Better off Bald

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A book review of Better Off Bald: a Life in 147 days by Andrea Wilson Woods

A book review of Better Off Bald: a Life in 147 days by Andrea Wilson WoodsStars: *****

Build Your Bliss (2019)
394 pages

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This post contains affiliate links.

Summary: Adrienne Wilson is a depressed, suicidal teenager—until the day she receives a diagnosis of stage IV liver cancer. Facing the fight of her life, Adrienne discovered just how much she wants to live. In Better Off Bald: A Life in 147 Days, Andrea Wilson Woods chronicles her sister’s remarkable life, from the time she was born to the day she dies at age fifteen. Written like a journal, Andrea takes the reader inside her and Adrienne’s journey explaining how she gained custody of Adrienne from their mother and how the sisters’ relationship evolved over time. Adrienne’s courageous spirit shines through as she squeezes more life into 147 days than most people do in a lifetime. From meeting Jay Leno to spending the day with Dave Navarro of Jane’s Addiction, Adrienne makes every moment count. As she lay dying, Adrienne teaches Andrea how to live.

Better Off Bald

I have an aunt who had Cancer but I was young and had no part in knowing the details and it mustn’t have been too bad because she’s fine and I don’t ever remember her being sick. So I’ve been pretty ignorant with regards to what living with Cancer is really like.

After reading Better Off Bald, I realize just how bad Cancer can be. The author’s sister (who she is guardian of) has a fairly rare adult liver cancer despite the fact that she is only 15. When she is diagnosed, it comes as a complete shock and it takes a while for Andrea and her boyfriend John to figure out what Adrienne needs and how to help her. While reading the book, I just kept thinking about my life. If my husband, me or my children had Cancer, well I just can’t believe how confusing it can be, how many decisions have to be made, how bad the chemotherapy is on the body. The quote below shocked me.

“A nurse walks in with a paper shirt and pants over her normal attire. With a mask over her mouth, she holds a bag of liquid as far away from her body as possible. There is a skull and crossbones on the label. When she hangs it on Adrienne’s IV pole, I stare at it. Are we making the right decision? This woman is dressed as if she is handling a nuclear weapon. I don’t know what I expected. The chemo drug is liquid, in a bag, and labeled as poison. We have all agreed to poison Adrienne to stop the tumors that are killing her. I want to yell stop, but we have no other options. To win, poison is the only choice.” – pg 71

Wow. It’s so bad it’s labelled as a poison but that’s what chemotherapy is. It’s shocking and later, seeing how it affects Adrienne, I realize I wouldn’t wish Cancer on my enemy.

The book switches back and forth between her fight with Cancer and stories of her youth before Cancer. There were a few times when I got confused but for the most part, you can tell when is when.

If you want a REAL guide to what it’s like to have a child with liver cancer, you’ll appreciate this book. But be warned, it’s got very sad parts. But there are also parts that are full of life. That’s the moral of the story. Although Adrienne doesn’t make it in the end, her family learns so much about what it means to live and Adrienne does more living in her 147 days with Cancer than she did before that.

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About Kathleen

I've been a nonfiction lover for as long as I can remember. I love children's nonfiction as well and love to share my knowledge and the books I gained them from, with the world. I wish more people would give nonfiction a chance.