I received a wonderful book from a total stranger after my mastectomy called Uplift by Barbara Delinsky. Wow, how many different ideas can one girl cram into a single sentence? There’s 7 right there.

The book is a compilation of survivor stories from members of the pink ribbon club around the country. Delinksy, a BC survivor herself, wrote the book she wished she’d had while dealing with her mom’s death from BC and her own BC battle.

Her mom was diagnosed with BC in the late 1940s, when a diagnosis was the same as a death sentence. Barbara was 6 years old when her mom was diagnosed, and 8 when her mom died of this wretched disease. I was 36 when my mom died, and it was by far the worst thing that’s ever happened, the hardest thing I’ve ever endured. Fighting cancer is a piece of cake compared to missing my mom. That said, I can’t even imagine how devastating that loss would be to a young child. While I miss my mom every day and get royally ticked at the fact that she and my kids are both missing out on each other’s company, I’m grateful to have had her for 36 years instead of just 8.

The BC battle has changed significantly since Delinksy’s mother was diagnosed and perished. She says that although she was 8 when her mom died, she was in her teens before she learned that her mom had breast cancer, and it was years before her dad could say cancer, and even longer before he could say breast.

One of the women featured in Uplift, Elinor Farber, lost her mom to BC, too, and said when her mom was diagnosed 45 years ago, there were no mammograms, and mastectomies were just short of a butchering. Farber reports that her mom lived more than 30 years after her surgery, but never once spoke of her condition. “Mom endured everything without the support of friends and neighbors, who were not told. My sister and I were both told of my mom’s condition in hushed tones, and we were sworn to secrecy.”

We’ve come a long way.

I for one know with absolute certainty that this “cancer journey” would be hell without the support of friends & neighbors. I said it all summer and I’ll say it again: It truly does take a village, and I’ve got the best village around.

The 5th anniversary edition of Uplift, which is the one I received, features a foreward by Delinsky and some follow-up information on some of the survivors whose stories were featured in previous editions of the book.

Uplift is said to contain all the helpful advice that only the women who have already been there can give, and it’s true. The book is divided into chapters according to category, like radiation, so it’s easy to pick & choose, read a little on exactly what you’re looking for and skip what doesn’t apply to you. I especially liked that last part. I’m always in a hurry and have a lot to do every day, so I don’t want to waste time flipping through a book to find the information I’m looking for. I didn’t need to read the chapter on dealing with cancer and the workplace, for instance. My workplace is in my home, and there was no “boss” to tell the terrible news when I was diagnosed, because that boss is me. There were no co-workers to talk to and sucker into taking over my job while I was out on medical leave because, well, I run a one-woman shop here. No co-workers. And no suckering either because I have the kinds of friends who just show up to take over my “job.” These kick-ass friends stepped in and vacuumed my house, walked my dogs, brought food (delicious food), hauled my kids to school & activities, folded my laundry, dropped off & picked up prescriptions, and drove me to & from the doctor’s office. Sometimes margaritas and champagne were involved, but that was purely medicinal, of course.

Uplift shows the world how real women who’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer have faced their fears, survived their illness, and bravely gotten on with life and love, career and family. And because she’s filthy rich from all her best-sellers, she’s able to donate all of the proceeds of this wonderful book to BC research. So if you know a woman who’s been diagnosed, go buy her this book. If she already has it, buy it anyway for her to give to her doctor, to put in the waiting room.

I received my copy in the mail from one of Trevor’s dad’s colleagues, a woman I’ve never met but who was kind enough to think of me and pass along this super-useful book. I’ve since bought it for my friend who’s going through the “cancer journey” and passed the link on to a new friend, Paul, whose wife has just been diagnosed.

Paul writes a blog about Bonnie’s “cancer journey” and has mentioned Uplift in his blog a couple of times. He recently posted this about Delinsky. Seems he emailed her to tell her how much he and Bonnie are enjoying the book, and he was tickled when she emailed him back with a very nice note. Go read his blog; it’s good. Plenty of BC blogs written by the women in the trenches (me! me!), but I haven’t seen any written by the men who walk that “journey” alongside these women. I love that Paul writes so openly and eloquently about Bonnie’s “journey” while still seeming so calm and steady. No rants from his blog; ya gotta come back here for that. He pens some original poetry (short and topical), and writes often about wine. Two of my favorite subjects, poetry and wine.

Delinsky  must be pretty busy with her correspondence, because she responded to me, too. In the back of the book, she asks for survivor stories, and once I was able to haul my carcass to the computer after all the mess I was involved in this summer, I emailed her a few tidbits from my “cancer journey.” Then I promptly forgot all about it.

Imagine my surprise when I got this in the mail shortly after submitting my little stories:

A signed letter from Barbara Delinsky herself. Wow!

How cool is that?

I don’t remember exactly what I wrote to her, since I was probably in a vicodin-induced fog at that point, so I scrounged around on the ol’ hard drive to see if I could find the original document. I found it, but rather than bore y’all with it right now, I’m going to save it for the next edition of Uplift. When my name and story appears in print, I’ll let ya know.

Ok, that’s kind of mean, and I for one hate surprises and having to wait to get to the good stuff, so I’ll give you a sneak peek. Some of you may remember this story from my Caring Bridge page. I guarantee it will make you laugh. If it doesn’t, there is something seriously wrong with you.

For the “What was…what did…what is…?” category for which Delinsky solicited stories, I offered this:

The funniest thing that happened to me during all this was a conversation with my 8-year-old daughter, Macy, 2 weeks after my bilateral mastectomy. We were walking to my son’s baseball game and, while she knew I’d had surgery for breast cancer, I don’t think she ever connected breast cancer and mastectomy with losing my breasts. As we were walking she asked if something happened to my chi-chi’s. I said, “Yes, they cut them off. That’s what the surgery was for.” She said, “Well, are they going to fix them? Because they’re not looking so good!” I laughed about that for a week.

That was at the end of May, and I’m still laughing about it.

7 Comments on “Uplift”

  1. Kayte says:

    You phenomenal woman. A well-deserved plum for you, my dear. And, I hope, a little push in the direction I think this blog should eventually take… hint HINT!

  2. Lisa says:

    i’m a huge Delinsky fan! kudos to you for getting that validation from a best-selling author for your own writing. now, get to work on that novel! xoxo

  3. Good morning Nancy. The horizon is full of sun, mountains and clarity today. I am humbled by your words about the blog I write for Bonnie – truly humbled. A good friend of mine on the east coast and a medical professional also stated she’s read a great number of blogs from the patients themselves but never from the husband. Although elated to stand out from the crowd it also saddens me as we both know the patient has enough to go through. Anywhoo … so glad you’re back at it with keyboard in front of you. Take it slow – take it easy and keep enforcing those house rules of yours. Perhaps you and I … much later … can pen a novel together. Both of us with SOX hats on.
    Cheers to you, Trevor, your children and your fantastic network of friends who kept us all informed.


  4. Ed says:

    I remember the original post and still laughed out loud just now. It’s hard to conceive of cancer as anything but a negative, but that bad thing has definitely revealed some good things. Your friends have shown themselves to be the good people you thought them to be and strangers have emerged, unbidden, to enlarge your circle of friends. Cancer still sucks, but not all of its effects are bad.

  5. Jody Hicks says:

    We forwarded this blog entry to Dr. Beeman (who gave us the book to send to you), and she said she looked up other entries on your blog and was so pleased with the response from Delinsky, and is looking forward to seeing more of your work. We are delighted as well, though not surprised – we’ve told many of our friends about what a great writer you are. I think your ability and willingness to be so blunt is not only engaging and enlightening to your readers, but it is also what has helped you to get through a much more difficult road than most BC patients. We love you – keep it up!

  6. […] I’ve mentioned before, Bestselling author Barbara Delinsky also lost a loved one to BC. Delinsky was 8 years old when her […]

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