Cancer is a Bitch – Gail Konop Baker

Title: Cancer Is a Bitch: (Or, I’d Rather Be Having a Midlife Crisis)
Author: Gail Konop Baker
ISBN: 0738211621
Pages: 272
Release Date: September 22, 2008
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir, Chick Lit
Rating: **** 1/2 (out of 5)

From the back cover:

Gail Konop Baker was a runner, yoga practitioner, doctor’s wife, and lifelong subscriber to Prevention magazine. As her 46th birthday approached, she looked forward to a time when she could finally take a deep breath – with her oldest daughter preparing for college, her youngest one a high school sophomore, and her son growing into a mature fourth grader. Then, right before Valentine’s Day 2006, she heard the word that would forever change her life: “Just to be safe, I think we should biopsy.”

It was the beginning of her year-long battle with breast cancer and its fallout – a battle that would upstage any midlife crisis she’d worried was waiting in the wings. As she writes, ” I wanted to be feeling bad about my neck; instead I was feeling bad I wouldn’t live long enough to feel bad about it.” Based on her popular Literary Mama column, Cancer is a Bitch is the author’s raw, moving account of juggling midlife, motherhood, and marriage with a rogue book – and, ultimately, triumphing.

Cancer is a Bitch. Doesn’t the title just grab you and make you want to read this book?

I have to say, I really enjoyed Cancer is a Bitch. I was a little apprehensive when the author sent me a copy to review because what was I supposed to say if I didn’t like it? “I’m sorry, but your experience with a deadly illness just wasn’t interesting enough for a positive review on my blog.” Thankfully, Gail Konop Baker didn’t put me in that position in the slightest.

Most reviews you will read of this book will probably tell you that the best quality of this book is its humor. And yes, the humor is wonderfully sarcastic and heartbreaking at the same time. But I would argue that its best aspect is its sheer humanity. Gail is just a regular person with a horrible diagnosis. She’s at a place in her life where she is questioning everything: her life, her body, her husband, her choices. The full title of this book is Cancer Is a Bitch: (Or, I’d Rather Be Having a Midlife Crisis). But Baker is having a midlife crisis – unfortunately, she just has to include cancer along with everything else. She is completely relatable and loveable; she isn’t that person who accepts her diagnosis graciously with a serene smile on her face. She does what any of the rest of us would do: she freaks out.

I have to go back to the humor in the book. I mentioned it earlier, but it is such an integral component of the book that I want to elaborate on it. I avoid books about cancer and disease a lot of the time for the simple reason that they depress me. A lot of times, I end up empathizing way too much with a character and their story haunts me for months. If any of you are anxious about that, don’t be. Cancer is a Bitch is many things, but it isn’t depressing. It’s funny, witty, sarcastic and will have you laughing out loud.

Read this book. That’s all I really have left to say. Gail Konop Baker is one of the 2008 Debutantes (if you haven’t checked out The Debutante Ball, drop what you’re doing and go there now). I see that as a positive and a negative for an author: it guarantees publicity and an audience, but at the same time, there is a pressure to live up to the works of the other authors, especially for Baker, whose book is coming out later in 2008. But it’s not a problem for Cancer is a Bitch. It’s wonderfully written, smart, funny, and a great read. Enough said. Go read it!


  1. I’m so glad you liked this. I really want to read this book, especially after your review!

  2. This is definitely one I will look into. I hope it’s available in Canada. I’ve read a few novels this past year dealing with breast cancer in a more humorous way and for me it was a healing experience after losing a friend. This will be going on the must read list for me. Thanks for a really great review.

  3. Thanks for the fabulous review of Gail’s book. She is a huge talent and a wonderful, unabashedly human and (as you pointed out) hilarious woman. Her posts at The Debutante Ball over the past year have shown this and the book does it too–in spades.

    I’m also so grateful that you pointed out this isn’t a “scary” cancer book–it’s about cancer, yes, but it is about so much more and there are crucial life lessons for almost everyone to be found here.

  4. I’m so glad to have discovered this site! I can’t wait to read this one, because I already know Gail’s writing and I’m sure I won’t be disappointed.

  5. Thanks again for letting me know about this book. I have a spiffy new copy of it to read on my bookself and based on your review am sure I’m going to like it!

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