A Friend in the Storm: A Review of Nancy Stordahl’s Cancer Memoir

Being a breast cancer patient can be lonely. Even with supportive friends and family, no one really knows what it’s like to endure the shock, anger, grief, and stress of being diagnosed with cancer, and then to undergo the scorched-earth treatment of it. No one knows what it’s like to put up with exhortations to ‘stay positive’ and ‘be brave’ when you feel like a train wreck. No one knows how you feel when you are surrounded by marketing images that trivialize your disease, that dress up its harsh reality in a gloss of pink.

But suppose you had a kind and thoughtful friend who had also gone through it. Suppose you got to sit down with her and talk for hours. Suppose you could ask her every question you could think of, and finally get to hear all the details of her experience, delivered straight-up, without the pretty-in-pink nonsense that leaves you feeling isolated and ignored. Finally, you think. Someone who really gets it! That’s what it’s like to read Nancy Stordahl’s memoir, Cancer Was Not a Gift & It Didn’t Make Me a Better Person.

Many of us have gotten to know Nancy from her popular blog, Nancy’s Point. I came upon her blog some time in 2011, and was struck from the start by her honest, unvarnished prose. We quickly became cyber-friends. Like many of her long-time readers and blog-sisters, we’ve come to know a lot about each other over the years. But, as with any friend, you want to know more. Reading her memoir was, therefore, an opportunity to get answers to all those questions I would ask her if she and I were sitting together in person, with nothing but time to commiserate.

Without giving too much away, I will say that one of the most poignant aspects of Nancy’s memoir is how she weaves the story of her mother’s experience with breast cancer into the threads of her own. As I read, I kept thinking of how such a circumstance would magnify the anguish, and about how many women have gone through exactly that anguish. Bad enough to watch your own mother experience its ravages, but then to be diagnosed yourself? Hell on earth.

All these years after my own diagnosis, I find I can only stand to read precious few books about cancer. After treating cancer patients all day in my job as a physical therapist, after writing this blog for seven years, after reading countless blog posts and research articles, after losing so many friends, sometimes the last thing I want to do in a spare moment is to read another book about it. I’ve lost count of how many blog posts I’ve written rejecting the notion that cancer is some kind of blessing, or some sort of opportunity to build one’s character. In fact, I was writing about these and other aspects of breast cancer, and often feeling like one of the lone voices in the pink wilderness, before Nancy was diagnosed herself in April of 2010, and before she started her blog some months later. Although I hated discovering that yet another vital person had been diagnosed, it was a tremendous relief to find Nancy’s blog, and to know that someone else was willing and able to speak to these and many other issues from a similar perspective. The title of Nancy’s memoir says it all. How could I not read it?

And I’m glad I did. Any good memoir underscores the truth that the personal is universal. And so it is with Nancy’s memoir. If you’ve ever loved someone with breast cancer, cared for someone with breast cancer, faced the implications of BRCA gene mutations, or had breast cancer yourself, you will find something that resonates with your own experience. Even if none of the above applies to you, if you want to understand, to get past the deceptive tyranny of Pinktober, or to learn about the reality of facing a life-changing catatrophe, you will learn much from Nancy.

As she states in her introduction, Nancy’s intent is to share her own story about ‘cancer as I know it[…] because sharing is healing, empowering and hopefully helps us all feel less alone.’ Read it, and you will find a friend in the storm.

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This entry was written by Kathi, posted on Sunday, February 28, 2016 at 03:02 pm, filed under Fighting the Pink Peril, Life & Mortality, Making A Difference, Nitty Gritty and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

25 Responses to “A Friend in the Storm: A Review of Nancy Stordahl’s Cancer Memoir”

  1. Thanks for this Kathi. If nothing else, I love the title and it makes me feel better about myself already…. 😉
    I missed the drawing so I’ll have to go looking for it myself.

  2. Thanks, Julie. I think if you hover over where the photo of the cover should be, you’ll still get to the Amazon link. 😉

  3. Excellent review, Kathi. I loved Nancy’s book too. She did a great job of capturing the day to day struggles, both physical and emotional, that you go through with a breast cancer diagnosis. I’m sure her book will help many readers realize they are not alone.

  4. Thank you, Lisa. I think the book could help many readers, which is, of course, what Nancy hoped for from the start.

  5. A wonderful review, Kathi! I have finally started reading Nancy’s terrific memoir and felt glued to each page. I agree that the way she weaves her story in with her mother’s story is amazing. Very poignant book.

  6. Thanks, Beth. So proud of our friend!! I hope lots of people read her book and find it helpful.

  7. Hi Kathi,
    Thank you for reading my memoir and for reviewing it as well. I was deeply touched by your words. I can’t quite remember when our paths first crossed, but I have a feeling it was via our mutual interaction with our dear friend Rachel. I hate that we both are far too familiar with cancer’s ugliness and all it’s aftermath. I hate how we’ve both lost too many dear ones to this darn disease. I am grateful to know you and all my other cyber-sisters as well. Not sure what kind of shape I’d be in emotionally if not for friends like you. I have always admired you for your wit, wisdom, sense of humor and ability to tell it like it is. Thank you for being out there and for being a friend in the storm too. And thanks again for the review. xoxo

  8. Nancy, it was my pleasure. We’ve been through a lot since we first got to know each other. I’m glad you’ve been there, for me, and so many of your readers and blog sisters, and I’m glad we’re both still here, doing whatever we can do to make some kind of difference. I hope we can keep doing it for a long time. I’m planning to post a shorter version of this review on Amazon, too!! 🙂 xoxo

  9. […] Kathi has reviewed Nancy’s breast cancer memoir. […]

  10. This is a great review, Kathi!

    I found Nancy’s book to be very powerful and it also touched my heart in many ways. I loved the style she used to tell both her story and her mom’s story. The subject matter was diverse and that is one of the many things I appreciated. Anyone can pretty much read her book, even if the person hasn’t been diagnosed with cancer. It was not a surprise that, once again, Nancy was able to capture so much of what we go through when facing cancer or when being a caregiver for someone we love.

  11. Yes, it was very readable, a good book for someone who has not had cancer, but wants to understand.

  12. I’m so glad I stumbled on your site… and a whole lot of on-line sisters dealing w/breast cancer. Good to know we’re not alone as “Accidental Amazons” – or what I’ve been referred to: a “uni-boob”

    Anyway it feels refreshing & honest… and looking forward to connecting more. One of these days, probably late summer I may have a memoir out too- “to keep a breast… ” so Nancy’s book, is a great inspiration.

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