Libby Znaimer: From Broadcaster to Bosom Buddy

The C-Words
First you dread to hear the word CANCER
and then you wait to hear the word CURE

Libby Znaimer's book In Cancerland: Living Well Is the Best Revenge, is the author and journalist's candid account of her experience with breast cancer. The accomplished Canadian media personality doesn’t like to refer to her treatments as breast cancer battles nor does she want to be viewed as a survivor. These words are too politically correct for her and they don’t seem to ring true for her own breast cancer experience. There’s the word, experience. Znaimer tells the reader about the two C-words that changed her life forever. First she dreaded the word CANCER and then she waited to hear the word CURE. Znaimer reflects on the fateful night, “the discovery of the lump that night started a chain of events that overtook my life.” The breast cancer diagnosis, surgery, genetic testing and treatment decisions left Znaimer feeling as if she was Cancergirl visiting Cancerland. The cancer experience was somewhat of an out of body experience for the typically healthy, physically fit, self-proclaimed party girl. During her treatment, Znaimer wrote a column about her cancer experience for the National Post and eventually decided to write a book. Znaimer approached her surgery and doctor visits with her journalistic skills; researching, asking questions, and journaling. The author shares her story as if she’s speaking to a good friend, a bosom buddy if you will! She writes with a good mixture of medical information, personal candour and yes, humour, but just enough to break the tension. Znaimer speaks about the women she met who shared her experience,

“The breast cancer sisterhood makes for fast friendships, even though it’s a club no one wants to join.”

Znaimer reveals in detail what frightened her and what reassured her during her cancer experience. Each chapter deals with a subject that can be affected by the breast cancer diagnosis. She weighs in on family, friends, career, couple hood and self esteem, just to list a few. Znaimer’s mother had a mastectomy and died later in life from ovarian cancer. She regrets being a bit cavalier about her testing regime and waiting for her family doctor’s referral to a high risk breast screening program. Znaimer notes that her navigation through the health care system was haphazard but she’s also grateful for the socialized system. The spirited Znaimer serves up words of warning to women about being vigilant; keeping to a mammogram schedule and adhering to extra breast screening monitoring where recommended.

After her lumpectomy, a positive genetic test for the BRCA-2 mutation, chemotherapy, radiation and a prophylactic removal of her ovaries, Znaimer remains optimistic about her prognosis and looks forward to the possibility of breast reconstructive surgery. She’s been through her fair share of trials and tribulations but considers herself lucky! Determined to live her life as normal as possible Znaimer feels as if she’s gained “a new zest for life” to go along with her new hairstyle and color.

My mother is nearing her 20th year as a breast cancer survivor. At the early age of 47 she was diagnosed with cancer after her first routine mammogram. I'm 42 and anxiety doesn’t even begin to describe my feelings about my ever present threat. My mother insists that I “need to get a grip, just live your life and stop worrying so much!” Libby Znaimer sums up her attitude toward her “new normal” life by stating the old adage that “living well is the best revenge.”

Something to think about...

Wanda Lynne Young