Beauty and the Breast
Beauty and the Breast A Tale of Breast Cancer, Love, and Friendship

Publisher - Coffeetown Press Author - Merrill Joan Gerber

When Merrill Joan Gerber was diagnosed breast cancer, she set out on a journey familiar to too many women. It began with denial that her precious breasts, those shining birthrights that appear in adolescence and promise beauty, sex and the love of men, could become the agents of terror and even death. What followed was a parade of doctors and their treatments, of surgery, the debilitating side effects of chemotherapy, and the dangerous but life-saving beams of radiation to her breast. She found new friends in her cancer support group but lost three to the disease. Merrill recorded intimate conversations with her husband and daughters, took photographs of her breast in various stages of treatment, and also of the machinery that dispensed the treatments. Merrill faced the complicated day-to-day topics--where do I get a wig, what can I eat, how will I sleep? She found a new appreciation for the blessings in her life, her beloved husband, their daughters, and their daughters' children. As she recalled her parents' illnesses, her childhood in Brooklyn, and her complicated relationship with her own breasts, she reflected on long-held notions of fear and death. Merrill Joan Gerber is the author of thirty books and many short stories. She is the winner of an O. Henry Prize and the Ribalow Award from Hadassah magazine. In Beauty and the Breast, she bares her soul and her breasts as she navigates the terrors of cancer and learns with courage and gratitude what it means to be a survivor. Many have reported on the cancer wars, but Merrill's memoir delivers a special contribution of humor, passion, candor, real-life photos, and a poetic gift to the reader.

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Before I learned I had breast cancer, I belonged to a Jewish book club. Eight Jewish women meeting for forty years, once a month in one of our houses.

Did we ever read a book? Who knows? Did we ever discuss a book? We had arguments every time:

"Why should I read a historical novel when I'm not interested in historical novels?"

"Then why should I read a book about how Yiddish is coming back from a lost language when my grandparents only wanted that it should be a lost language?"

"They told secrets in my house in Yiddish so the kids wouldn't know what they were talking about."

"I think next month we should read a modern romance novel. There's a new one on the bestseller list."

"I'm against reading bestsellers. They're crap."

"I'm too old for romance. I can't be bothered with romance."

"Molly, you've had three husbands. How did you manage that without romance?"

"Look at my breasts! They speak for themselves. Also I'm a good cook."

"Could it be your cooking poisoned the first two?"

"Funny that is not."

"Sex must figure in somewhere."

"If it figures, it figures. Remember how in Fiddler on the Roof, Tevye sings, ‘Do you love me?' and his wife answers, ‘For twenty-five years I've cooked your meals, washed your clothes, shared your bed …. If that isn't love, what is?' "

"It's your bosoms, it's not your cooking, that got you three husbands."

"They should live and be well," Molly said, patting her bosoms lovingly. "But you never know. One in eight women gets breast cancer. It could be one of us."

"Never one of us. We're not the type."

We are the type, in fact. We are especially the type. Women with Ashkenazic genetics are especially at risk. If we carry the Braca gene mutation, we have an eighty-five percent risk of being diagnosed with cancer in our lifetime, and are also at high risk for ovarian cancer.

Sprinkled over the years among our discussions of life and literature were exchanges of really important information. Who were the best pediatricians? Orthodontists? The best summer camps for the kids? When busing started in our city, most of the neighborhood children were pulled out and put into Christian or Catholic private schools. And since all of us in our book club had been educated in the public schools of New York--the Bronx or Brooklyn--we strongly resisted private schools. Pay for schools? Ridiculous! Didn't we all feel grateful for our public school educations? And look how smart we were?

Smart we were. There was no argument there.


Category: Memoir / Biography Suggested Price: 14.95 Release Date: 10/01/2016 ISBN: 978-1-60381-526-0 Product Type: Paperback # Pages: 192