I have personally seen two people die of cancer. I have watched another courageous lady pick up the pieces of her life after breast cancer, and move on. I have seen and experienced the rage and helplessness when confronted by this killer disease. One person told me angrily (he had lost a dear one to cancer himself) that there was no point in any medical treatment, that it unnecessarily prolonged life which had no quality. In my heart I agreed, but after all, we are human, we live on hope, don’t we?
The Emperor of All Maladies is a powerful book. It deftly strings together several stories and braids them into a thriller novel, even when you know that at the end, everything does not always turn out fine. Written with a fine eye for detail, a perfect balance of technical and layman material, a gentle sense of humour, and a respectful understanding of both the disease in all its myriad forms and the sufferers, Siddhartha Mukherjee has come out with a classic on cancer.
At the end of the book, I emerged with a sense of relief that this is a gentler age for the treatment of cancer. Doubtless, generations a century later will look back and shudder at the suffering we had to undergo in the name of treatment, just as I shuddered at the radical surgeries and the toxic cocktails that were used to treat cancer patients earlier. It is inspiring to read about scientists, researchers, and doctors all hunting feverishly, devoting their entire lives and energies to cracking just that one puzzle, that one riddle. It is amazing to read about how far we have come down this road, and it is even more amazing to realize how intimately entwined cancer is with life itself.
A fantastic book, which I am sure to dip into every now and then for many years to come.