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Home / Books / Naked Imperfection by Gillian Deacon (Penguin, $20)

Naked Imperfection by Gillian Deacon (Penguin, $20)


By: Stuart Nulman

Five years ago, writer/broadcaster Gillian Deacon was the picture of health.

Deacon, who started her broadcasting career at CBC Montreal as an entertainment reporter for “Citybeat”, established herself as an award-winning environmental reporter on the Discovery Channel and as host of “Here and Now” on CBC Radio in Toronto. Her commitment to living a fully healthy and environmentally friendly lifestyle extended to eating wholly organic foods, exercise, driving to work on a bicycle, dedicating herself to reducing, reusing and recycling, using environmentally friendly products and eschewing the use of chemicals in every day life as much as possible, in which her husband and three sons echoed as well.

That all came crashing down when she discovered a lump on her left breast following a trip to the Amazon. After tests and a biopsy, Deacon was diagnosed with breast cancer, and had to undergo surgery in which she lost her left breast and underwent a battery of radiation treatments. At first, she wondered why after living what she thought was a thoroughly healthy lifestyle that she contracted the dreaded disease, and others who practiced the exact opposite ended up not having to live through such a life altering – and threatening — ordeal?

These are the issues that she physically and emotionally tackles in her searing memoir Naked Imperfection.

With a great deal of raw emotion, humour and insight, Deacon takes the reader for the rollercoaster that is being a cancer patient. We feel the loneliness, pain and fear she endures as she undergoes the harrowing medical processes, such as the biopsy, the surgery and the radiation treatments that leave her feeling as if she was being roasted in an oven.

However, we also witness Deacon’s unique way of battling the psychological and physical side effects of her cancer treatment, from eating certain types of raw produce, to drinking wild organic concoctions, to attending Quaker church services, to giving herself a close cropped haircut to offset the side effects of chemotherapy (which she ends up not having to go through) to finding as many symbolic meanings towards an optimistic ending that would leave her cancer free much sooner. But we also see Deacon as the serious student of cancer, who gets as much information as possible to better understand the medical nature of the disease that is threatening to end her life much too soon.

Throughout all of this, Deacon has never lost her sense of humour (especially when she plays “Cancer Centre Waiting Room Math” during her treatment stage), and her sense of determination to beat the disease, and especially her sense of introspection on the state of the planet where she lives, and her ongoing battle to make sure its environment is preserved and its people can be less dependent on chemicals and toxins.

Naked Imperfection is a cancer survivor memoir that doesn’t have to rely on the pity and sympathy of the reader. Instead, it relies on the growing admiration we have for Gillian Deacon for facing her battle with breast cancer with plenty of realism, sheer gutsiness, a sense of humour and appreciation, and a strengthening resolve towards returning to a normal life. You may shed a tear or two, but after reading this book, you end up cheering to how she stood up to cancer and didn’t allow the disease to overtake her. This show of physical and mental strength is best exemplified by the following statement she wrote later in the book:

“A cancer diagnosis is a searing hot poker; pesky, flimsy demands on one’s time instantly wither and recede. It provides burning clarity on what matters and what doesn’t. It knocks a showy to-do list down to a single priority: Stay. The F—. Alive.”

Stuart Nulman’s “Book Banter” segment is a twice-a-month feature on “The Stuph File Program” with Peter Anthony Holder, which now has almost 150,000 listeners per week. You can either listen or download it at www.peteranthonyholder.com, Stitcher.com or subscribe to it on iTunes.  Plus you can find it at www.CyberStationUSA.com, www.KDXradio.com, True Talk Radio, streaming on www.PCJMedia.com, and over the air at World FM 88.2fm in New Zealand, Media Corp in Singapore and WSTJ, St. Johnsbury, Vermont. Stuart can be reached at bookbanter@hotmail.com.

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