Theresa Mayhew’s part memoir, part self-help book, “Kicking Cancer in the Butt: A Guide to Thriving in Spite of Anal Cancer” (2010) is an account of her experience with a rare form of cancer. She speaks highly of her involvement with the website and online community called “Blog for a Cure” and some of her female blogging friends also share parts of their experiences and advice. They have all been diagnosed with anal cancer.
Mayhew’s book is quite short, and there are lots of empty pages and white space (perhaps for notes?). The layout and formatting came with a couple of errors (such as a small gutter on the left page and page numbering format at the bottom suddenly switches at page 10.) All in all, 66 pages and a bigger font, makes for a quick read. I was able to complete it in two sittings.
Mayhew divides the book into three parts – Before (Diagnosis), During (Treatment) and After (Post-treatment). She comes from a spiritual background, called “Eckankar – Religion of the Light and Sound of God.” I had to look that one up and found out that this religion believes in karma and reincarnation. She also believes in and subscribes to non-traditional forms of healing such as “The Healing Codes” (another topic I had to look up.) She claims her spiritual and healing code practices “helped keep her in balance emotionally.” She also spoke of “MindMovies” and practicing “The Five Rites” which were all topics I was unfamiliar with.
Mayhew provides very basic information on anal cancer and a very long list of questions to ask your doctor (this list would take a long time to discuss!). She provides a list of things you may want to have on hand before your treatment starts, like ointments and baby wipes. There is a very short chapter on financial assistance.
In the first section of part two, “During”, she chronicles her own treatment, week by week, which included chemotherapy and radiation. She also includes some photographs to help the reader envision her and her experience. In this section of the book, her online blogging friends who also have cancer share some of their own experiences. Nova Sprick’s writing is very impressive throughout the book, and she shares some interesting concepts such as “Yoga Nidra” which means sleep yoga. I looked this up on YouTube and found some great relaxation guides (learned something else new!).
Mayhew and her friends at Blog for a Cure include all kinds of tips and terms, side effects, after effects and suggestions of how to navigate and cope with the diagnosis, treatment and how to “thrive” after the treatment of anal cancer. I wish they had talked more about the need for professional help in terms of depression and/or anxiety as I know this is a troublesome area for some (myself included).
The last pages of the book include a page “About the Author” and a page of “Resources.” It was an enjoyable read and I added many of my own notes, as I have been through anal cancer treatment myself. I tried to look up Mayhew via her website as noted in her “About the Author” section, but her page is no longer in service. I later found out that she passed away in 2011.
This book would be a good read and reference tool for anyone who has a diagnosis of anal cancer and it would also be of specific interest to those who are followers of Eckankar practices. Those who believe in God or a higher power would also find it helpful, as there are references to spiritual comfort and meaning throughout the book. Loved ones or caregivers would also benefit as it helps them understand what the person with anal cancer may be going through.
Angela G. Gentile
Angela G. Gentile MSW, RSW is a clinical social worker and author of the book, “Caring for a Husband with Dementia: The Ultimate Survival Guide”, “A Book About Burnout: One Social Worker’s Tale of Survival” and the “Dementia Caregiver Solutions” app for iPhone and iPad. She lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba with her husband and has two adult children. For more information, visit: www.AngelaGGentile.com