Monday 2 September 2013
Sarah Gabriel, Eating Pomegranates
I wish I had no reason to learn more about breast cancer, but unfortunately that is not the case. I chose Eating Pomegranates as a gentle introduction to the topic. You see, I thought it will be one of those 'got cancer, ate wonder food (whatever is currently in fashion), right as rain twenty years on' books.
Guess what, I was wrong. Sarah Gabriel's pomegranates are the mythological ones: six grains that sentenced Persephone to spend half her existence in the underground kingdom of Hades. Accordingly, the book is not about the latest fads in cancer-fighting foods. It's much heavier than that, dark, almost depressing and painfully realistic.
The author was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006, while still in her forties and with two young children in the house. The journey from diagnosis through treatment to (hopefully!) health was a nightmare. Gabriel is honest about her experiences: there were no pink ribbons and uplifting slogans, only fear, worry and sorrow while family life was crashing down all around her.
Eating Pomegranates is not really the best proposition if you want to learn about technicalities of treatment or the illness itself. Some basic data are there, sure, but this definitely isn't a textbook. If, on the other hand, you want a peek at the emotional landscape of a cancer patient - bingo. NOT something a sane person would choose to read for fun but I imagine that women going through similar hell will find plenty of reassurance in Sarah Gabriel's diary. While happy ending is not exactly the leitmotif, it must be a relief to see that it's ok to be scared, to be sad, to break down under the disease. After all, heroes crop up only on motivational posters, the rest of us are simply human.