At age 35, when healthcare journalist Pickert was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer, she underwent more than a year of treatment. Here, she looks at the forces shaping the lives of breast-cancer patients in the modern age.
Pickert...was diagnosed with a particularly grim form of breast cancer at the age of 35. Soon thereafter, she set out to write a cultural and scientific history of the disease, using narratives of her own experience to anchor her research. Such a whopping undertaking could have easily turned maudlin, strident or just plain eye-glazing; instead, Pickert has produced an evenhanded, powerful and unflinching page-turner ... At the end of her book, Pickert falters. Reflecting on the future, she writes, 'I am optimistic that this progress will continue.' It’s a statement that feels a little too pat, too cheery pink ribbon, coming from an author who has just effectively made the case for complete transparency, informed decision making and healthy skepticism. But it’s a minor misstep in a book that should be required reading for anyone interested in, as Pickert writes, 'a disease so common that to know something about it is to know something about humanity itself.'
... a remarkably unflinching and clear-eyed examination of scientific and cultural progress and failure centered on a disease once only whispered about, now ballyhooed in marches and merchandise ... Pickert’s chronicle of the cultural history of breast cancer and the juggernaut of pink ribbons, marches and branding is equally riveting ... Pickert has written and researched an invaluable book for the 300,000 American women who were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2019 and who face a bewildering maze of information and misinformation about screening, risk assessment and treatment options — even after billions of dollars spent on research and awareness. Readers who don’t come armed with Pickert’s expertise as a health journalist and her research skills will find this book to be a remarkable, up-to-the-minute resource — even if the information isn’t always comforting.
[Pickert] interweaves the story of her own treatment schedule with the historical, cultural, and scientific data she collected on this well-documented carcinoma. The narrative is informative and personable and thankfully never maudlin or melodramatic ... Though not comprehensive, the book provides readers with a wide range of information to help those with breast cancer and their support groups make the most effective decisions for their own treatment. A useful text on a well-known cancer bolstered by the author’s personal perspective as a survivor.