The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer & New Year Resolutions

This post was originally written in February of 2011.  It is one of my favorite books which says a great deal considering it is a book about the history of cancer and I happen to be a hypochondriac (my doctor says I am pro-active about my healthcare!

The author, Siddhartha Mukherjee, MD., spends the first 1/3 of  the book recalling the history of cancer.  It is fascinating and factual with cancer as the main character.   He covers so much history about cancer  it is a page turner.  As the reader, we know how it “ends,” but to read how cancer detection and treatments evolves, is what keeps the reader on the edge.   To read the early accounts of  how breast cancer was treated in the mid 1800’s and as late as the early 1960’s is brutal and heart wrenching.  And, yet, I couldn’t wait to see how healthcare for women evolved.

On a side note, my father was a hospital administration grad student in St. Louis  in the late 1960’s and spent 30 years in healthcare administration.  My father’s accounts of healthcare for women, beginning in the early 1970’s,  were parallel to Dr. Mukherjee’s descriptions. My dad said that as {male} physicians began to hire  female gynecologists, initially to build their practices, women’s healthcare standards,  new breast cancer screenings and surgeries  grew exponentially.  It’s pretty cool to read how women empower women to make change.

It is a difficult book to read in the sense that the more we learn about the cancers, the more we realize it is almost impossible to stop.  However, what The Emperor of All Maladies gives us is the hope that although researchers may never be able to end cancer, prevention of cancer is the key.   Mammograms, colonoscopies,  routine blood work, lifestyle choices and physicals are all in OUR power and control.  As a “bit of a hypochondriac I am a big believer in preventative screenings and although I have to pay “out of pocket” for some of these exams, I feel like it is well worth it for peace of mind and a baseline of my body parts.

As we make new years resolutions I highly recommend the book The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer.  The author, Siddhartha Mukherjee, MD won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction.   If you are serious about making lifestyles changes I can’t think of a better book to make you motivate you in your new year resolutions!





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    Okay so I am a history nerd and this sounds pretty cool. Have you read “Guns, Germs, and Steel” by Jared Diamond? Pretty awesome book. I highly recommend if you are a history person who likes to see the effects of things like disease on our history.

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