Magazine Feature / People

Alum recounts breast cancer trial

book coverA cancer diagnosis can take an ordinary life and turn it upside down. In The Heroics of Falling Apart: One Couple’s Breast Cancer Journey (iUniverse, Inc., 2007) Dan Gordon (MLS ’99) and Judy Gordon describe falling apart — and how that helped them keep it together.

In 2003, the Gordons were content with where life had brought them. When Judy was diagnosed with breast cancer late in the year they realized their lives were going down an unexpected path.

“My mind was messed up, my feelings were messed up,” Judy says. “I felt completely different than my usual self.”

Conventional wisdom, as the Gordons refer to it, says that recovering from breast cancer requires fighting a battle. War terminology was no comfort for Judy. Instead of fighting, she fell apart.

The realization that she could be emotional and lose her positive nature for a while was the most comforting way for her to handle breast cancer, she says.

Encouraged by friends after Judy recovered, together, the Gordons wrote of their journey, emphasizing that falling apart is just as heroic as fighting.

“We realized how significant it would be for couples to have a book that gave the perspectives of both the patient and caregiver,” Judy says.

For Dan, writing the book brought out emotions he hadn’t dealt with during Judy’s illness. 

“What I found when I wrote my own part was that I was probably experiencing it emotionally for the first time,” Dan says. “During the process I had to be detached. I couldn’t fall apart while she was falling apart.”

Their memoir is meant to not only inform readers but to help them understand that there is no right way to deal with illness. They can choose to fight or fall apart. Or, find their own way.

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