Caitlin Breedlove's 'All In: Cancer, Near Death, New Life'

  • by Laura Moreno
  • Tuesday May 7, 2024
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Author Caitlin Breedlove
Author Caitlin Breedlove

Author Caitlin Breedlove's debut book, "All In: Cancer, Near Death, New Life" is the fascinating queer feminist memoir of a cancer survivor and single parent of a small child. But it is equally a memoir of grief, addiction, spirituality, and a memoir of migration, one of the most trying situations possible, although it's not yet understood. Particularly when moving to the United States, or back to the United States, even when things go perfectly smoothly, the experience is often traumatic.

The book is dedicated to her ancestors, for all they suffered and endured without acknowledgment.

"This is the first time I felt entitled to write a book, and it took cancer," Breedlove writes, echoing a version of a familiar self-debasing sentiment that aspiring to write a book is not a dream most people feel they have permission to harbor.

This beautifully written memoir is Breedlove's tribute to the 85% of people who die quickly of ovarian cancer. It turns out that ovarian cancer is the most pernicious cancer for women.

"All In" is brimming with lyrical, rhapsodic insights. She ponders the birth of her child and her incredible eternal love for him. While undergoing cancer treatment she muses on her body weakening, breaking under the weight of the disease, and many other worthwhile topics.

Like Audre Lorde's "The Cancer Journals," Breedlove has written a powerful indictment of the strange impact of "toxic positivity," a type of gaslighting, on women battling cancer. Her focus on addressing the wider social justice issues that undergird our individual experiences provides hope that future generations will be able to forge a better way of living.

Breedlove has written the kind of memoir she searched for and wishes she had been able to find after receiving her cancer diagnoses. Being privy to the experiences of other queer women, mothers and immigrants battling cancer would have been of immeasurable value to her in that unspeakably difficult time.

A first generation American, Caitlin Breedlove is a board member and former Co-Director of Southerners On New Ground (SONG) where she worked on LGBTQ issues, and was Campaign Director of Standing on the Side of Love at the Unitarian Universalist Association. Her podcast, Fortification: Side With Love, features interviews about people's spiritual journeys.

An excerpt:

"It seems to me some of us must chronicle the messy truths of it so that more of us can care for each other better in a time of profound alienation and isolation. Few have written about what it is to suffer cancer surgeries and treatment during a pandemic. This experience only underscored and deepened the solitude intrinsic to all of us who come close to death, all of us who must build a new life."

These words are for all of us who know in our bones or seek a different way of being alive, nearing death, suffering, and even dying. They are for all of us who love someone going through these cycles. They are for all of us who want to reach beyond the numbing gauze of our times to know what suffering means, to be fully alive again, in order to be whole, again and always.

'All In: Cancer, Near Death, New Life" by Caitlin Breedlove. $18. AK Press,

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