Book Review: I Signed As The Doctor: Memoir of a Cancer Doctor Surviving Cancer, by Laura Liberman, M.D.
Laura Liberman’s story is not unique: She was diagnosed with cancer, she went through the treatments, and she survived.
What makes it unique is the fact that Liberman is a cancer doctor herself, a radiologist who worked at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, recently ranked by the US News and World Report Survey as the second best cancer hospital in the US.
“I signed as the doctor” referred to Liberman’s confusion as she switches roles from doctor to patient and back. In filling out forms related to medical treatments, she made mistakes where to put her signature – as a patient, she signed as the doctor. When she went back to work, she signed as the patient.
The set up
Through a series of emails to friends and family, Liberman takes us through her journey as a cancer victim and survivor. And because the recipients of the emails were mostly non-doctors, Liberman had to explain medical jargon in layman’s speak. That is why the book turned out to be a great resource for patients, patients’ families, and doctors alike.
Liberman was diagnosed with an aggressive lymphoma which involved her lymph nodes, bone marrow, spinal cord and brain fluid. She had a 50 – 50 chance of beating the disease.
The pearls of wisdom
In the book, Liberman shares with the readers some unforgettable pearls of wisdom:
“Find silver linings -Losing your hair can mean gaining a hat.”
“Cancer is the best excuse you’ll ever have – use it! Play the cancer card.”
“Go iPod… Listen during chemo.”
“It’s OK to cry, but do so at most 20 minutes a day.”
In addition, during her treatment, she had time off from work and thus had the chance to explore activities, be it reading, listening to music or watching films. The result is a compilation of recommended books for reading, music for listening, and shows and films for watching.
Liberman beat the odds and the cancer. She went back to work at the cancer hospital that save her life. In the afterword, she tells us about the realities of life after chemotherapy. The “post-chemo depression” and fatigue took her by surprise. She had to cope with early menopausal and come to grips with the fact that she could no longer multitask.
But best of all, Liberman has seen cancer from both sides – as a doctor and as a patient – and has therefore something to tell everyone.