Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Book Review: 'Cancer, Musical Theatre, and Other Chronic Illnesses' by Edward Miskie

New York City author Edward Miskie is a musical theatre actor, calendar model, singer and cancer survivor (Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma). A chance encounter with a fellow survivor prompted him to begin writing his "as-funny-as-cancer-can-be memoir." A course of treatment at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center provided the inspiration for the book, which was written four years after he was declared cancer free. Having always known he wanted to give back to those who supported him, not only throughout the course of his lifetime, but his course of treatment at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Edward soon took to his laptop and began forming this memoir. Originally, he identified this piece as a self-help book for cancer patients, survivors, and those closely associated with the two. Since, it has morphed into what he refers to as 'the ugly truth' behind cancer. The book touches on the farce that is cancer treatment, the circus that is the healthcare system we face, and the challenges that face you even after you are told you are cancer free all framed in the content of musicals. Edward’s goal? To encourage us through the indecencies, heartbreaks, triumphs, and shenanigans to find some form of peace in knowing that it's okay to feel the way they do, and they are not alone.

Some authors of experience find difficulty in writing a memoir cum guidance support book a daunting task. Edward’s gift is his light hearted, honest, plain truths – a feeling we find especially true in his extraordinary Prologue: ‘Cancer is really f***king terrible. I think we can all agree on some level that we know that. We have all seen, on either stage or screen, how Cancer is portrayed; bald, and skinny with no appetite, tired. Mostly, that is all true... ish. My fellow patients/ survivors understand. We know that the surface of all of this patient business is just that, surface, but we don't stop being human; we don't stop feeling, needing, wanting. Maybe those of you who have watched someone go through treatment can elaborate on those elements a little bit more, but there is so much more to being hairless and depleted than that. There is so much more to being a slave to a hospital, treatments, and a medical schedule that isn't touched upon or conveyed by the physical ailments that are the outwards signs of being a Cancer patient. I'm going to convey those to you. I'm going to take what you already know, the basics, and put them under a microscope for your understanding. I'm going to talk about the things that Cancer patients don't want you to know about; the reasons they wear hats, and wigs, and sparkly outfits, or whatever, and pretend that they're okay while you're around. After I do that, I'm going to talk to you about what you definitely don't know, or haven't considered. Once the tight hand of hospitals, doctors, and treatments loosens up a little, or lets go entirely, you start to realize that that hand was a actually support system, a back bone, a structure. In a sick way, you need it. Once it's gone you sort of fall apart into a blob of uncertainty, fawning for an appointment, almost anticipating something to go horribly wrong so you have something stark and clear to do amongst the question marks. The process of letting that need go is a hurdle in and of itself, and then your life after treatment begins, but it's almost as hard as treatment itself. In short, one starts out as a whole person, the person you are, or were, then you are ripped away from that life, hooked up to machines and tubes for days and months at a time, and forced into this codependent professional patient lifestyle. Once you're given the 'all clear' and released, you're heartlessly sent back out into the world; set free, and the real work, the real repair, and recovery begins with no clear start point or guideline of what to do. Then the questions begin.’

Reading CANCER, MUSICAL THEATER AND OTHER CHRONIC ILLNESSES is a joy, not only because of the quality of writing but also the tone of the message. The only appropriate response to his accomplishment is a round of raucous applause and shouts of Bravo! Highly recommended. Grady Harp, April 17

This book is free on Kindle Unlimited

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.

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