Learning about her ancestors’ history of cancer and then seeing the disease afflict family, friends and even famous people prompts author Amy Byer Shainman to closely evaluate her own medical makeup. In doing so she not only discovers both the threats to and the treatments for her well-being but subsequently dedicates her life to share what she’s learned with absolutely anyone she can get to listen.
In RESURRECTION LILY, Shainman explains that for as long as she can remember she’s had what she calls “The Feeling” – a second sense of sorts that gave her unique insight and long provided her guidance on important life decisions. So when she discovered that her paternal grandmother Lillian had died at an early age of a specific form of breast cancer, that second sense drove Shainman to investigate what risk factors might still play a part in her family’s genetic profile.
This need to know was exacerbated when her sister Jan was diagnosed with the same aggressive form of ovarian cancer that had struck down one of Shainman’s favorite comedians, Gilda Radner. Shainman herself had earlier dealt surgically with a brain tumor so she knew the cancer odds were high in her family. When family friend and journalism personality Kristin Hoke Cecere is diagnosed with breast cancer Shainman can’t help but figure that the potential for the disease is drawing closer and closer around her.
At a conference she is introduced to the research being done on BRCA1, the gene which holds the susceptibility to breast cancer. When she learns not only that the gene is easily passed down through the generations but is prominent in people like her of Ashkenazic Jewish descent she decides to have herself tested for BRCA1. The tests come back positive.
In light of the test results and with the support of her husband and countless medical experts, not to mention her not wanting to live as a cancer treatment patient, Shainman decides to undergo a prophylactic mastectomy to pre-emptively remove any tissue which could become cancerous. After her physical recovery her life after the procedure becomes one of advocating for BRCA testing and further BRCA research while striving to maintain her own feelings of wholeness and self-worth.
She receives a boost to the latter when actress Angelina Jolie goes public with her own BRCA diagnosis and subsequent prophylactic procedures. This boost brings new attention to Shainman’s work as a leading expert on the topic, and she finds herself called upon for a virtual plethora of interviews, TV spots and written articles all leading to her involvement in the award winning documentary film “Pink & Blue: Colors of Hereditary Cancer”.
Told with a brutal honesty, while still maintaining the occasional foray into lightheartedness of everyday life, RESURRECTION LILY resonates with as much inspiration as it does information. As a guide to monitoring one’s health and remaining vigilant for any possible detriments to that health, this story should be recommended reading for anyone with a genetic makeup and breast tissue – meaning, of course, everyone.
In a unique reflective synergy, RESURRECTION LILY, with its balance of clinical documentation and familial comfort, stands as a pre-emptive strike for taking pre-emptive action against the scourge of cancer.
~Johnny Masiulewicz for IndieReader