"After learning more about hereditary cancer and BRCA gene mutations, I knew I could not live with myself if I remained silent about the information."

When Shainman discovered that she had inherited a breast cancer gene (BRCA) mutation, and therefore a significantly increased risk of cancer, she decided to take concrete action for herself, her family, and others with similar hereditary odds. Inspired by her late grandmother's medical records, she delved headfirst into her family's history of cancer. With her detailed research on hereditary cancer, she opened a door to realizations that she couldn't ignore. This memoir depicts the progress of her medical journey and, ultimately, her informed decision to take preventive measures—opting for a hysterectomy, bilateral oophorectomy, and bilateral mastectomy with follow up reconstructive surgery—to reduce her chances of developing breast or ovarian cancer. As a digital ambassador for the National Society of Genetic Counselors gene pool, Shainman's mission is to help others get ahead of their heightened risk, as well. This book, and the tips and guidance within, is yet another tool for her to advocate for BRCA positive men and women everywhere.

A book about illness is a precarious thing, and cancer is possibly the most difficult to approach. However, Shainman maneuvers through this topic with ease, tact, and an emphasis on education and motivation. Similarly to Jessica Queller's Pretty is What Changes (another BRCA resource on the market), Shainman utilizes her positive perspective to take the taboo topic of cancer, and it's virtually unknown realm of BRCA gene mutations, and transcend it to a steadily growing awareness. Now, with the "BRCA Sisterhood"—a Facebook group for supporting BRCA positive women—and as executive producer of Pink & Blue: Colors of Hereditary Cancer, a critically acclaimed breast cancer education film, Shainman proudly calls herself the "BRCA Responder." Discovering truths about hereditary cancer and informing the public is her life's work. The choices one makes once they have all the information is ultimately their decision.

Shainman's book possesses the pleasant blend of easily accessible information written in the voice of a caring friend while also highlighting the role of a daring reporter. This thoughtfully laid out account of journeys, facts, and resources is not only a real-life scavenger hunt for data, but it is also bursting with the author's gratitude for the lifesaving insight that her grandmother's history has gifted her. Shainman provides pictures, letters, and emails from friends and family, which detail their journeys with cancer. Also included are astute segments from her doctors with their explanations of facts, options, and procedures. Each chapter starts with inspiring quotes. Additional BRCA resources, such as books, websites, and helpful organizations, are carefully laid out at the end for easy reference. The only factor that might distract from the transparency of her message is the non-linear storytelling format. Each chapter is laid out to educate the reader on medical terminology and processes. Though this knowledge is clearly conveyed, the reader can, at times, become confused as to where they are in the progression of a certain character's journey.

Shainman writes with honesty, sensitivity, and vulnerability. She balances the heavy aspects of living with cancer with the lightness of humor, uplifting personal stories, and the realistic hope for recovery. She encourages her readers to approach their cancer journeys as she did: to research and advocate for themselves, to trust their instincts, and, finally, to make their own informed decision once they've become fully aware of their options. This volume is not merely a memoir or even a meaningful guidebook. It is a selflessly compiled gift and a must-read for anyone attentive about cancer.

A 2020 Eric Hoffer Book Award Category Finalist

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

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