twelve weeks

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Discussion Questions

1. Distraught about having to tell her daughter of her cancer diagnosis, the author seeks guidance from a therapist who specializes in adolescents.  How does the author react to his advice? Do you agree or disagree? If you were in a similar situation, what might you do?

As for the advice the Dana-Farber psychiatrist gave the author, do you agree or disagree?

2. The author's doctor refers to her as his "flagship." Why do you think he says this? What does the author do to become the flagship and how does she stay in that role?

3. The author uses health food, creative visualization and singing bowls as techniques for combating cancer. Some of these techniques could be used for other health problems. Think of a health problem that you would like to address and imagine exactly how you would do it, using some or all of the author's techniques.

4. What role do you think alternative medicine had in the author's successful outcome?

5. This book is written from the perspective of an artist, with many illustrations to help explain the artist's experience of cancer. Find an artwork in the book that expresses to you what the author went through during this journey. What aspects of the painting or sculpture make you feel that way?

6. Knowing that the author was counseled to drink Gatorade-like drinks while she was fighting cancer, what do you think she is saying in the artwork on the back cover?

7. Why do you think the author chose the sculpture for the front cover? What does the yardstick, with the frail threads and the colored, oddly-shaped balls remind you of in relation to the author's treatment?

8. Find a drawing or painting that looks like an interior body part. What aspects of the image make it look this way? Do you think the art helps our understanding of cancer and its hidden origins?

9. Track the author's emotions through her journey. Do some surprise you? Are there some you might share?

10. In your opinion, does the author maintain a consistent self-image? What role do mirrors play in the story, and in some of the art?

11. Considering how private the author is, as we learn from reading the book, are you surprised she choose to write the book as a first person memoir?

12. On the subject of point of view, how would this book have looked if the author had written it from the third person point of view? Is the book more successful as autobiography, rather than as a more removed narration? Do you think the book was harder for the author to write from the first person perspective?