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Publisher: Portal Press (2014)
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A realistic, up-close look at life as a cancer patient and survivor. The Breast Is History is a strong tool of hope and humor in the darkest days of any woman’s life.  

In September 2011, Bronwyn Hope received her initial diagnosis of breast cancer; by March 2013 she had had both breasts removed, had gone through numerous chemo and radiation treatments, taken thousands of pills, and come out of it with a gritty, positive philosophy.

When she was first diagnosed, a close friend advised her to start a blog, something very far from her mind at that moment. But, her friend reasoned, she could inspire others with her story. This was not a fanciful idea, given that Bronwyn was and is a powerhouse—an avid athlete, media maven, entrepreneur, activist, mother, and writer. She took her friend’s advice and this book is the result, a sometimes day-by-day journal of her battle with a disease she admits we often think of as a death sentence.

Through the blog and, one suspects, because of her generally extroverted nature, Bronwyn discovered a very positive aspect of her illness: the immediate outpouring of warmth, good wishes, gifts and visits from a host of friends and family members. But as time passed, and her treatments, especially chemo, took their toll, she records many days of lonely suffering, struggling with nausea, pain in every part of her body, the loss of all body hair, and feelings of profound weakness and despair.  Yet she constantly, remarkably, tries to recoup her pre-cancer strength and endurance.

A visit to a Catholic church and a later whirlwind trip to India provide spiritual insights. During her own cancer challenge, Bronwyn’s sister Fiona was also diagnosed with cancer. Helping Fiona through what she had already experienced became a sustaining factor for Bronwyn.

The author does not shy away from tough issues, or from the occasional use of profanity when appropriate. She displays a secure knowledge of many complex medications and their effects and side effects. By detailing how her illness progressed, she provides a guideline for others. Her account is not without humor: she had been a large-breasted woman and had named her breasts Nicky and Paris. Nicky was the first to go, early on, and Paris about two years later. Photographs show the author with her once-straight hair, then hairless (with husband and dog getting a shave in sympathy) and then with the incongruously curly hair that grew in later.

There will be no doubt as one reads this honest account, that Hope has walked the walk and is also very capable of talking the talk. Her wisdom, based on a long, harrowing experience, is anything but saccharine. She concludes, “I am not angry or depressed or saddened by what cancer has taken away from me. I am instead, empowered and strengthened by what it has given me: lessons that are priceless.”