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Singing the life - The story of a family in the shadow of cancer (Book Review)

Easter 2008

From triple helix - Easter 2008 - Singing the life - The story of a family in the shadow of cancer (Book Review) [p16]

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Singing the life - The story of a family in the shadow of cancer - Elizabeth Bryan - Vermilion 2007 - £12.99 Hb 306pp - ISBN 0 09191 7158

Elizabeth Bryan was a much loved paediatrician, acclaimed internationally for establishing the Multiple Births Foundation, and a personal friend. This book tells the story of how the dominant cancer gene BRCA1 has been variably expressed across her extended family, finally and fatally affecting her own pancreas. She advises genetic screening for patients who report 'cancer in the family' – affected relatives need sensitive counselling about surveillance, prophylactic surgery and the controversial issue of preimplantation genetic diagnosis.

Without self-pity, Elizabeth describes her family's turmoil as one sister died and another endured bilateral breast cancer. Yet, despite the clouds, her story breathes not gloom but hope. Elizabeth courageously reiterates – and illustrates – her dying sister's conclusion: 'This is all happening so that love may grow'. By echoing Thomas Merton's prayer, we are shown how faith too can grow: 'I will trust you always; though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone'. This is the keynote of Singing the life.

Reviewed by:
Janet Goodall
Emeritus Consultant Paediatrician in Stoke

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