Welcome to the comments and discussion of the Young Adult Cancer Book Club! We are reading The Cast by Amy Blumenfeld! Catch up on Chapters 1-2, Chapters 3-4, Chapters 5-6, and Chapters 7-8! Read participant reactions and follow along with us each week as we read through the book. Caution, spoilers below!
Week 5: Chapters 9 and 10
By Marie-Elyse B.:
Chapter 9: Becca
In this chapter, we see Becca having to face telling the people she loves, her best friends, of her new cancer. As a Hodgkin’s Lymphoma survivor, this is something that really struck home. Despite being careful, healthy, and on top of things with my checkups, that possibility of having a new cancer is very real, and so is having to talk about it to my family and close loved ones. In this chapter, you have a full range of reactions. Her husband acts very selfishly in the previous chapters, her friends Holly and Adam turn directly to faith and religion, publicly and without much of her consent, Lex is angry, Seth turns everything into humor, and Jordana, her best friend, turns into a bit of an overbearing person. This represents what every survivor has to face when dealing with explaining cancer. It can be hard at times to forgive or understand people that aren’t acting rationally towards the whole situation or even having to comfort other people despite being the one sick. Something else that really struck me in this chapter is Jordana explaining the grief of losing something. Losing your old self, security, innocence, etc., is something I never thought about before having cancer. The possibility that people around me had to grieve for something else than death, gives me a lot of perspective now on their actions during my illness.
Chapter 10: Seth
In chapter nine, Seth and Lex, and later Holly, have a deep conversation about everything that happens during dinner, and in their past. You first see Seth debating which side to be on, either his long-time friend Becca or his new friend her husband. He’s also debating how and what to tell Becca about the favor her husband asks of him. It’s really interesting to see this conversation happening as a patient because we don’t necessarily understand the choices people around us have to make, especially in how open they want to be, while we are sick and stuck with our own choices (treatment plans, etc). Lex makes an interesting point talking about curveballs. I think all of us experience them at some point, things that make you question everything you do and the way to live your life. As a young adult with cancer, it is easy to see how our near-death experience changes things in our actions and our way of thinking. In the book, however, we also see that our illnesses also affect everyone around us and throw them curveballs as well, and calling for changes, albeit in a slightly different way.
By Jessica B.:
Chapter 9: Becca
In this chapter, Becca deals with the aftermath of her friends learning about her new diagnosis. She recalls a conversation with her daughter where she was asked for assurance that she was going to be okay, but wasn’t able to make that promise. Becca realizes that she is once again in a situation where people are going to be looking for her to say that everything is going to be okay, but she doesn’t know if she can say that. This is a scenario almost every cancer survivor can relate to. You’re dealing with devastating news and yet the people around you are still looking to you for assurance that everything is going to be okay. It’s a tough place to be in. Becca is also dealing with the ongoing conflict with Nolan. She has not heard from her husband since their fight and doesn’t even know where he is. This causes a mix of reactions from her friends. Some are furious with him, but others are more sympathetic. Seth thinks Nolan just needs to be whipped into shape. Jordana thinks that the group of friends needs to realize that they have a degree of privilege. They have already been through everything with Becca once. They have an idea of what to expect, but Nolan is being thrown into the world of cancer for the first time, and perhaps he deserves some slack and some time to figure out how to deal with the situation. I think Jordana makes a fair point. Everyone reacts to a cancer diagnosis differently, and family and friends of survivors are no different. Some will be angry, some will be devastated, some will want to focus on getting through to the other side…and some will want to bail. Nolan needs to figure out which of those paths he’s going to take.
Chapter 10: Seth
In this chapter, Seth is spending some time with Lex while they process the news they received at dinner. Seth is in a bit of a tough spot because he has become friends with Nolan as well as Becca, so he wants to give Nolan the benefit of the doubt, but Lex does not feel the same way. Lex is having marital problems, which is causing Seth to think thoughts about Lex that perhaps he shouldn’t be thinking. At the same time, he’s dealing with Nolan asking for recommendations for a plastic surgeon who can give a second opinion on Becca’s case, and wanting to be a good friend for Becca. From my perspective, Seth is handling the situation the best he can, and maybe in the best position to give Nolan the swift kick in the pants he needs to become the support Becca needs. This chapter doesn’t focus as heavily on Becca’s diagnosis as the previous chapter, but I think it illustrates that even when someone gets cancer, life goes on. Other things happen. In this case, Seth is flirting with a married woman, which isn’t the greatest idea, but it does show he has other things on his mind besides being stuck thinking about his friend. At the end of the chapter, Seth and Becca settle in to watch a late-night showing of National Lampoon’s Vacation, because sometimes, just sitting with a friend to watch an old favorite is just what you need.
By Shannon G:
Chapter 9: Becca
This chapter hit home for me on so many levels. It opens with Becca missing her daughter, Emma. Becca recalls how she told Emma about her birth story, which is surrogacy due to her infertility issues related to cancer. Becca mentioned how some of the most intimate conversations happen in the bathroom and I think many moms can relate to this sentiment. Remembering how she was open about surrogacy; she began to think about how she told Emma about her cancer. Emma was 6 years old and they were in the bathroom. There was this tender moment where Emma asks her mom to promise she will not get cancer again. Becca is frozen with the fear she labels “my worst nightmare was dying young and leaving her,” so she promised. I can relate to this directly. I was diagnosed when my baby was going into Kindergarten. I have had so many conversations with God where this same nightmare is my plea…to not leave him. As Becca is making this promise that she knows she cannot possibly keep, Emma asks for a snack. I giggled at this because I remember having these life-changing, epic mind battles of life and death in my head, while my son was asking for grapes or if he could play matchbox cars on my legs.
Becca finally tells Jordana, which of course Jordana will take as an insult to be told last. However, it is often the people we care for the most that are the most difficult to have these conversations with. The part of the chapter that really affected me though was Becca’s reaction over not wanting reconstruction. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 34, a single mom who had just purchased my first home (1 week prior to my diagnosis), I had the exact same reaction. I “just kept thinking – more operations, more pain, more risks of infection, more days to keep me away from” my kids. As Becca states, “and for what? Breasts?”. These were my exact thoughts and to this day I have not undergone reconstruction. I wanted to get it out of my body and move on, live life, and not spend one more day in a bed than I needed to. I do not say this to judge anyone who does immediate reconstruction. Overall, it is a very personal and intimate decision and the discussion between Becca and Nolan shows that.
One of my favorite quotes from this chapter is, “I suspect there will be days when I feel confident and days when I look at myself and think I’m some kind of botched science experiment.” This is exactly how I feel. She reiterates several times that she is the same person either way. Jordana then introduces the idea of checking your privilege before making a judgment on someone. In other words, we do not know the intimate details of someone’s experiences, fears, and thoughts; therefore, we should show grace to one another.
Chapter 10: Seth
The bulk of this chapter is Seth and Lex sharing chemistry. My favorite quote from Seth in this chapter is there is “something about hanging out with this group again that altered my chemistry.” I think we all have groups of people we have spent periods of time with, that when we are reunited after time, we are almost transformed back into the person we were. Those are truly the most treasured friendships….the ones where no contact can be made for years and you can just pick back up where you left off. Seth is dealing with two relationships in this chapter….Lex and Nolan. With Lex, they share some intimate details, discuss business, and have a general flirtation. There seems to be some fire between the two of them. However, what I kept thinking was they were two friends, holding space for one another. Sometimes it’s not about words or talking, but just having someone share a space in time with you. Seth is also struggling with his friendship with Nolan because he was Becca’s friend first. Lately, he has been training Nolan and they have developed a sort of bro code, but he is going back and forth on where his loyalty should lie. I will guess in future chapters we will see it lies with Becca. History is strong.
In our next blog post, look for the comments and discussion on chapters 11-12!
We will talk about a few chapters each Monday until the book is done. If Monday happens to be a holiday, then the post will publish on Tuesday. Once we finish the book, we’ll use one more Monday to talk about general feelings from the book and anything else you’d like to discuss. We’ll also have a video chat book club discussion at the end! Join in, in the comments every week! Also, there will probably be spoilers so read along with us! Excited about the young adult cancer book club? Have any suggestions for future reads? Let us know!