By Allison Bially
AB Publishing, $8.99, 175 pages
“First came boobs, then came marriage, then came baby in the baby carriage. Then came cancer.” Author Allison Bially was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011 while living in Portland, Oregon with her family. Her treatment spanned ten months and included a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction, lymph node removal, chemotherapy and radiation plus a five year post-treatment prescription drug regimen. In her book Booby Trap: Breast cancer is just like pregnancy, only different., she aims to provide cancer patients, family members and caretakers with a new, optimistic way to look at therapy.
In her introduction, Bially makes clear to readers up front that this is a book about her experience with her cancer and her pregnancies. Anyone with concerns over Bially’s hypothesis should keep this important point in mind. She isn’t cavalier towards either life-changing condition. In comparing what is, at first blush, almost inherently incomparable (breast cancer and pregnancy), Bially’s goal is to approach a dark time in her life with humor and positivity by “laughing at the unlaughable.”
Beginning chapters cover the basics. Bially writes about her life-long love of and appreciation for food and the difficulty she experienced (mentally and physically) upon finding out that some foods just don’t get along with pregnancy or cancer. From experiencing strange cravings to needing special clothing and changing her sleep patterns to getting used to a total loss of privacy and control, Bially went through it all during her two pregnancies and her cancer ordeal. Readers will learn about specialty bras (i.e. maternity, nursing, mastectomy), the process of shopping for a natural wig, typical side effects from medication and more. Scattered throughout her personal anecdotes are helpful tips for anyone facing treatment for cancer (and especially for women who are or may someday become mothers).
To keep her family and friends in the loop about her changing health status, Bially wrote a blog. She has incorporated moving, informative and funny excerpts from the blog into her book. Medical statistics and explanations are laid out in a clear, understandable way. Bially writes with a friendly, conversational tone. In all likelihood, if you joined her for coffee and asked her about her experiences, you’d hear the same authentic voice as you hear in the book. If you are facing a battle with cancer, do yourself a favor and read Booby Trap: Breast cancer is just like pregnancy, only different. Bially’s light-hearted musings and observations will resonate with readers on many different levels.
Reviewed by Kathryn Franklin