What worse news can a young man get than to be told he has cancer? That was the fate of Jim Chastain of Norman. He tells about it in his recently released memoir, "I Survived Cancer: But Never Won the Tour de France” (Hawk Publishing, $19.95). Here’s the author’s description of the book: "It’s a combination of essays and poetry (predominantly humorous), which focus on the highs and lows from a rather torturous cancer journey. It’s basically a look at a husband and father in crisis mode as his world is literally falling apart.” Chastain, who works as an attorney in a state appeals court and as a professional writer, learned in 2001 of the cancer in his right arm. Age 37 at the time, he underwent surgery at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and then had six weeks of radiation in Oklahoma City. Other surgeries were to come in the following years, finally resulting in the amputation of his arm. Though cancer-free now, only time will tell whether the disease will return. With a loving wife, a daughter, a son and many relatives and friends, he bravely fought his malady. The emotions he felt during the hospital stays — fear, despair, hope, questioning — all are described in prose that is flowing and masterful. But he sometimes found some humor in the most appalling situations, and that comes out in the book, too. Some of these moments came during hospital staff ministrations to him. Chastain writes that the physical side of cancer is teamed with the spiritual. No single word has occupied him more than the frightening word "cancer,” he writes. "But the word ‘God’ may be close,” he adds. "‘Cancer’ and ‘God’ are words/concepts that go hand-in-hand. They are forced partners, Siamese twins joined at the hip. Like peanut butter and jelly or Sonny and Cher. One word leads to the other, and vice versa.” One can’t read this book without looking at Chastain with admiration for his valiant struggle and his perspicacious writing. The book is available at Full Circle Bookstore, 50 Penn Place, and online sites such as those of Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
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