Book Reviews

“Social Media meets Cancer (and Social Media triumphs!). This book compiles the real-time emails of Meg Stafford as she keeps her network of friends ‘abreast’ of her progress through the diagnosis and successful treatment for breast cancer. Without self-pity or self-absorption (she keeps working as a clinical counselor despite everything that is going on in her life), Meg details her very personal impressions and emotions of the impact of cancer. No matter how close you may have been to cancer in your life, I am certain that this book will resonate with the most fundamental notions of friends, family, and self. Meg has a remarkable ability to encapsulate the moment, no matter how small or large, in nuggets of witty wordplay that show the resiliency of her spirit and the importance of community in supporting a person through the challenges of illness and intensive therapy aimed at cure. This book should be required reading for medical students, physicians and caregivers who want to learn more about what is going on inside the head of a patient facing cancer. In a world of instant information, Meg’s thoughtful descriptions of her path keep us mindful of the power of individual experience and the impact of family, community and caregivers.”

George D. Demetri, MD
Director, Ludwig Center at Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center

“With bare honesty, humor and a sparkling heart, Meg courageously extends her hand and engages in the conversation of life. Like listening to the story of a dear friend for the first time, the reader is moved to tears, delighted in muse, and inspired to reach within to gain strength and courage to live life a new way. This beautifully written memoir is an empowering and contagious illustration of the richness and possibility that unfold when listening to one’s own voice and living each day consciously. Relevant and remarkable for anyone whose life is impacted by waves of uncertainty or personal struggle, Topic of Cancer is an invaluable reminder that, in the face of life’s most challenging journeys, we are not alone.”

Colleen Stevens

“Tears came at unexpected times and just as quickly went away as Meg Stafford provided what I had longed for during my sister’s cancer treatment—information that could be understood by both my head and my heart. I gratefully took in information from Meg that my sister’s doctors either weren’t inclined to provide or perhaps weren’t even aware would be welcomed. I finally felt that cancer treatment had been de-mystified.The ‘Aha! Take-Away’ from Meg Stafford’s book: TREATMENT CHOICES. If you assume you have them, you will.For me, the essence of this book is said best by Meg herself. ‘He (the doctor) asked whether I felt that I was able to resume my life. I told him that I had never stopped living it.’”

Kate Gilligan
Lost her sister to lung cancer

“A warm, witty and wise companion for the journey.”

Fran Booth, LICSW
Therapist at The Healing Garden

“It’s a great read, engrossing, hilarious, wonderfully tolerant of us weirdo medical types. I kept turning pages, hungry for more. And I learned a lot. Deeply moving, wonderfully astute, and written with a wicked sense of humor.”

Robin Schoenthaler, MD
MGH Department of Radiation Oncology at Emerson Hospital

“A gift. Meg articulates many of the thoughts and feelings from the time of my own treatment. She brings a light to a time when many people need to put their heads down and move through it.”

Marge Maurukas

“Topic of Cancer” might, at first glance, appear to be a story of survival, courage and determination, of a brave woman fighting cancer while holding her life and her family together. It in fact aspires to none of those things, and so it achieves them more completely than had it been written with greater ambition to consciously inspire others. Meg Stafford merely presents a journal of her life during the 18-month period between her breast cancer diagnosis and the completion of her treatment. There is not a trace of pretension to be found in the entire book. She doesn’t try to impress, or embellish, or manipulate the reader’s emotions. Her book is an account of a period in her life, full of friends, doctors, family, pets, and her brilliant, engaging personality. By publishing the book in journal form, she provides us with her feelings as they exist at any given moment : One day’s diary entry is written with no foreknowledge of what will happen the next day. Her story is not passed through the filter of retrospect, nor does she seem to have gone back and sanitized any of her journal entries, even when they describe moments of anxiety, impatience, or insecurity.

“Topic of Cancer” is not a self-help book. It’s an account of one person’s experiences. It deals with breast cancer, and the many choices that face a cancer patient. It shows the human side of doctors, and how an informed, detail-oriented patient can guide her physicians as she is being guided by them. One reviewer of this book has recommended it as a source of insight for a doctor or caregiver into the mental processes of the patient. “Topic of Cancer” ought to be required reading for any doctor treating cancer patients. It should also be read by anyone of Meg’s (or my) age. Meg was born two days before I was, in the same hospital, and probably the same delivery room. We’re of exactly the same generation: fifty-something baby boomers. Members of our generation have, at this point, all had cancer in our lives, in our friends, family, or perhaps in ourselves, and we will have more in the future. I am grateful to Meg for providing a template for how I might continue to live my life the next time cancer intrudes.

The fact that the book is also entertaining is a bonus. She writes with a style that you might call irreverently serious, and she has an inordinate fondness for puns and wordplay. She names parts of her body after celebrities, and gives nicknames to her physicians (“Hugs”, “Plastic Guy”, and “Laser Lady”). She deals with all aspects of her experience (cancer diagnosis, chemotherapy, losing her hair, radiation, reconstructive surgery, etc.) with humor, warmth, pain, despair, and more humor… all without ever losing her optimism. And she never stops living her life. She works, hikes, bikes, raises her children, goes to the market, sees her friends. Her story is inspiring, not in the least because she makes no effort to make it inspiring.

Joe Giammarco

What an informative, funny, generous book. Meg Stafford shares the story of her breast cancer treatment with us in the form of an e-mail journal written throughout to her friends and family, her “Breasty Business” support team. A road map through the medical aspects of cancer treatment, a deeply honest guide to the emotional aspects. . . all that, and totally shameless puns. Love it!

Kate Connors

There’s a saying, “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.” Meg Stafford takes us on her journey through the waves of the Big C, inviting us to climb on her board as she navigates the physical and emotional changes that come with the diagnosis and subsequent treatment of and living with cancer. Filled with honesty, determination and unfailing humor Meg chronicles her day to day life from diagnosis to reconstruction, her ride bringing to life the words of Maya Angelou with which Meg opens her book, “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.” Meg rides each wave with all that and more, sharing inspiring, enlightening and unfailingly true to herself and those around her.

Nancy T

Meg has written a book that is much more than the story of the increasingly common life experience that is breast cancer. It is a true story about family and friends, about letting in and letting go. It’s about balancing acceptance with never giving up. It elicits tears, laughter, suspense, compasssion and empathy. Reading Meg’s words, we see, we feel, we wonder and we keep reading, often for longer than we had planned, because it is so intimate and gripping, with a unique perspective that entertains as well as edifies. I highly recommend her book.

Jennifer W

It’s a marvelous book. Full of pathos, humor and love. It’s not just a “how to deal with cancer” primer. It’s a heartfelt guidebook to dealing with any of life’s crises and/or challenges. Sure, the bulk of the book is one woman’s experience dealing with the Big C, but it’s far more than that.

Meg Stafford provides an open window to her very personal journey, together with family and friends. We, as readers, are invited in to share her frustrations, fears, and doubts, and then the very personal process by which she deals with all of those– all the time demonstrating a grace and humor that most of us could only hope to equal under similar circumstances.

Meg’s conversational style (the book’s foundation is the email thread of her experiences that she shared with close friends and family)serves her well, and by the end of the book, the reader feels like he/she has become a friend, as well. Just buy and read Meg’s book. You’ll laugh and cry along with her, and you’ll feel better about a whole lot of things by the time you reach the end.

Jamie M

My only regret is that I didn’t discover Meg Stafford’s wonderful book – “Topic of Cancer” – until well into my own journey with cancer. Once I got over the initial shock of diagnosis, I turned my focus to getting through a rigorous treatment regiment with as much strength, fortitude and normalcy as possible, at the same time attempting to minimalize the emotional strain on my family and extended network of friends. I only revealed some of the daily emotional upheavals with the closest family members.

Reading Meg’s book brought such relief and self-awareness! It helped me acknowledge the range of tumultuous and often conflicting emotions that I had been feeling as a cancer patient for months – thankfulness for a potentially positive outcome but still fear of the long term consequences, dependence on my medical team, sadness, great appreciation for my special network of supporters, etc. Her journal entries also provided invaluable medical knowledge to make informed decisions that until that point, I had primarily deferred to my medical team. I even adjusted my perspective on my medical team, which happened to overlap with some of Meg’s physicians. And finally, it helped me find humor and great comfort in the daily challenges of recovery.

“Topic of Cancer” is an insightful dialogue for patients, supporters of patients and practitioners. A must read!

Julie Bartsch, MA

This book is inspirational, while at the same time being informative and humorous. Meg’s journaling of her day-to-day experiences and emotions provides a roadmap for people who have been diagnosed with cancer, or any illness, and also for those who care about the person with the diagnosis. While I’m not trying to minimize the difficulty of any diagnosis, the reality is that we can’t choose what is, but we can choose how we deal with situations. If you’ve been recently diagnosed, I hope that you will read this book and learn from Meg’s wisdom. If a loved one has been recently diagnosed, give this book to your loved one to show how Meg’s openness allowed her to stay connected to those she cares about, while allowing those same people to share her ups and downs, never having to wonder if it would be better to talk to her about her feelings and experiences or to talk to her about anything else. Thank you, Meg, for sharing your perspective, your humor, and yourself!

A Peters
Financial Accounting Manager

This book is like sipping coffee with a dear friend. Full of the nitty gritty reality of dealing with a crisis, injected with universal insights and humor.

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musician

This book opens as Meg has been diagnosed with breast cancer. What follows is a ride along with her as she gets more information, explores treatment options, and weaves her way through the daily uncertainty of how she is going to feel and whether or not she can live her normal life. As someone who has never been through this ordeal, I am struck by the daily ups and downs, the sheer unpredictability of it all. The response to medications can be different each time; it’s hard to know what one can count on. Having said all that, this is a decidedly upbeat and positive book, filled with warm and funny moments. Meg is determined to have her illness be only one aspect of her life, and not to allow it to define her or this period of time for her.
This book has a broader appeal than those facing similar hurdles or supporting loved ones through such an illness. It is suitable for anyone who stops to think about what is truly meaningful each day and want to live life more consciously. An excellent read and a great message!

Paul Eisenberg
Financial Consultant


First Place: Body/Mind/Spirit
Second Place: Health/Fitness

In the category of Women’s Issues

Winner of the Bill Fisher Award for Best First Book

Gold Award: Health: Women’s

Silver Award: Health: Cancer
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Awards

Reader Views Literary Awards:
First Place: Body/Mind/Spirit; Second Place: Health/Fitness

Nautilus Silver Award in the category of Women’s Issues

Independent Book Publisher Association Ben Franklin Awards:
Winner of the Bill Fisher Award for Best First Book

International Book Awards:
Gold Award: Health: Women’s;
Silver Award: Health: Cancer