A Breast Cancer Alphabet

December 1, 2014

In hopes of offering guidance and companionship to others, Madhulika Sikka wrote A Breast Cancer Alphabet, part memoir, part self-help book.

Shortly after interviewing President Barack Obama for a “Newshour” segment on a cold December day in 2010, Madhulika Sikka, an executive editor for NPR News, heard her doctor say, “You have breast cancer.”

“My head had been full of the president’s interview,” she writes, “and now my doctor was delivering the most devastating news I had ever had in my life.” The confusion and emotion that followed her diagnosis will be familiar territory to many cancer patients.

In hopes of offering guidance and companionship to others, Sikka has written A Breast Cancer Alphabet, a part memoir, part self-help book that delivers an honest, and often humorous, look at her own cancer experience. Divided into 26 succinct chapters, beginning with “A is for Anxiety” and ending with “Z is for Zzz’s,” the book covers topics that include: breasts (“‘They are cutting off my boob’ is what you want to say, but you don’t. We have this sterile-sounding medical term— mastectomy, which is now part of everyday parlance.”); drugs (“Drugs are your friends. Let me repeat, drugs, pharmaceuticals of all kinds for all things, are your friends.”); and even pillows (“In a time of enormous discomfort, pillows are an indulgence that you can afford, and they actually make a huge difference. Who knew?”).

The beauty of this book is that it can be read from start to finish, or it can be skipped through so that readers can fastforward to the topic most relevant to them at the moment, such as overwhelming fatigue, a lowered sex drive or hair loss.


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