Pandora's DNA: Tracing the Breast Cancer Genes Through History, Science, and One Family Tree

Chicago Review Press
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2015 ALA Notable Book Would you cut out your healthy breasts and ovaries if you thought it might save your life? That's not a theoretical question for journalist Lizzie Stark's relatives, who grapple with the horrific legacy of cancer built into the family DNA, a BRCA mutation that has robbed most of her female relatives of breasts, ovaries, peace of mind, or life itself. In Pandora's DNA, Stark uses her family's experience to frame a larger story about the so-called breast cancer genes, exploring the morass of legal quandaries, scientific developments, medical breakthroughs, and ethical concerns that surround the BRCA mutations, from the troubling history of prophylactic surgery and the storied origins of the boob job to the landmark lawsuit against Myriad Genetics, which held patents on the BRCA genes every human carries in their body until the Supreme Court overturned them in 2013. Although a genetic test for cancer risk may sound like the height of scientific development, the treatment remains crude and barbaric. Through her own experience, Stark shows what it's like to live in a brave new world where gazing into a crystal ball of genetics has many unintended consequences.
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About the author

Lizzie Stark is the author of Leaving Mundania and a freelance journalist who has written for io9.com, The Today Show website, Psychology Today, the Daily Beast, and the Philadelphia Inquirer. She holds an MS in New Media Journalism from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. 
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Additional Information

Publisher
Chicago Review Press
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Published on
Oct 1, 2014
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Pages
336
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ISBN
9781613748633
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Medical
Medical / History
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Faced with the BRCA mutation—the so-called “breast cancer gene”—one woman must answer the question: When genetics can predict how we may die, how then do we decide to live?
 
Eleven months after her mother succumbs to cancer, Jessica Queller has herself tested for the BRCA gene mutation. The results come back positive, putting her at a terrifyingly elevated risk of developing breast cancer before the age of fifty and ovarian cancer in her lifetime. Thirty-four, unattached, and yearning for marriage and a family of her own, Queller faces an agonizing choice: a lifetime of vigilant screenings and a commitment to fight the disease when caught, or its radical alternative—a prophylactic double mastectomy that would effectively restore life to her, even as it would challenge her most closely held beliefs about body image, identity, and sexuality.
 
Superbly informed and armed with surprising wit and style, Queller takes us on an odyssey from the frontiers of science to the private interiors of a woman’s life. Pretty Is What Changes is an absorbing account of how she reaches her courageous decision and its physical, emotional, and philosophical consequences. It is also an incredibly moving story of what we inherit from our parents and how we fashion it into the stuff of our own lives, of mothers and daughters and sisters, and of the sisterhood that forms when women are united in battle against a common enemy.
 
Without flinching, Jessica Queller answers a question we may one day face for ourselves: If genes can map our fates and their dark knowledge is offered to us, will we willingly trade innocence for the information that could save our lives?
 
Praise for Pretty Is What Changes
 
“By turns inspiring, sorrowful and profoundly moving. Queller’s sense of humor and grace transform the most harrowing of situations into a riveting and heartfelt memoir.”—Kirkus Reviews
 
“Seamless and gripping. Readers will be rooting for Queller and her heroic decision to confront her genetic destiny.”—Publishers Weekly
 
“Jessica Queller gives us a warm, chilling, unflinching look at her personal journey of survival with style. The ending will surprise you. Her prescience is astounding. Her courage is inspirational. Brava Jessica!”—Marisa Acocella Marchetto, author of Cancer Vixen
  After learning that she inherited a BRCA2 genetic mutation that put her at high risk for breast and ovarian cancer, Kim Horner’s doctors urged her to consider having a double mastectomy. But how do you decide whether to have a surgery to remove your breasts to reduce your risk for a disease you don’t have and may never get?  Horner shares her struggle to answer that question in Probably Someday Cancer. The mother of a one-year-old boy, she wanted to do whatever would give her the best odds of being around for her son and protect her from breast cancer, which killed her grandmother and great-grandmother in their 40s. Which would give her the best chance at a long healthy life: a double mastectomy or frequent screenings to try to catch any cancer early? The answers weren’t that simple.  Based on extensive research, interviews, and personal experience, Horner writes about how and why she ultimately opted for a double mastectomy—the same decision actress Angelina Jolie made for a similar genetic mutation—and the surprising diagnosis that followed. The book explores difficult truths that get overshadowed by upbeat messages about early detection and survivorship—the fact that screenings can miss cancers and that even early-stage breast cancers can spread and become fatal.  Probably Someday Cancer is about the author’s efforts to push past her fear and anxiety. This book can help anyone facing hereditary risk of breast and ovarian cancer feel less alone and make informed decisions to protect their health and end the devastation that hereditary cancer has caused for generations in so many families.
Angie and Ian were childhood sweethearts,Angie adored kids and, as one of eight children himself, Ian was only too happy to have as many as they could. After their marriagethey had three sons in quick succession. But then, aged just thirty one, Angie was diagnosed with breast cancer and the couple had to accept they might not be able to have any more. Five years on,though, with Angie well again they went on to have five more.

But in 2007, Angie had a shadow on her lung and it was the return of the original breast cancer she thought she had beaten. It seemed the disease had returned to tear their world apart again. Though Ian searched tirelessly for cures, Angie practised acceptance. She wouldn't live to see her children grow up.

Raising eight children would be a big job for any couple; to raise them alone, without their mother, an almost Herculean feat. But this was exactly what Angie wanted Ian to be able to do. So in the last months of her life, Angie compiled a list of 'rules' to guide Ian in the future, and put him on an intensive training course,so he could learn all the skills he would need. She taught him howto makeher special chicken curry, how to soothe away their hurts, pack their lunchboxes with all their favouritesand do all the little things she'd done for them so unthinkingly.And Ian knew he wasn't just doing this for the children. He was doing it so his beloved wife could be comforted by knowing that he had the tools to bring their children up her way.

Finally, inevitably, came the hardest task of all. Angie, the job done, hadto find the courage to let them go, and Ian and the children the courage to carry on without her.
The #1 NEW YORK TIMES Bestseller
A New York Times Notable Book
A Washington Post and Seattle Times Best Book of the Year

From the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Emperor of All Maladies—a fascinating history of the gene and “a magisterial account of how human minds have laboriously, ingeniously picked apart what makes us tick” (Elle).

“Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee dazzled readers with his Pulitzer Prize-winning The Emperor of All Maladies in 2010. That achievement was evidently just a warm-up for his virtuoso performance in The Gene: An Intimate History, in which he braids science, history, and memoir into an epic with all the range and biblical thunder of Paradise Lost” (The New York Times). In this biography Mukherjee brings to life the quest to understand human heredity and its surprising influence on our lives, personalities, identities, fates, and choices.

“Mukherjee expresses abstract intellectual ideas through emotional stories…[and] swaddles his medical rigor with rhapsodic tenderness, surprising vulnerability, and occasional flashes of pure poetry” (The Washington Post). Throughout, the story of Mukherjee’s own family—with its tragic and bewildering history of mental illness—reminds us of the questions that hang over our ability to translate the science of genetics from the laboratory to the real world. In riveting and dramatic prose, he describes the centuries of research and experimentation—from Aristotle and Pythagoras to Mendel and Darwin, from Boveri and Morgan to Crick, Watson and Franklin, all the way through the revolutionary twenty-first century innovators who mapped the human genome.

“A fascinating and often sobering history of how humans came to understand the roles of genes in making us who we are—and what our manipulation of those genes might mean for our future” (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel), The Gene is the revelatory and magisterial history of a scientific idea coming to life, the most crucial science of our time, intimately explained by a master. “The Gene is a book we all should read” (USA TODAY).
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, and now a documentary from Ken Burns on PBS, The Emperor of All Maladies is a magnificent, profoundly humane “biography” of cancer—from its first documented appearances thousands of years ago through the epic battles in the twentieth century to cure, control, and conquer it to a radical new understanding of its essence.

Physician, researcher, and award-winning science writer, Siddhartha Mukherjee examines cancer with a cellular biologist’s precision, a historian’s perspective, and a biographer’s passion. The result is an astonishingly lucid and eloquent chronicle of a disease humans have lived with—and perished from—for more than five thousand years.

The story of cancer is a story of human ingenuity, resilience, and perseverance, but also of hubris, paternalism, and misperception. Mukherjee recounts centuries of discoveries, setbacks, victories, and deaths, told through the eyes of his predecessors and peers, training their wits against an infinitely resourceful adversary that, just three decades ago, was thought to be easily vanquished in an all-out “war against cancer.” The book reads like a literary thriller with cancer as the protagonist.

From the Persian Queen Atossa, whose Greek slave may have cut off her diseased breast, to the nineteenth-century recipients of primitive radiation and chemotherapy to Mukherjee’s own leukemia patient, Carla, The Emperor of All Maladies is about the people who have soldiered through fiercely demanding regimens in order to survive—and to increase our understanding of this iconic disease.

Riveting, urgent, and surprising, The Emperor of All Maladies provides a fascinating glimpse into the future of cancer treatments. It is an illuminating book that provides hope and clarity to those seeking to demystify cancer.
This guide introduces gamers, actors, and other imaginative folks to this emerging form. American freeform games share a common format—they are rules-light one-shot productions, a bit like improv theater games performed without an audience, requiring only a few people, and lasting for several hours. With few setting or scenography requirements, these games are easy to run, and are especially friendly to new players and organizers. 

Leaving Mundania author Lizzie Stark takes the reader through the history and development of the style, which counts US chamber larp, indie games and Nordic larp and freeform among its influences. The guide provides easy-to-understand instruction on how to play, run, and write these short scenarios, as well as advanced tips for those who want a deep dive.

Calling all theater educators, improv actors, and larpers: come join the American freeform revolution.

“If you are new to freeform roleplaying, the Pocket Guide to American Freeform is really useful. If you are a grizzled veteran who knows everything, it is a necessity.” 

-Jason Morningstar, creator of Fiasco, Bully Pulpit Games

“Lizzie Stark is a uniquely important figure in the LARP community, bringing Nordic design know-how to the American gaming experience. In this book, she shares her key findings from the experimental side of the American larp scene as well as the critical components to designing these kinds of games. If you’re a roleplayer looking to make the leap into less linear, more potent, and more original work, the Pocket Guide to American Freeform is the first book you should read.”

–Nick Fortugno, Playmatics

Winner, 2018 PEN/E.O. Wilson Prize for Literary Science Writing
Short-listed for the 2018 Wellcome Book Prize
A Top 10 Science Book of Fall 2017, Publishers Weekly
A Best History Book of 2017, The Guardian

"Warning: She spares no detail!" —Erik Larson, bestselling author of Dead Wake

In The Butchering Art, the historian Lindsey Fitzharris reveals the shocking world of nineteenth-century surgery and shows how it was transformed by advances made in germ theory and antiseptics between 1860 and 1875. She conjures up early operating theaters—no place for the squeamish—and surgeons, who, working before anesthesia, were lauded for their speed and brute strength. These pioneers knew that the aftermath of surgery was often more dangerous than patients’ afflictions, and they were baffled by the persistent infections that kept mortality rates stubbornly high. At a time when surgery couldn’t have been more hazardous, an unlikely figure stepped forward: a young, melancholy Quaker surgeon named Joseph Lister, who would solve the riddle and change the course of history.

Fitzharris dramatically reconstructs Lister’s career path to his audacious claim that germs were the source of all infection and could be countered by a sterilizing agent applied to wounds. She introduces us to Lister’s contemporaries—some of them brilliant, some outright criminal—and leads us through the grimy schools and squalid hospitals where they learned their art, the dead houses where they studied, and the cemeteries they ransacked for cadavers.

Eerie and illuminating, The Butchering Art celebrates the triumph of a visionary surgeon whose quest to unite science and medicine delivered us into the modern world.

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