Book Buzz: I Never Signed Up for This

Happy New Year!

All over the Internet I see people claiming their word for the year, a word that may guide or inspire them, or a word that defines them. Have you chosen yours for 2016?

If I were to choose a word for Darryle Pollack, author of  “I Never Signed Up for This: Finding Power in Life’s Broken Pieces,” it might be Strength. Passion. Determination. Humor.

They all define this remarkable woman.

Book Buzz: I Never Signed Up for This

I Never Signed Up for This

… is something you might say too if you are 18 years old and your beautiful 41 year-old mother succumbs to cancer.

The loss of her mother was devastating and mysterious. No one talked about cancer back then. It was almost as if vocalizing the word might spread the disease. Pollack’s mother was in the hospital for weeks with what was described to her children as “back issues.” Pollack didn’t know until later that it had been cancer.

This brought back memories to me, also of the hush-hush surrounding cancer. I remember attending a cousin’s bar mitzvah when I was, oh, maybe ten or so. At the reception, the mother sat in a chair looking tired, her face puffy. I asked why she looked that way, but no one would talk about it.

Losing a mother at any age is traumatic, but for Pollack, a college freshman, the loss was unbearably painful. With two younger siblings, she felt that she had to be a surrogate mother to them while still needing mothering herself.  The dread of getting cancer was ever present, intensifying when she became a mother herself, imagining her children left motherless as she had been. When she turned 41 – the age her mother had been when she died — and was healthy, she felt a sense of relief. She thought she had dodged that bullet.

Until she was diagnosed with Stage III breast cancer at the age of 44.

I Never Signed Up for This

… is the story of learning that life is not fair. Cancer strikes indiscriminately, whether you’ve been a good person, eaten your vegetables, maintained a healthy lifestyle … or not. If you are dealt the cancer card, your life is changed. You stumble about in an alternate universe that Pollack calls Cancer World.

You don’t always know what you’re made of until you’re faced with a crisis. Like your own mortality. How can you take the broken pieces of your life and put them back together? Pollack gripped cancer with both fists and shook it.

She takes us on her journey, the exhausting, frustrating, anxiety-ridden mess of it. With determination she explored a variety of treatments. Met with a multitude of health professionals. Decided in the end to do what felt right in her gut. It turned out to be the right decision, because here she is, twenty years later, healthy, vibrant, telling her story.

In the process of dealing with everything you deal with in Cancer World, she found comfort in working with pottery and mosaics, unleashing a talent she never knew she had. How gorgeous are these?

Pollack found mosaics to be a metaphor for life.  She gathered up the shards and created something new and beautiful.

I Never Signed Up for This

She writes,

Life can damage or break what is most beautiful and precious to us, as cancer had blown apart my world. Little by little, I realized I was picking up pieces of broken tile exactly as I was picking up the broken pieces of my life. I learned to see the beauty in the imperfections, as I created mosaic designs out of shattered fragments in all shapes and sizes. Rearranging broken pieces to make something unique, something different, something beautiful in a new way — my art process epitomized the process of resilience.

She found the humorous side of cancer, believe it or not. She was able to speak to large gatherings and make people laugh. She did a TEDx talk, also entitled I Never Signed Up for This.

After a childhood growing up on Miami Beach, graduation from Yale in the first class that included women, and a career as a TV newscaster and writer, Pollack found herself in midlife to be a spokesperson and activist for a cause she never would have chosen.

I Never Signed Up for This

I Never Signed Up for This was a page turner for me. Part memoir, part self-help, funny and engaging, it inspired me to see the glass as half full.

To look for the rainbow.

To live each day with gratitude.

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67 Thoughts on “Book Buzz: I Never Signed Up for This

  1. Helene- sounds like a must read. thanks.

  2. Having just gone through a cancer battle with my BFF–six years long–it’ll be a while until I can read this, but I will!

    • hbludman on January 4, 2016 at 2:46 pm said:

      I am sorry for your loss, Carol. I know you are mourning. My thoughts are with you.

  3. Robin (Masshole Mommy) on January 4, 2016 at 9:01 am said:

    That sounds like it sends a very powerful message. I am adding this to my reading list for sure.

  4. Those are gorgeous mosaics! I love how that became a theme for her and how its incorporated in the subtitle and cover art of her book.

  5. Her talent,her art, her skills are fabulous on all levels!

  6. Wow! Sounds like a most inspiring book. Thank you for sharing, Helene.

  7. Mosaics are gorgeous. I’ve never learned how to do them.
    This book seems like a must-read. My father passed away when I was just a kid and it’s been interesting what I have found comfort in during the years.

  8. I sure hope we never go back to those days, when health issues are a secret and we can’t get the support we need from those we love.This book is so helpful to so many! Clearly, Darryle, took her cancer diagnosis and owned it. She trusted herself to make those painful, but necessary health decisions. She found new beginnings along the way and then generously shared her journey to help others. I love her perspective on life! This is a must read for all of us.

  9. Definitely a must-read, Helene. Thanks for your great review. I’ve downloaded the book on my Kindle.

    P.S. The mosaics are gorgeous.

  10. It sounds like a fascinating book. I lost my father at a very young age and while that was traumatic I still have my mom and I feel as if this would somehow be much, much worse.

    • hbludman on January 4, 2016 at 2:50 pm said:

      It must have been terrible to lose your father when you were young, Rena. I’m so sorry.

  11. Sounds like a powerful story with an important message. I am glad to know of this book, and plan to read it. As a hospice nurse, I can imagine that sharing this story could be therapeutic for some of the families I meet. Thank you!

    • hbludman on January 4, 2016 at 2:51 pm said:

      Oh Angela, yes! You must read it and share it with your patients. And bless you for the work you do.

  12. Darryle is such a wonderful person, and I can’t wait to read this book. I can’t imagine what she went through but I love how she created something beautiful out of tragedy. Those mosaics are stunning.

  13. I love real books like this, they are my favorite reads! Looks like an enjoyable book!

  14. I will have to read it…I know well the phrase “I never signed up for this”…but hey, no one ever does. Life just happens.

  15. This sounds like an amazing book to read. It sounds like is is inspiring and will leave you wanting to read it again.

    • hbludman on January 4, 2016 at 2:53 pm said:

      Seriously, I almost finished it in one sitting. I just could not put it down.

  16. I’ve been an admirer of Darryle’s ever since I “met her online and my admiration grows as I continue to read her book.

    I could have sworn we met a few year ago but her brain is working better than mine and she said no! Somehow I felt we did. Isn’t that funny? Not really, because her strength, determination and generosity of heart makes you feel as if she’s been a dear friend. Her story is a remarkable one and you have done it justice in your review here, Helene. (As always.)

    I love those mosaics. Stunning.

  17. Helene, thanks so much for such a wonderful review!! And huge thanks to all who commented, whether I “know” you or not, I’m so touched. Although I’ve been blogging for a LONG time, It’s been challenging for me to “put myself out there” with a book and to have it received with so much support means a lot to me. Thank you.

    • hbludman on January 4, 2016 at 2:55 pm said:

      Darryle, your story will inspire many. Thank you for taking the plunge and sharing it with the world.

  18. Great review. For sure, Darryle is an inspiration for boomer women.

  19. I’m going to get this book! I know Darryle and she is an amazing person.

  20. I love her work! I’ll have to check her book out for sure. I love the creative energy that exudes from her artwork. I also do mosaic work myself so I can totally appreciate what goes into it. Thanks much for sharing this!

  21. I have lost folks to cancer and this is a book I would like to both read and give as a gift. This sounds very motivational and a reminder to never give up.

  22. My friend received her DX of Stage 4 breast Cancer in July at the age of 45. I think I’ve seen this book in her library. I didn’t know what it was about, but now I want to read it. Wow!

    • hbludman on January 5, 2016 at 9:26 am said:

      If you are looking for a gift for your friend, Milena, I highly recommend this book. I wish her godspeed. Sending positive thoughts.

  23. What a beautiful review! Cancer is not an easy thing to deal with. I love how inspirational you found this book.

    • hbludman on January 5, 2016 at 9:26 am said:

      If I were going through a health crisis like this, I would want to read a book that would give me both comfort and inspire me. This is the one for sure.

  24. Those mosaics are so beautiful and it’s great that she found comfort in producing things that can also help other people.

  25. I’d love to hear more from her point of view. She sounds like a really interesting writer with an important story to tell.

  26. Cancer affects so many people and families. This book would probably really help those who are going through it all. Looks like a great book.

  27. Those mosaics are stunning. It is great how something so hard to cope with can inspire something so amazing.

  28. She sounds amazing and her work is beautiful! Truly bringing beauty from pain. This reminds me of a book I reviewed… The Rules of Inheritance by Claire Bidwell Smith. I highly recommend it!

  29. It does sound like an amazing book. I love that she put the positive in the dark. That is an amazing thing to be able to do.

  30. This book sounds wonderful. I remember those old days when people whispered the word cancer and thought they could catch it. Things are much better now.

  31. That sounds like it sends an amazing message. I am adding this to my list for sure! Love your pictures!

  32. She is so talented and I can’t wait to read her book! I love how the mosaics are metaphor for life, just beautiful all around!

  33. That sounds like an awesome book to read! It has a very powerful message.

  34. Vilma Sceusa on January 14, 2016 at 11:39 am said:

    Great article. Thanks for sharing this story, many women can relate. My mother died of breast cancer in 1975 and I suffered the same experience of being in the dark. I’m putting this book on my list! Your blog is lovely!

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