Putting a smile on the face of lung cancer
“This is what lung cancer looks like. The people you are about to meet are its face. They are you, they are me, they are all of us.”
Bonnie Addario’s book THE LIVING ROOM (May 4, 2021 from Post Hill Press) is subtitled “A Lung Cancer Community of Courage” for good reason: The book’s 20 profiled subjects, all suffering from advanced lung cancer, form a community in their own right. But suffering is not the operative word. Far from it.
Indeed, in beating the odds these individuals are thriving to a great extent, filled with a new appreciation for life and valuing the kind of day-to-day minutia that most of take us take for granted. And as Addario, a survivor of Stage 3B lung cancer herself, tells us those odds are improving every day with the onset of new therapies and treatments that define the book’s overriding theme of hope in the face of what was once a death sentence.
The result is a book with clear echoes of both Mitch Albom’s “Tuesdays with Morrie” and Paul Kalanithi’s “When Breath Becomes Air.” While those two tales are essentially about learning how to die, though, THE LIVING ROOM concerns itself with learning how to live. In that respect, the message drawn from its pages are applicable to us all. The profiles are incredible testaments to the power of the human will, as well as medical science at its level best.
Lung cancer, we learn, makes up a third of all cancers and kills more than the next three combined—colon, prostate and breast—as the number one killer of all cancers. We learn that a staggering number of patients never smoked, blowing up that long-held misconception. And many of them are young, diagnosed in their 20’s which until recently was thought to be a near impossibility. Turns out, not so much.
It’s easy to run out of superlatives when praising Addario’s efforts, not only as the disease’s foremost warrior and founder/co-director of the world’s largest foundation supporting efforts to eradicate it, but also in compiling these twenty stories of men and women still alive today through a combination of moxy and advances in treatment.
There’s Jim Pantelas, who began his lung cancer treatments just as his newborn daughter suffered a seizure disorder which rendered her permanently disabled. There’s Evy Schiffman, diagnosed just months after losing her husband Neil to the same dreaded disease. There’s Lara Blair, who began her battle against lung cancer just as her husband was completing his against a different cancer that he ultimately lost his battle with. There’s Matt Hiznay, a medical student diagnosed in his 20’s who changed his passion to research and ultimately met the technician who developed the targeted therapy that saved his life.
Yes, sometimes life piles on, but this collection of everyday heroes isn’t about to buckle under that weight. Bonnie Addario writes from the inside out as an empathetic friend and guide, for us as well as those whose stories she presents in one riveting narrative after another. THE LIVING ROOM speaks to the heart as well as the head, a seminal treatise on the human condition with overriding themes that extend far beyond even a disease as pernicious as lung cancer.
Entering THE LIVING ROOM is like meeting twenty special people you’d like to claim as friends. This is a book as informative as it is inspiring, as eye-opening as it is uplifting, as relevant as it is refreshing. A tour de force of form and functional celebration of life that salvages hope from despair in a mesmerizing and astonishing reading experience.
You can order your copy from the Amazon link here.
Keep up with the top stories from Reader’s Digest by subscribing to our weekly newsletter.