Empowered is a fascinating and informative look at breast cancer from the perspective of a survivor who took her diagnosis as a wake up call to understand the disease medically, socially and politically. Sheryl Ellinwood certainly shares bits of her own experience of dealing with the diagnosis and choosing a course of treatment, but it's not a memoir. Instead, Ellinwood thoughtfully organizes and recaps her extensive personal research about breast cancer for the reader.
The numbers: There were certainly some surprises to me, but even as someone who is rather well informed, it was fantastic to have all of this information in one place. One in seven U.S. women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime, and that number keeps going up. Only 10% of breast cancer is genetic. Where is it coming from? Why are the numbers in the U.S. much bigger than the rest of the world? We need to educate ourselves about this disease.
The politics: It's no secret the pharmaceutical companies are in the business of making money. Our entire health care system is structured to heal rather than prevent. Of course, we need healing, but better health and prevention is desperately needed. Breast cancer treatment varies throughout the world. If the U.S. has the highest rates, take a look at how the rest of the world treats breast cancer.
The biggest surprises that shouldn't be surprises:
- Breast cancer is not a monolithic beast. There are many, many kinds, yet the treatment is usually the same. Ellinwood took control of her diagnosis, learned what the distinctions were, and worked with her doctors to personalize her treatment. Her research is impressive, and there are links throughout the book (and on her Web site) connecting the reader to the original documents. Treatment is an incredibly personal decision, but you must understand what's happening to your body to adequately make those tough decisions.
- If only 10% is genetic, and the number of cases is rising, we're not only not preventing this disease, we're welcoming it. Ellinwood traces the impact of what we eat, drink and put on our bodies. It's a sobering look at the country we live in and the products we use.
The bottom line: Read this book. It's ridiculously informative, inspiring and a little scary. I already avoided packaged and processed foods for the most part, carry an aluminum water bottle, buy all of my groceries at my local natural food coop, and I still made changes to my diet and lifestyle after reading this book. I partly made changes to prevent cancer, but the strategies for prevention are welcome health additions. The combination of science, personal experience, social impact and politics and refreshing and necessary.
Buying books for Christmas? This book would be a welcome addition to any woman's shelf.
I also thoroughly recommend Sheryl Ellinwood's blog. She updates the latest information, as books of a timely nature such as this need. There are also some excellent recipes! You can buy the book directly from the Web site, but it's also carried by amazon.com and other major outlets.
Thank you to Sheryl Ellinwood for providing me a copy of this book for review. It's out of my normal comfort zone, but it truly changed the way I live my life.
Rating: 5 stars (out of 5 stars) - universally recommended
Pages: 140 pages
Publication date: October 2009
Source: the author provided a copy of this book for me to review