Susan Cummings (author); ADVENTURES OF A ONE-BREASTED WOMAN; Booksmyth Press (Nonfiction: Women's Studies) 12.95 ISBN: 9780981583075
Byline: Michelle Anne Schingler
By her early forties, Susan Cummings had compiled an eclectic resume: a stint teaching in Cairo, a period in Paris, years acting on stage in Manhattan. She had also discovered a calcification in her breast. A mastectomy removed the immediate threat, but that flirtation with her mortality was real enough to confuse Cummings' comforts and convictions. What did she really want out of the rest of her life, and how could she achieve it?
Its pages both mirthful and forthright, Cummings' memoir walks readers through a cancer survivor's stages of acceptance. The journey involves expected emotions, like anger, explored deftly in a chapter in which Cummings pens aggressive letters to all those frustrating and disappointing her, from flaky doctors to errant health food stores. "Wake up and smell the miso!" she rages when a purportedly macrobiotic purveyor slips margarine into the baked goods. Cummings also finds herself employing other coping mechanisms, including a whirlwind search for alternative health-care options that involves downing homeopathic pills and dubious elixirs.
Cummings confronts, and demolishes, conventional explanations for why cancer happens, all of them laden with victim-shaming and none of them ultimately helpful. She also wryly relates the neuroses that arise when a single frightening diagnosis makes one aware of the breadth of other possible scary diagnoses. These reactions are sometimes moribund, sometimes absurd, and sometimes frenetic, but they are always wholly human and sympathetic.
The book is poised to resonate with those who have shared Cummings' health concerns and with women in general, as body...