to cancer with love

To Cancer, with Love by Neelam Kumar

To Cancer, with Love is a lesson on holding on and letting go. The book is divided into two parts, Neelam's fight with cancer and her relationship with the Arabian Sea.
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Cancer. The word is enough to stop anyone in their tracks. And what if the monster strikes you twice? Strength akin to metal is what gets you through then. But this metal needs to be forged, and author Neelam Kumar finds a classic blacksmith in her alter ego—Carol. The dynamic and full of life Carol takes Neelam through her horrifying journey of fighting cancer.

To Cancer, with Love is a lesson in living the intersecting lines of holding on and letting go. The book is divided into two parts. The first takes us through Neelam’s fight with the Big C and the second explores her relationship with the Arabian Sea.

What takes the reader by surprise is that for a book on cancer, there are hardly any negative tones. For example, after her third chemotherapy session when her hair starts to fall, the author takes a fashion-conscious friend to go buy wigs. Carol tags along and makes the seemingly mortifying experience a hilarious one. The wig then becomes a prop to help showcase dwindling friendships, nosey neighbours, and the changing weather.

Several such situations in the story could have been treated in serious, sermonising ways but Kumar’s matter-of-fact treatment leaves you with tears and a slight, defiant smile.

In the second part of the book, the author beautifully personifies the Arabian Sea and learns from it a lot about calm, fury, and resilience. She calls it the oldest scripture written for mankind and through it encourages people to be like water.

Throughout the book, family ties are given utmost importance without seeming overwhelming. At one point, Carol makes Neelam count her blessings, and the author finds herself grateful for the lessons learned following the demise of her husband (a man she loved to bits) as she struggles with cancer.

While holding on to family, grit, and gratitude, she learns to make difficult choices, like the moment when she signs a document to remove her father’s ventilator or when she lets go of her so-called friends in the middle of her battle with cancer. Several such situations in the story could have been treated in serious, sermonising ways but Kumar’s matter-of-fact treatment leaves you with tears and a slight, defiant smile.

A strong, inspiring, and blatantly real read, To Cancer, with Love is a book that you would want to go back to.

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