Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Crazy Cranky Cancer Tarts

"Cancer needed a makeover and I was just the gal to do it!" Kris Carr, author of Crazy Sexy Cancer Tips, and I have this in common: single, female, cancer. Not much else. She is a decade or two younger, she has a different cancer, she is beautiful, and works in the "entertainment industry." While I appreciated the humorous, irreverent style, much of the book troubled me. She often seems more concerned with her appearance than her health. A reviewer at Amazon -- who is Ms. Carr's age -- said it quite well:

When I had cancer, I too, was 31. I didn't go through a decision-making process about whether to tell my esthetician about my illness. I didn't go on a "cancervation" with my "posse," because I was working to pay my bills and keep my health insurance. I didn't attend retreats and trainings and buy hundreds of dollars of goods from Whole Foods on shopping trips and make a documentary about myself. People deal with trauma and heal in different ways, and spending freely seems to have been beneficial to Kriss Carr's personal journey.
And another young women commented:
Page after glossy page, it makes cancer seem like more fun than it really is. Crazy sexy beautiful cancer babes? I'm all for empowerment, but cancer treatment makes you feel like utter garbage. I can imagine coming home from a chemo-vomit-fest at the hospital to open up a book filled with beautiful, thin, made-up, well-coiffed women (who, of course, have dashing, heroic boyfriends and husbands who always make them feel better) -- only to feel that I don't measure up. What, now I have to feel sassy and sexy when I'm being poisoned by intravenous drugs? How about a book for the rest of us, with our imperfect bodies and hairdos and our romantic partnerships with fallible human beings who don't always save the day?
Maybe some of my discomfort is simply the California obsession with image vs. Midwestern sensibilities. There are plenty of reviews that rave about this book, and even those of us with lots of qualms and misgivings will concede that there are lots of good ideas and resources. But the last thing we need is to feel we don't even measure up as cancer patients.

Cancer Vixen by Marisa Acocella Marchetto is a graphic novel, formerly known as a comic book. Another cancer over-achiever, but one who seems a little more human. From Publisher's Weekly:
She was engaged to a fabulous guy, perennially cool restaurateur Silvano Marchetto, whose personal style perfectly matched her Manhattan-centric life. If this were fiction, this is exactly when she'd stumble; unfortunately for her, life imitated art, and sure enough, she found a lump in her breast shortly before her wedding. Just as bad, she didn't have health insurance: her policy had lapsed shortly before the fateful mammogram. Cancer Vixen tells the story of what happens next, and how her inner circle ...rallies round to help her beat the disease and get married on time and in high style. The fashion details are great fun, drawn in a spare loose style, but it's the heart of her story, the support and love she gets from her family and friends, that make Cancer Vixen a universal story that's hard to put down.
She also has a staunch advocate in her mother, who can take on anyone and anything to help and protect her daughter. Both of these books are worth a look, they are both rather avant-garde, offering fresh perspectives on cancer's intrusion.

Just know that it's also okay to be a Crazy, Cranky Cancer Bitch. I give you permission.


Margaret said...

Thank you! Excellent post. And here I thought I was the ONLY person in the cancer world who found the Crazy Sexy Cancer blog tremendously annoying. Beyond words. I just cannot stomach all that cutesy peppy ooooh cowgirl babe talk...bleah. I will certainly NOT buy her book. Even though she does give some good advice. But I can't stand the way she does it...

A good friend gave me the "Cancer Vixen" book as a present last Xmas. I was annoyed here and there, for some the reasons you mention. And others. But yes, I agree, it's more human, at least. And there is none of that annoying little girl CSC talk, which obviously appeals to many. Not to this girl, though. ;-)

Florence, Italy

La Cootina said...

Oh, thank goodness there's at least two of us, Margaret!