This is an astonishing memoir about a woman's "enduring" ovarian cancer. That is to say, not a "cure" or even assurance of survival, but author Susan Gubar agreed to undergo a radical, surgically difficult treatment for ovarian cancer, and she's also a fantastic writer. So not only does she share her experience, she is able to write poignantly and meaningfully about going through absolute hell to survive one of the more difficult types of cancer.
I personally was unfamiliar with "debulking"--having had studied some aspects of oncology as part of my graduate work in immunology years ago, I had become familiar with many of the new treatments (Whipple surgery for pancreatic cancer, seeding prostate cancers, lumpectomies, etc) but had NOT heard about this method of dealing with one of the worst of women's cancers. In general, only about 50 percent of ALL ovarian cancer patients are alive after five years (including early and late detection) as compared to breast cancer patients who have over all an almost 90 percent five year survival statistic. Part of the issue is that breast cancer has early detection methods (self-exam, mammography, ultrasound) and ovarian cancer is silent except for vague symptoms that mimic other things (bloating, pelvic pain, or--sometimes, nothing at all until it's into late stages.) And there are far more chemotherapeutic drugs for breast cancer than for ovarian at this point.
Debulking is the removal of affected organs, whatever can be spared, from the abdomen. In other words, it's major, potentially fatal surgery that tries to physically remove as much of tumor-ridden tissue as possible, removing the load so chemotherapy can work on the remainder, that is, if the type of ovarian cancer is the type that is sensitive to chemotherapy drugs (some sadly are not responsive.)
The author goes over the whys and wherefores of this surgery, which is not for everyone, what happened to her, and goes into not only the medical aspects but her personal story, which is important for any reader. A good part of survival of any disease is attitude and hope, and she gives us a good insight into her own mental state.
This is a fearful and yet inspiring story and though it's hard to read sometimes (because of the sheer awfulness of what happens) it is a very valuable memoir of one woman's journey to survive a terrible disease.