In the first volume of this series, the author was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer and underwent surgery to remove the tumor and perform a temporary colostomy. In this volume, she goes through five cycles of chemo and is given a few months to build up her strength before more surgery to reconnect her bowel and to remove cancerous spots on her liver and ovaries.
What could be an unrelentingly grim book is turned into a fascinating, heart-warming, and frequently hilarious one by this woman's inability to feel sorry for herself (well, not for long, anyway!) Who else but our Janie would refer to her specialist as "the liver dude?" Who else would suss out the MRI machines and try to get the one that would be the easiest to escape from in case of a zombie attack? Who else would (facing her own mortality) refuse to make a "bucket list" but instead compile a list where the first two words rhyme with bucket?
This intelligent woman knows the implications of her illness and freely admits that she's scared. Not scared s***less, unfortunately; that stoma is working all too well! But she's plenty scared. Faced with an unthinkable situation, she keeps her sanity by clutching any straw that presents itself. So when the cancer center thoughtfully gives her a booklet in which EVERY ONE of the patients mentioned has died, she blows it off. On the other hand, a chance meeting with a healthy looking man who has been treated for colon cancer and survived and thrived is a serendipitous moment to be treasured.
Ms. Smith is a published writer. During the chaos of her cancer diagnosis and treatment, one high point is when she signs a contract with a large publishing firm for two books. They got a winner because this lady knows her stuff. She knows how to inject humor, whether it's the bickering couple at the cancer nutrition classes or the restless night in the hospital stuck on the men's ward listening to "moaning man" and "vomit man" compete for the floor. She knows how to flesh out her characters, whether it's her loving but restrained New Hampshire-born husband struggling to provide emotional support, her sweet 11-year-old son ("Wolfie") bringing candy to his mom (the ailing alpha female of the pack) or her teenage daughter who waffles between being nurturing and needing to be nurtured. There's no easy way for a family to face a crisis of this magnitude, but they do the best they can.
And so at the end of this volume we find our heroine (and she deserves the title if anyone ever did!) not riding off into the sunset or even miraculously cured of her secondary cancers (as she had fantasized and prayed for) but relieved to have the chemo behind her and determined to do everything she can with diet and exercise to prepare for the surgery to come. AND she is holding the first Christmas card of the season: a nice picture of a group of pleasant looking people wishing her a Happy Christmas and a joyful New Year. It's from the agency that supplies her colostomy bags.
I can't wait for Volume 3!