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The Red Devil

Languages Spoken: english
The first sentence of Katherine Russell Rich's book, "The Red Devil," smacks you in the face: "I found the lump twenty minutes before breakfast, three weeks after my marriage broke up." From there the blows continue as we go with her on a solitary ride through what she calls Cancerland: to a biopsy, on dates, on vacation, to work, out of work, to different apartments she calls home, to and from hospitals. But there's no wincing from the blows. You feel yourself the happy masochist, loving the pain since, like the very best books, "The Red Devil" is funny and grave at once. You go with Rich to the worst places, but there's no sentimentality or annoying self-pity there. The book is never sappy, often laugh-out-loud hilarious, and it has something to say to anybody who picks it up: cancer patient, shrink, oncologist, date of cancer patient, Mom, editor, taxi driver of cancer patient. It's honest and it pulls no punches.

Rich, a successful magazine editor in New York, began treatments for breast cancer in her early thirties. She documents with sharp accuracy the pressure she put on herself to remain "normal" and career-focused throughout her ordeal: working, dating, exercising, not discussing what she was going through readily and freely. The flip side of the normal world is Cancerland: a more lonely and inscrutable place, where doctors don't want to diagnose you with cancer and your life necessarily picks up pace to what Rich describes as doubletime. Anything starts to go, as in an interlude with a homeless man who asks for change after Rich has just lost her job for no real reason:

"I'm looking for work."
"Me, too!" I exclaimed. "I don't have a job either."
"Well, at least you have your health," he said, backing off.
"Actually, that's not true," I said, on a roll. "I had cancer."
"Well, everyone's got problems," he said snappishly, and walked away.

That interlude typifies your experience within "The Red Devil." Like the guy in the subway jonesing for some change, you'll approach Rich perhaps expecting something different. But you'll get to know her, and quickly. And, as I'm sure the guy in the subway did, you'll get more than you bargained for out of what she tells you.
 - Planet Cancer