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Author deals with breast cancer humorously

Editor’s note: The Union’s nonprofits columnist, Pam Fortner, and a group of women from area Christian churches reviewed “Thanks for the Mammogram” by Laura Jensen Walker to promote Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October.

Reviewers and their churches were Pamela Fortner, facilitator; Ginny Farmer-Tomich, Trinity Episcopal; Darlene Fisher, Assembly of God; Starlene Frantz, Twin Cities; JoAnn Herbst, First Baptist; Alice Schafer, Penn Valley Community; Kathy Smith, St. Patrick’s; and Gail Wagner, Calvary Baptist.



“Thanks for the Mammogram”

By Laura Jensen Walker




Revell/Baker Book House Co.

“And if I laugh at any mortal thing,

‘Tis that I may not weep.”

Opening her book with this quote by Lord Byron, Laura Jensen Walker sets the stage for her story of “fighting cancer with faith, hope, and a healthy dose of laughter.” No, she’s not making fun of such a painful journey. Using humor as a weapon against depression and despair was Walker’s way of making it through her bout with breast cancer.

Walker’s biopsy and positive diagnosis of cancer happened the day following her first wedding anniversary. Not a very good gift. But journalist that she is, Walker and her husband, Michael, decided to research the subject of cancer to the extreme, thereby shifting her focus from fear to facts. It also enabled her to make the best choices.

She decided on a mastectomy, not a lumpectomy. In chapter two, “Beauty and the Breast,” she tells about her decision to have reconstructive surgery. When her hair started falling out, she decided to take as much control of it as she could, went to the barber and had it all shaved off at once. Walker says, “I believe in confronting things head-on – pun intended.”

Walker opted to take part in a nationwide cancer research study. She was randomly selected to receive “heavy, heavy” dosages of chemotherapy. She talks about not just waves of nausea, but tidal waves. Although she tries to maintain a sense of humor at all times, she confesses that she lost it during the chemo days.

The book talks about how important friends are, about overwhelming tiredness, about waking at 3 a.m. to a staggering fear of death, and about nurses who become wonderful friends.

Kathy, one of our reviewers, pointed out during our discussion that she thought the book was a wonderful love story about the Walkers. Even though their marriage was a young one, they faced the ordeal together with love, faith and hope.

Although one of our reviewers didn’t care for this type of humor, she liked the chapter written by Michael. Reading the spouse’s viewpoint was enlightening and touching. His approach was straightforward. We appreciated his vulnerability.

We also liked chapter 15, “Moms, Mammograms, and Other Things for Which I’m Thankful.” It’s just a list, but have a hanky handy. Some items will rip your heart out. For example, three of the items are “a husband who kissed my mastectomy scar when he saw it for the first time,” “a normal white blood cell count” and “reading in the tub.”

This book is an easy read. One evening will take you from beginning to end, from tribulation to triumph. Walker’s style is simple and flowing, unpretentious and forthright.

Her message is one of hope. She’s been bruised, bald and beset on every side, but with her faith in God, Walker made it through and is still cancer-free. Hot on the speaker’s circuit, she is a living testimony of life after cancer.

One of our reviewers has also made it through breast cancer. She remarked that this book should be in the waiting room of every doctor who treats breast cancer. She plans to share it with a friend who has just been diagnosed with breast cancer.

Get Checked Out

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month – a good time for each woman reading this to make an appointment for a mammogram. Make Laura Walker proud. Pick up the phone and make that call.


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