The C-Word by Lisa Lynch

‘Carrie Bradshaw fell in Dior, I fell in Debenhams. It was May 2008, and it was spectacular. Uncomfortable heels + slippy floor + head turned by a cocktail dress = thwack. Arms stretched overhead, teeth cracking on floor tiles, chest and knees breaking the fall. It was theatrical, exaggerated, a perfect 6.0. And it was Significant Moment #1 in discovering that I had grade-three breast cancer.’ The last thing Lisa Lynch had expected to put on her ‘things to do before you’re 30’ list was beating breast cancer, but them’s the breaks. So with her life on hold, and her mind close to capacity with unspoken fears, questions and emotions, she turned to her Mac and started blogging about the frustrating, life-altering, sheer pain-in-the-arse inconvenience of getting breast cancer at the age of 28. The C-Word is an unflinchingly honest and darkly humorous account of Lisa’s battle with The Bullshit, as she came to call it.

Despite the fact Lisa will probably want to punch me, The C-Word is a very brave account of what it is to face breast cancer (sorry, but it is brave. So there). Lisa says at the beginning of the book that she wants to portray a realistic approach to cancer because cancer’s not a thing to celebrate, not a thing to gloss over, it’s a serious illness that most of us know nothing about. Lisa certainly didn’t, until she got it and I certainly don’t, although I feel much more educated after reading The C-Word as well as Talk to the Headscarf by Emma Hannigan. Both are unflinchingly brave accounts of cancer, it takes a hell of a lot to write a book about something so horrible and to blog about it, too. I applaud Lisa for writing the book (and Emma, too, obviously). Because cancer is something most of us know so little about books like The C-Word help open our innocent eyes, and because Lisa had no experience of it either, it’s a very raw and honest book.

What probably sets The C-Word apart from a lot of cancer books that are around, is that Lisa’s tale has humour throughout. You wouldn’t believe it, but the book made me laugh! I never in a million years thought I would laugh whilst reading a book about cancer – how can cancer and laughs mix? But Lisa’s writing style is filled with black humour and there are some genuinely funny moments. I did feel disturbed laughing, and I’m glad there was no one around to hear me, but the book was humourous, honestly. I’m not sick or twisted, I swear. It’s Lisa’s fault, anyway, for making me laugh.

Seriously, Lisa has become my new hero. I know she says in the book she hates being called brave, and will probably not think of herself as a hero and tell me to stop being an idiot and that many people deal with this crap every day, but I don’t think many people face it the way Lisa has. Many people would be defeated by it, but while Lisa has her dark moments, she generally doesn’t want the cancer to beat her and she faces it with humour. But do you know what really made the book for me? The family spirit. I felt like if I saw Lisa or P in the street, I would know them. They wouldn’t know me, but that’s beside the point. The way Lisa talks about her support network; her family, her friends, P, it’s in such a way that you feel like you know these people. Even the way Lisa speaks about her hospital team – Smiley Surgeon, Always-Right Breast Nurse, Prof, Curly Prof – it’s just amazing. I’ve never felt so connected to people I’ve never met!

I was blown away by the book. By the honesty, by the humour, by Lisa herself, and it’s a book everybody should read. It’s a real and honest account of what it is to have breast cancer at 28. It made me laugh, it made me sad, and it was one heck of a roller-coaster journey (one that isn’t over, that can never be over). It’s an inspirational story, there’s no doubt about it and Lisa has one of the best blogs I’ve ever read which means I’m able to keep up with Lisa’s life (I mean that in a non-stalkery way thank you very much). I see from her blog, Lisa might be writing a novel? I for one would champion that, her writing skills are second to none and a fiction book would be amazing. If anyone can produce a bum-kicking heroine, it would be Lisa. Kudos to her for sharing her story with the world, it’s taught me a lot, and it’s a book I could easily read again, I loved it (which I’m sure is wrong; how can I ‘love’ a book about cancer?!). But then again, while it undoubtedly is a book about cancer, it’s about so much more than that as well.

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