A Biography of Cancer

Steve McKinionUncategorized2 Comments

First, an update on Harrison’s day. After Harrison was lethargic most of the day yesterday, we called the doc and were told to come in for a checkup and a follow-up CBC (complete blood count). They found his ANC at .4 (the same), his platelets still good, but his hemoglobin was 7.1, under the 8.0 threshold requiring a blood transfusion.

After a two-hour wait for the screened blood to arrive and a three-hour transfusion, Harrison was ready to head home.  It was a LONG day for him and Ginger.

It was my first time to miss a clinic visit or procedure. Just a part of the progress, I guess, but I was sad he and Ginger had to go through it alone.

But I really benefited from another visit I had today.

The community of cancer children and their families is both larger and smaller than I ever knew. Not long after Harrison’s diagnosis a friend of mine in the publishing industry wrote to tell me that his now college-aged son had been diagnosed with leukemia at age twelve. I’d never known. He’s just one of a number of friend who have survived this terrible disease.

Last week he wrote to tell me he would be in the Triangle on business and wanted to meet. Every other time we’ve met (most often in Chicago where he’d treat me to some of the best pizza in the world). This time the topic would be surviving as a parent of a cancer kid.

Besides being an ear for me, he was a source of much great advice. Already I have changed some of my thinking and behavior due to his advice. So many of the people we’ve met in our new community have helped us, but the advice he gave me today made such great sense.

So when he suggested reading a book entitled The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer I couldn’t wait to order it.

Here’s the book description from Amazon:

“The Emperor of All Maladies is a magnificent, profoundly humane “biography” of cancer—from its first documented appearances thousands of years ago through the epic battles in the twentieth century to cure, control, and conquer it to a radical new understanding of its essence. Physician, researcher, and award-winning science writer, Siddhartha Mukherjee examines cancer with a cellular biologist’s precision, a historian’s perspective, and a biographer’s passion. The result is an astonishingly lucid and eloquent chronicle of a disease humans have lived with—and perished from—for more than five thousand years.

The story of cancer is a story of human ingenuity, resilience, and perseverance, but also of hubris, paternalism, and misperception. Mukherjee recounts centuries of discoveries, setbacks, victories, and deaths, told through the eyes of his predecessors and peers, training their wits against an infinitely resourceful adversary that, just three decades ago, was thought to be easily vanquished in an all-out “war against cancer.” The book reads like a literary thriller with cancer as the protagonist.

From the Persian Queen Atossa, whose Greek slave may have cut off her diseased breast, to the nineteenth-century recipients of primitive radiation and chemotherapy to Mukherjee’s own leukemia patient, Carla, The Emperor of All Maladies is about the people who have soldiered through fiercely demanding regimens in order to survive—and to increase our understanding of this iconic disease.

Riveting, urgent, and surprising, The Emperor of All Maladies provides a fascinating glimpse into the future of cancer treatments. It is an illuminating book that provides hope and clarity to those seeking to demystify cancer.”

As a bibliophile I’m always looking for well-written, thought-provoking books. This one looks like a real keeper.

Please pray

  • that Harrison will not develop a fever
  • that Harrison’s blood will rebound over the next two weeks so they can tear it down again
  • that Ginger and I will be able to rest to remain well
  • that Lachlan and Blakely will cope well with our new family life

Thanks for your kindnesses and prayers.

2 Comments on “A Biography of Cancer”

  1. The book does sound riveting. So glad to hear about your meet today with the old friend and being able to be encouraged by him. Thank you for letting us know HOW to pray for you all. Ever in prayer for you all!

  2. Would love to hear your thoughts on the book. I thought it was so well written and was a wonderful introduction to cancer and cancer treatment. Hopeful, but also discouraging…

    Glad to have found your wonderful blog. We were at UNC when diagnosed, then moved to Sacramento after Starting maintenance to be near family. It’s a marathon.

    Keeping your son in my thoughts and prayers.

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