Author: Judith Hannan
Publisher:CavanKerry Press Ltd.
ISBN-13: 978-1-933880-27-3(alk.paper)

A Mother’s Intensive Soul Searching

“I think God gave me cancer because He knew I was strong”, Nadia

It is always interesting to read stories about how people take on traumatic challenges in their lives. The first phase is one of denial. The “this can’t be happening to me” phase. This is followed shortly by a “why me? what did I do to deserve this?” phase, which starts after the trauma is an established fact, it heralds a period of intense self-examination. A third phase starts when the trauma has been accepted, the questions that are asked at this stage are “What can I do to go through this situation and yet survive on my own terms? The final phase is one of doing all that is necessary to emerge as the proverbial phoenix from the ashes of one’s former life. These transformation phases are interchangeable and one can jump between them at will.

The above transformation is essentially what Judith Hannan underwent when her eight year old daughter Nadia, was found to have a tumour in her jaw that was diagnosed to be Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare form of cancer. Judith had also lost her mother to cancer, some years prior to her daughter’s cancer diagnosis. In this book, she delineates, in minute detail, the story of her journey through this trauma, and how she herself and her daughter Nadia, emerged from the crisis, with heightened perceptive faculties, to what is called “normal life”.

The title Motherhood Exaggerated is no misnomer. Judith Hannan describes her experience of being the primary caregiver to her daughter in poignant and graphic detail. Beginning with her own background and those of her parents, Judith Hannan goes on to relate her own journey through the difficult process of dealing with a child struck by a life threatening disease. She mentions many of the seemingly small incidents that one remembers later on as having significance, for instance, her husband’s relatively calmer acceptance of the situation, the loving solicitousness
and support of her eldest child Fannie, the reactions of Nadia’s friends and Nadia’s own courage in going through chemotherapy among others.She mentions her own fatigue, her unexpressed desires for a life outside that of a primary caregiver, the moments of unfulfilled expectations of more attention towards herself and Nadia and other feelings, both positive and negative, that arose at the time. She also mentions the healing excursions to Martha’s Vineyard where she had access to the Atlantic Ocean, and at a later stage, the hopes and fears around the issue of the cancer going into remission after the chemotherapy took effect.

All through the narrative, Judith compares her present role as primary caregiver to her daughter Nadia to the case of her mother who was afflicted with breast cancer, and in which case, Judith’s personal role was restricted to that of an outside observer. At times, the microscopic and detailed analysis in the manuscript can get a tad oppressive, truly “Motherhood Exaggerated”.

This book would probably help anybody who has a close relative or friend afflicted with cancer. Judith Hannan does not come from a very religious family, so she does not look to God for answers. However, she keeps the symbols of her Jewish upbringing intact, Her husband comes from Irish American stock and his faith is not strictly adhered to either, so transcendental interference is not a factor in this book. However, the intense nature of the analysis, can have even the committed reader, opting out at times, for a breath of fresh air.

I recommend this book to all readers who suffer from, or are close to, someone with a life threatening illness.

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