When My World Was Very Small
A Memoir of Family, Food, Cancer and My Couch
By Ruth Rakoff
(Random House Canada, Hardcover, 9780307358172, 224pp.)
Publication Date: September 28, 2010
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In the whirlwind of life with three young sons, an active member in her tight-knit community, Ruth Rakoff felt in supreme control of her wide world. But when a routine mammogram revealed a tumor, that world rapidly shrunk down to the size of one breast.
And so begins the journey of biopsy, surgery, chemotherapy, all accompanied by tidal waves of anxiety and grief: how to tell the children? Should she consider having a healthy breast removed, in case the cancer returns? Will food ever taste good again? Amid all the worry and change, there is also overwhelming gratitude for a stalwart network of family and friends who strive to help and support, to comfort and delight — even as everyone longs for the old normal of daily life.
Through stories, confessions and anecdotes, Ruth Rakoff shows just what is at stake when cancer shows up at the party uninvited. There is no sugarcoating of either the physical or emotional pain of dealing with the disease or the effects of the poisons used to combat it. But for Rakoff, a life without laughter is not worth living. Brazen and irreverent, Ruth tells us that socks, no matter how luxurious, are not a cancer present. That no number of crystal-waving shamans can beat the healing power of good food, good friends and a raucous night on the town. And that just because you have cancer, you don’t have to be a better person.
Far more than just a recounting of disease and recovery, When My World Was Very Small is an intimate, colorful, one-of-a-kind memoir that celebrates life, love and family.
RUTH RAKOFF was born in Montreal. She has had many careers, filled countless volunteer roles and dabbled in many of the arts. Currently she is working on her first novel. She lives in Toronto, where she cooks dinner every night for her husband and three sons.
"Laughter and crying are known to be close cousins, but Ruth Rakoff turns them into conjoined twins. Candid, harrowing and hilarious, When My World Was Very Small is a remarkable account of one woman’s cancer journey, and a powerful love letter to the family and friends who accompanied her."
— Bill Richardson, author of Old Father William’s Well-Ordered Universe
"Ruth Rakoff’s courage, understanding and humour is on every page of this brilliant account of her journey through Cancerland. Although it’s devastating to realize how fast your world can change, it is remarkable to see how community, friendship and the love of family can help pull you through."
— Bonnie Stern, author of Friday Night Dinners
"I just adored, loved, devoured this book. Ruth Rakoff pulls you in with her brilliant, deliciously precise evocation of her sensory experience: as her interior world grows smaller and darker, her kaleidoscopic exterior world grows larger and brighter. She has guts, she has humor rivaling a Tina Fey or a cleaner Sarah Silverman, and the richness of her storytelling made me long for her next book."
— Judith Thompson, playwright, O.O.C., author of The Crackwalker and Palace of the End
“A colourful memoir. . . . Read and share this empowering story.”
— Guelph Mercury
“[Rakoff] . . . shoots from the heart. Are parts of the book dark and sad? Absolutely. But this is more than an illness memoir. The writer weaves her past, skillfully and harmoniously, in with her present so that we get a sense of the whole person—not just the sick person.”
— The Gazette