Discovering she had stage four breast cancer while pregnant with her second baby, a clinical psychologist who specializes in trauma, after receiving good news, was unable to celebrate due to being frozen in a dissociated state and used the "narrative therapy" she used with her patients to navigate her own trauma.
Both her recovery and her access to resources—financial, informational, medical, and human—make Mandel an outlier (privileges that she acknowledges), and a deeper probing of the depression that spurred her to narrative therapy is veiled by a consistent, sometimes grating note of optimism and triumph. Still, in attempting to find order and meaning in her own experiences of frailty and frustration, the author provides a salient example of how to untangle isolated traumatic events from ongoing suffering and worries.
The author nimbly portrays the cocktail of emotions unearthed by the sentence 'You’ve got cancer,' and paints her supportive family with staggering compassion. Her dogged fight for her life will awe readers.