A Bend in the Road: A Year’s Journey through Breast Cancer, by Karen Kelly Boyce

bend in road cover

The author reminds us that we all share a terminal condition: life. Sooner or later it will end. A diagnosis of cancer suggests a sooner rather than a later demise. If not fatal, cancer certainly raises the specter of a war within our bodies between an invasive malignancy and the shock and awe of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Although we may never face cancer in any of its terrible forms, we should prepare ourselves.

When tragedy enters our lives, we often look for a guide: someone who knows the way, someone who has already experienced that same tragedy and has survived. Karen Kelly Boyce witnessed the effects of neoplasia during her a nursing career and in her personal encounter with breast cancer. As a writer, she logged her journey and now offers her thoughtful and practical insights. It is evident to the reader that Karen is a down-to-earth and well-informed friend — a person that cancer a patient would welcome at her side during a tragedy. Her guidebook, although intended for those afflicted with breast cancer, supports all who suffer from cancer and the struggles of life itself.

The author’s style reminds me of Erma Bombeck, a writer and humorist who also logged her experiences with breast cancer. Karen Boyce spices her chapters with irony, humor and joy, but never trivializes the plight of cancer patients. She describes life before her diagnosis, shedding light on choices that might have contributed to her illness. She recounts the trauma of discovery, explains her opinions about doctors and treatments, details the facts about side effects, complications and the eventual life-altering decisions she faced.

As both a nurse and writer, Boyce summarizes her extensive research into breast cancer, its causes and prevention. She offers comfort to cancer sufferers through her strategies that enlist every spiritual, psychological, intellectual and community resource available to a patient. Her book includes a series of recipes for healthy living that focus on cancer prevention. She offers meditations, she’s written, that place cancer and its consequences in a spiritual perspective.

Look for these gems as you walk with Karen Kelly Boyce around A Bend in the Road: A Year’s Journey through Breast Cancer:

  • How do the most profound morsels of human wisdom sometimes roll out of a gum-ball machine?
  • How can optimism extend life, even in the terminally ill?
  • How is joy far better and more durable than happiness?
  • How does humility lead to gratitude, faith, peace, joy and true self-esteem?
  • What happens seventeen days after the first chemotherapy session, and how can you prepare for it?
  • How does chemotherapy help you make friends?
  • What perils plague professional survivors?
  • Why it’s important for a patient to have someone like Karen Kelly Boyce at her/his side when talking to a doctor about cancer therapy?
  • What is the “leash method” of successful weight loss?
  • How one can sensibly and effectively change dietary habits?
  • How can meditation help both believers and non-believers?

The answers to these and many other questions await in A Bend in the Road: A Year’s Journey through Breast Cancer, by Karen Kelly Boyce.


Sisters of the Last Straw: The Case of the Missing Novice, by Karen Kelly Boyce

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A caricature can reveal more truth than a photograph. The Sisters of the Last Straw, reminiscent of the antics of Don Camillo in the stories by Giovannino Guareschi (1908-68), were in fact human. Thank God. Each had her own “fault,” be it a temper, an obsession or an addiction. Each nun had received her walking papers from at least one other congregation. Once they banded together, they formed an abrasive but loving community, a spiritual sandpaper rubbing their souls smooth and perfect.

The fragile tranquility of the community shattered over the presence of a dog, its puddles and plies, and its need for a home, anyplace but in the convent. The difficulties expand beyond the sacred enclosure to the neighborhood and the downtown area leading to the subsequent loss of Novice Kathy. The bumbling sorority’s attempts at untying the knots in the story-line, only tangled them further as the dog-sitting sisters prayed for the safety of their youngest member.

Although Sisters of the Last Straw fits into the category of juvenile fiction, for 6-12 year old readers, the chapters could serve as case histories used in community development workshops and retreats for religious congregations. Spiritual growth often depends on the establishment and growth of a peaceful living environment. Even saints sometimes wanted to brain a confrere. These good sisters, with all their faults were easy to love. They served as examples of humility. One of their greatest virtues was their ability to laugh at themselves, forgive and move on to the next disaster.

I treasure this gift to all of us from Karen Kelly Boyce and look forward to the next misadventure of the Sisters of the Last Straw.

Boyce, Karen Kelly. Sisters of the Last Straw: The Case of the Missing Novice. New Egypt, NJ: KFR Communications, LLC. 2013. www.chestertonpress.com