October 2nd 2012 is a day Lisa Primrose will never forget, because, on that Tuesday morning, she was diagnosed with rectal carcinoma.

Throughout You Just Hear That Word Cancer and you just can’t take it, Lisa Primrose candidly tells us of her dark moments, of her “incomprehensible shock and untold grief,” but counterbalances this with regular reinforcing messages. What she says at the end of the very first section largely sets the tone for the rest of the book, “I am determined to beat this.”

Primrose’s book takes the form of diary entries throughout this trying time in her life, a time that sees her suffering through constant pain, waves of exhaustion, and degrading moments of bodily malfunction. Because the book is written directly from her own perspective, and in her own vernacular, one immediately feels close to her. Her honesty is staggering, and I found myself feeling saddened by her situation in the difficult moments, but also relieved when she drew upon her sources of comfort; her husband, her friends, and the health care professionals working with her.

For me, the diary takes on a poetic quality as the various repetitions build upon each other. The frequent mentions of “rectal carcinoma”, “treatment,” or putting on her “coupons” underscore not just how a brutal, persistent illness took over her life, but also her deep strength in choosing to look towards recovery, and carry on her daily life in the meantime.

There is an interesting sense of flow throughout You Just Hear That Word Cancer. On a good day, entries in her diary are usually longer, and more detailed. On a bad day, they tend to be shorter, more clipped, and you get feeling that the way they would be read out is through gritted teeth. Throughout her treatment time, some of the entries are single lines, and it is enough that she has confirmed her attendance. This altersthe pace of the reading – getting quicker and quicker, like we have gone down a slide – until we reach the conclusion.

There’s no question that I’d recommend You Just Hear That Word Cancer. More than a mere ‘feel good story’, Primrose educates us. In a life that illness tried to weaken, we are shown that we are innately powerful if we focus on what we can change: our reactions. In that sense, it is an accessible manual for how we, too, may look at things and act when we find our going getting tougher, or, heaven forbid, diagnosed with that word cancer.

Review by Martin Palmer