever I could think of. A few samples:

"if I was going leave this world with any respect at all, I had to abandon my peace with death and determine I was going to live. That's when it got hard." - Cancer and other travels - Deborah Milton Spaulding

"Ruth and I were at the hospital, chatting and waiting for me to go to surgery, when suddenly we both felt a peaceful presence move through the room. We looked at the clock. It was eight a.m. From that point on, I had no doubt that I was being cared for." (A group of supporting friends prayed for her at that time - reviewer). - Leaving, Deborah Gunderman

"I am sick of hearing that cancer is transformational. I liked my life just fine before. It didn't need to be transformed. I was progressing on my journey just fine!" - Floating in the river - Patsy Sears

" Having hardly any other choices, I have slowly learned how to deal with cancer and death as best as I could. ... In practice, some days are a hell of a lot better than others." - It is a family thing - David DeVary

"This horrible disease has brought me a real gift of knowing, a calmness, a better sense of myself as who I am, the real me, extra weight, scars, tattoos and all." - Waiting to get a life - Alice Kitselman

"Like Moon, I prefer alternative healing methods, but now I was scared." -

Surprises - Pelican Lee

Though there are similarities in some accounts, each was sufficiently different to hold my interest. Some have been helped by their faith in a higher power, others by their determination to live, others by their support groups in the form of family and friends. Most of them chose what the modern medicine has to offer, surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Only a few chose to go a different way and tried alternative therapies. A few combined both. Finally it all boils down to the individual's choice. Some of them looked upon the whole experience as a lesson to be absorbed.

I noticed that 26 out of the thirty monologues are written by women! Statistically highly significant! Why so few men chose to write? Are they too shy to open themselves? Or is the gender ratio of cancer victims so highly skewed? I would tend to accept the first explanation.

The theatrical training and experience of the editors has helped bring out a good collection of mostly first person accounts, that educate, and enlighten us. My interest was held through out the book. It did not grip me like an un-put-down-able thriller but it certainly was a very interesting reading exercise. One's own mental background and attitude to illness, especially cancer will no doubt condition the response.

The book has one or two typos. One example: Page 57-"could hospital" in place of "hospital could." On pages 130 and 131, a paragraph got repeated, with slight change of the sentence order.

All in all, a good book and a good experiment. A monologue by Pamela Thomson (about her husband's fight with cancer) would have increased the value.

 

2003 S. V. Swamy

  

S. V. Swamy, India.