Becky Dennington's book, Me and the Ugly C, sat around for a couple of months before I overcame second thoughts about the subject matter, but once I opened the cover, she had me by the eyeballs and heartstrings from the first paragraph. If she can write with this much humor about such a difficult topic, I thought, this is a book I want to read, a woman I want to know.
Although the book begins with a blast of irreverent humor, it is not primarily a humorous book. While Dennington has a gift for balancing a healthy ability to laugh at her own faux paux and awkwardness (there are plenty of both), she doesn't flinch from zooming in on the tough stuff. She frequently mentions that certain material was hard to write, for example, "I've been waiting for a good day to write because I'd rather paint a pretty picture. But that's not the real story. The real story is the chemo makes me so tired and yet I can only sleep so much." I felt I could trust her to tell it like she lived it, not a dressed up version to make herself look more heroic.
Her faith is an inherent part of her identity and her healing journey. The book is strong testimony, yet she discusses faith as matter-of-factly as visits to the doctor, with no apparent conversion agenda. I salute her for that.
While nobody ever has a "light case of cancer," Dennington's was relatively simple. It was caught at stage 1, and she required only a lumpectomy. As she repeatedly pointed out, she saw people at the chemo and radiation centers who were "far worse off." Her husband was almost heroically supportive and understanding in every conceivable way, a model of empathy and compassion, and her life is full of friends and neighbors who support her at every turn. While not everyone may experience this same level of support, it's encouraging and inspiring to read about the possibility.
One aspect of the book that I found especially fascinating were numerous incidents where people where trading stories, in person or over the Internet. The blog she began to help herself sort things out while updating friends and family brought her into contact with numerous helpful people and eventually inspired a friend to help her find a publisher to convert the blog to a book.
If anyone doubts the power of story, read this book. Read the book anyway. Her resilient attitude and ability to find an optimistic outlook are contagious. You'll laugh, cry with both happiness and sadness, and learn dozens of details about the cancer patient process, both mentally and physically. Given the current likelihood that you or a loved one will be diagnosed with some form of cancer at some point, you'll be better prepared for having this background information.
Read an excerpt from this book.
Raised in the small farming town of Bernie, Missouri, Becky Dennington was only thirty-five, married for sixteen years and the mother of two children when in the space of minutes, her life took a difficult turn: she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Having the heart of a writer, she found comfort in documenting her journey by starting a blog. Thoughts by Becky began as a way for her to process her thoughts and feelings as she dealt with the stress of a cancer diagnosis while keeping family and friends updated on the progress of her treatment. Becky's blog has now taken the shape of her first published work, Me and the Ugly C.
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