I received a free digital copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
When I was contacted by the publisher via email with the offer of this book, I admit I hesitated quite a bit at first. The news of the world was already hard enough, and adding something even more awful to my life seemed like something I did not want to do.
Still, I dove in anyway and I am glad I did. I had a few stops and starts, and there were places I skimmed only because some descriptions of her sickness and treatments were graphic and I don't have the stomach for that. Even so, I recommend this read.
The author graduated from college and promptly moved to Pairs that summer. Her dream was to be a war correspondent, but not long after settling into her new life fate had other plans.
It started with a strange symptom - a constant itchiness on her feet and legs. Then came the fatigue and no amount of sleep could make it go away. Don't forget the sores in her mouth. The more she slept, the more tired she became. Just before the author turned 23 she received the diagnosis that I would not wish on my worst enemy - leukemia. Even worse, this version came with a 35% survival rate. Suddenly the world she had been slowly building for herself in Paris was gone, obliterated by that one terrifying word.
Jaouad returned home to New York and began her fight to survive - all of which she chronicled as an on-going story for the New York Times. For nearly four years she underwent all kinds of traumatic events - rounds of chemo, a clinical trial, and then a bone marrow transplant. She made and lost friends who suffered as she did, and those stories are especially heartbreaking. I can't imagine going through something so life-altering, finding those who understand because they are in the same position, then losing them to the very thing you've beaten. Survivor's guilt would crush me.
When Jaouad is finally deemed cancer-free, she finds that in her fight to live, she has forgotten how to do that very thing - to live. This is understandable, having spent the last four years constantly stalked by death. To begin her journey of healing mentally and emotionally, she decides to crisscross the country on a 100-day journey to meet with people who had written to her while she was in the hospital and writing about her battle with the disease for the Times.
Jaouad's account is brutally honest. I can't imagine having to make some of the decisions she did, and so quickly. This is especially clear when it came to the issue of the clinical trial and whether she would do it if she was a candidate. Also the decisions made when it came to fertility and how any treatments could later impact her ability to become pregnant if she decided she wanted to have children. Jaouad had a solid support system there every step of the way. I can't imagine going through this alone and was glad that she did not have to.
Knowing the story has a happy ending did not make the hard stuff any easier. This is a powerful memoir of a life interrupted and the search for how to begin again.