Wednesday, December 07, 2016

I Hope You Can Sit This Dance Out

My Tango With Cancer: My Perilous Dance With Healthcare & Healing
Author: Apryl Allen
Publisher: Oray Publishing, 2016

My Hope Is That You Sit This Dance Out
I was attracted to this book for two reasons: First, I am a cancer survivor and second, I always wished I could dance, but never really mastered it. I hoped Apryl Allen’s book would help me to better understand how much more so many others suffer when they first hear the dreaded “you have cancer” diagnosis. I’m also glad that my own dancing skills were so poor that the Cancer dude decided not to spend a lot of time with me. Sometimes it pays to be a wallflower.
This author was anything but.
She believes in ‘fate’ playing a role in everyone’s life, but unfortunately she never gives us a good handle on exactly what ‘fate’ is or how it works. For her, it just seems to be what happens.
The book is full of what I call “gems” partly because they are so true and partly because they are so obvious. One example is “Happiness is the best medicine when you’re sick.” Another is “No doctor calls with good news.” With each one, a reader can relate to some of his/her own experience. For me, this latter one reminded me of the day I had met my son for lunch and we were sitting in the patio of a Greek restaurant on Avenue Road in Toronto when my doctor “called” with the news that I had cancer.
There is much to learn from a book like this as well. For example, I learned MRI’s are sometimes undertaken when they can’t find the problematic nodule through a mammogram.  Or, that some doctors say having had breast implants is not a cause of breast cancer based on the fact that those are the very things they insert after a woman has had a mastectomy and wants reconstruction surgery. [Whether you buy that argument or not is up to you, but it reminds me of what much of the medical community says about abortions, i.e., “It’s a very simple and safe procedure.” Just ask many of the women that will tell you otherwise.] She provides us with solid information on specific tests that study the genes and behavior of a cancerous tumor to predict the risk factor of its return by uncovering its hidden biology. And much more.
We identify with Apryl’s search for a way to ask a doctor which option of treatment he/she would pursue if the patient were his wife or his daughter, without making them liable for any choice they give you.  Good luck on that.  We realize with the author (partly because she keeps reminding us) that cancer is indeed “as individual as the person themselves”.  We also have to content ourselves with the fact that even practitioners tell us, “there’s no such thing as ‘the best doctor in a field’” but rather it’s all about who you feel more comfortable with. Add to that the fact that so many good doctors in the same field can disagree so readily with each other on not only the diagnosis but also the treatment even when the diagnosis is the same. How alarming.
Allen communicates her story as a narrative in the present tense giving us sometimes moment by moment, other times day by day or month by month accounts of what she experienced and how she felt. With that, she is able to convey the high demands that are imposed on a cancer patient (or their advocate) if they are to beat the disease. There’s an excellent ‘sidebar’ on how difficult it is to tell various people about what you’re going through as a cancer patient. She has a wonderful handle of the different type of listeners (or non-listeners) that one encounters when embarking on such communication.
Throughout the book, the author praises her husband for his commitment to her and his willingness to be there for her whenever and wherever. There is no doubt that one’s chance of victory here is greatly enhanced by the presence of such a partner and/or close friend.  Her accounts of what irritates her (and sometimes her husband) when under this kind of stress is most honest and serves to point out how we change under such circumstances.
She saves a good deal of her disgust with the medical system as a whole, for incompetent administrative staff, inconsiderate professionals, uncaring insurance companies, and processes that are designed with anything but the patient in mind. She wonders, as I have for years, how on earth those who don’t speak the language, or have no one to advocate for them, ever have a chance of navigating the troublesome waters of our medical system. The very thought of what can go wrong and often does is enough to give one cancer!
Time and time again she comes to grip with the fact that although we have taken all the measures we possibly can to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, we ultimately can only resort to praying for the impossible. Perhaps because she is a Native American (Comanche) she resorts to more than prayer as we normally think of it and involves herself somewhat with the occult, where she attempts to be, and actually believes she is, in contact with her deceased mother.
In conclusion, she wrote the book because nothing she had read when she was a cancer patient, ever came close to describing how one actually feels and what one actually thinks throughout the whole process. This book accomplished that with great success. 
--- Ken B. Godevenos, President, Accord Resolutions Services Inc., Toronto, Ontario, December 6, 2016.

--- you can order the book right here: 

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