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Reviewed by Vera Pereskokova
When I was going through my own breast cancer journey (and I am still not sure I like referring to it as a “journey”), I was constantly struggling to find something I could finish reading in the chemo chair before the Benadryl IV drip kicked in. Although I read A Breast Cancer Alphabet some time after I finished chemo, I could instantly appreciate Madhulika Sikka’s intention to give breast cancer patients a quick but meaningful read.
In 2010, Sikka was a journalist with NPR; four days before her very first interview in the Oval Office, she underwent a needle biopsy to determine if a mass in her breast was malignant. Shortly after the interview with President Obama was over, Sikka heard the diagnosis from her doctor: “You have breast cancer.” And thus began the whirlwind that accompanies those words–scans and more scans, blood tests, appointments with surgeons and oncologists and radiologists, surgeries and recoveries, pills of all shapes and sizes, and the list goes on. Beating cancer is a full time job.
There is a chapter in Sikka’s book for each letter in the alphabet, and she associates each letter with a particular aspect of one’s breast cancer journey.
My favorite chapters were titled “F is for Fashion Accessories” and “P is for Pillows“. You may wonder, “What do fashion accessories have to do with cancer?” I personally commend Sikka for including this chapter and another one on looks. Going through chemo, radiation and other types of treatment is tough and draining and sometimes all I wanted to do was go out to dinner and feel normal. That is where scarves and earrings came in and I enjoyed simply spending a few moments worrying about regular things like make-up. In “P is for Pillows” Sikka discusses a topic that was near and dear to my heart after surgeries, during chemo, and many times in between. If you’re scratching your head, read Sikka’s excellent description of the effects of mastectomies on your pectoral muscles. Wedge pillows are a godsend and can make the miserable mastectomy experience just a bit easier.
Sikka expertly maneuvers all the topics that would occupy a breast cancer patient’s mind and does so with grace and humor. In A Breast Cancer Alphabet, Sikka provides both a manual for the novices and a relatable story for the survivors.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Random House. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.