It is not unusual to have mixed feelings about reading books others write about their cancer experience.
I am particularly mindful of that as a writer and also as a reader.
There are times when we can do both – read and write about cancer. Sometimes we can do only one or the other, or none of it. There are times when we don’t want to hear or read another word about cancer, even (or especially) when it affects us.
And so I had mixed feelings when considering whether to review Sara Liyanage’s book Ticking Off Breast Cancer:
Would it mirror and validate my own cancer experiences?
Or would I be left feeling isolated, looking in on someone else’s world?
Would I find out new things, which may make me doubt or regret my own choices?
Would I be strong enough in case reading may re-trigger memories, traumas and pain?
And I also wonder whether cancer-type specific books can be accessible enough to readers with other types of cancer.
Feel free to add your own mixed feelings about reading “cancer books”, when cancer has changed your own life and put into question everything you are left with.
I am familiar with Sara and her website TickingOffBreastCancer.com for which I contributed a guest post about the emotional and mental impact of cancer. Earlier in 2019 Sara kindly contributed with others to 2 episodes of my podcast Cancer and You.
I decided to ask Sara whether she would like me to review her book, and within 48 hours I found a copy in my post box. I have not regretted asking!
Ticking Off Breast Cancer – The Book
Ticking Off Breast Cancer is Sara’s personal chronological account of her life from the day of her primary breast cancer diagnosis and throughout her treatment.
The book has 27 well proportioned chapters – ideal for readers who (like me) tend to dip in and out. Each chapter starts with a relevant, thought-provoking and inspiring literary quote.
Many chapters end with a handy checklist. And throughout the book you will find lists. Sara says about herself “I love a plan and a list.”
I, too, love having a plan, but I can’t and won’t do lists. And to be honest, the mention of lists made me slightly apprehensive. But I needn’t have worried.
Sara’s writing is effortless, engaging, down-to-earth, non-pretentious and humorous. This all gives the book a rare natural flow – right across the lists. It all ‘hangs together”. Often leaving me feeling like I am right there with her.
I also like her use of different fonts for chapter headings, subheadings and checklists. Everything is well thought through, nicely presented and a pleasure to look at.
As Sara says right at the beginning, this is her story, not yours or mine. All our stories are different and equally valid – whatever our cancer. Yet there are common themes, which connect us.
While Sara’s story does not mirror my own breast cancer experiences it nevertheless speaks to me. As a reader I feel respected and taken care of, because Sara writes with what I can only describe as empathy.
Ticking Off Breast Cancer is one “cancer book” I can whole heartedly recommend – without any mixed feelings.
You can order a copy from
Sara was diagnosed with HER2 positive and oestrogen positive primary breast cancer in October 2016 at the age of forty-two. Sara lives in Hertfordshire with her husband of fifteen years, their two children and a dog who likes to eat socks. Sara works part-time in London as a lawyer but now spends a lot of her time writing. She writes for her website, for various cancer charities and organisations, and has spent a lot of time writing this book too!
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