THE CANCER OLYMPICS tells the heart-rending story of a middle-aged woman’s battle against colorectal cancer. The story begins with Canadian author Robin McGee, a physically fit psychologist, wife and mother in her 40s. She’s in great pain and has rectal bleeding, so she visits four different doctors who dismiss her and her symptoms for nearly two years, that is, until tests indicate she has late-stage colorectal cancer.
The author soon finds herself transformed from an independent, hard-working professional to an enfeebled patient riddled with pain and hopelessly dependent on others to take care of her. In the process, her relationships with her husband, teenage son, professional colleagues, the community and, most of all, herself, change.
McGee’s cancer diagnosis tests her marital vows as her husband leaves his job to become her full-time caretaker. Her son’s grades plummet as he withdraws into an escape artist’s world of Internet and television. Certain professional colleagues turn out to be anything but professional and collegial, and the author’s provincial government’s policies prevent her from receiving the best cancer treatment possible.
THE CANCER OLYMPICS offers readers a well-thought-out account of the author’s many ordeals and is not for the faint of heart given its many gory details. Cancer sufferers and their loved ones cannot help to admire the author’s spirit, grit and survival skills. To help cope with her seeming death sentence, McGee turns to the community by creating a blog called “Robin’s Cancer Olympics,” which becomes a crucial lifeline of support and encouragement as she undergoes radiation therapy, chemotherapy and surgery.
This well-thought-out and well-written look at the realities of cancer care, described by the author as being a “hopeless map of conflicting personalities, motivations and whims,” where patients have little to no control over their bodies and treatment plans. Readers will quickly deduce that in researching and writing about her condition and in fighting her many adversaries, McGee manages to gain some control over her health.
The book uses an engaging style of interspersing the author’s narrative with excerpts from her blog and quotes from her medical records, which adds vigor and authenticity to her memoir. Though THE CANCER OLYMPICS is more than 300 pages long, readers will find this real-life medical horror story hard to put down because nearly every chapter ends with a cliff-hanger.
THE CANCER OLYMPICS wins the gold medal for being a gutsy, no-holds-barred account of a middle-aged woman’s fight against three formidable enemies: late-stage colorectal cancer, the medical establishment and archaic government policies.