Book Club: The Cast Chapters 5-6

the-cast-ch-56

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!

Read our participants’ reactions and follow along with us each week as we read through the book! Caution, spoilers below!

Week 3: Chapters 5 and 6

By Sonia Su:

I should note that this is my first time reading a fiction book about cancer, and so far, while I am enjoying it, there are certainly parts that hit a little too close to home—being just a little over a year out of treatment myself. Yet, especially given that author Amy Blumenfeld is herself a pediatric cancer survivor and bases much of this book on her own experiences and master’s project research into survivorship, this is definitely worth reading.

Becca is a wife to husband Nolan and mother to a seven-year-old daughter named Emma. She has an incredible group of friends that I could only dream of having. They have been inseparable since age three, and when Becca was in the hospital in ninth grade, her friends gifted her a home movie on a VHS cassette of themselves performing Becca Night Live. As noted on the back cover: “The show’s running time was only ninety minutes, but it had a lasting impact: Becca laughed her way through recovery, and the group—Jordana, Seth, Holly, and Lex—became her supporting cast for life.” But then the events that unfold in chapter five read like a cancer patient’s worst nightmare.

After 25 years of being in remission, Becca is diagnosed with breast cancer, likely due to the experimental high-dose radiation from childhood. Not surprisingly, however, she exhibits no fear regarding the plan to remove her breasts: “I’m one hundred percent comfortable with the mastectomy. It’s what I have to do, and I have no qualms about it” (75). The issue becomes more about reconstruction and its risks, all for—as she questions—cosmetic purposes. Here, it was as if I were reading my own thoughts regarding fertility treatments last year. As a young adult cancer patient, no one bothered to inform me about fertility preservation until I had relapsed and was on track for a stem cell transplant. But at that point, I felt exactly as Becca felt: I was sick of all the medical procedures and sick of being a patient. For me, the thought of injecting myself daily for a week before going under to have my eggs sucked out of me was the last thing I wanted to do right before a transplant. (FYI: I ended up relapsing again before the
transplant, so that was canceled and I had to do CAR-T instead). Suffice to say, I support Becca.

Now, this nightmare isn’t over. Throughout this initial visit, Nolan is by her side—at least, physically. Mentally, it seems that he and Becca are worlds apart. While alone, they fight in the doctor’s office over Becca’s serious consideration to refuse a boob job.  Becca asks if Nolan would actually divorce her for having no chest, to which Nolan responds, “I don’t know.” Right
before the doctor returns, they fling some final insults at each other before Nolan leaves. In the next chapter, Becca spends time with her friend Holly, ultimately confiding in her about the diagnosis, while leaving out the details of her fight with Nolan. Each chapter is written from one character’s point of view, so reading how Holly knew when to give Becca space and when to push for what was bothering her reinforced their strong bonds.

Ultimately, the scenarios presented in these two chapters make me wonder how my future will play out. I don’t mean the worst-case scenarios, but rather all the possibilities. Much like we don’t know yet what will happen to Becca and Nolan—hey, Nolan could finally come to his senses—who knows what will happen in the post-cancer phase? I feel lucky to wake up every day next to my husband. I feel lucky that I’m able to do what I love. Despite all the terrible things my loved ones and I have had to go through, I definitely cherish what I have now, one day at a time.

In our next blog post, look for the comments and discussion on chapters 7-8!

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!