In Better Off Bald: A Life in 147 Days, Andrea Wilson Woods provides a beautifully written personal, powerful, and unvarnished rendering of the story of her sister Adrienne’s diagnosis of advanced liver cancer at age fifteen and their lives together during the subsequent months of Adrienne’s life. Primary liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma) is considered to be uniformly fatal, insidious in its development, aggressive in its progression, and typically resistant to conventional therapeutic interventions. Adrienne’s story might be viewed as characteristic for this disease, at least from a clinical perspective—she was diagnosed, treated, and eventually succumbed. However, Adrienne was an exceptional young woman, strong in her resolve, who refused to stop living her life despite a relentless disease and an extremely poor prognosis. Adrienne’s story is one that we all need to hear. It shows the shock and fear that comes with a completely unexpected diagnosis, the frustration of navigating the medical world of hospitals, physicians, and tests, and the physical exhaustion that comes with aggressive treatment. This memoir reminds us that there is an urgent need for the biomedical research community to redouble efforts towards a more complete elucidation of the pathogenesis of liver cancer and the development [of] new therapeutic approaches. Ultimately, this memoir is the story of two strong women—Andrea and Adrienne. Like so many cancer patient caregivers, Andrea was not merely a witness to Adrienne’s disease; she was a deeply committed, present, and caring participant in Adrienne’s life, before and after her cancer diagnosis. It is clear that the fierce, vivacious, remarkable young woman that Adrienne became reflects the character and strong example of her sister Andrea. I regret that I did not have the good fortune to meet Adrienne in life, but I am blessed to have read her story in the pages of this book, and will benefit from her example as I strive to live life fully and completely for the rest of my days.
A family member of a patient with liver cancer reflected one day in clinic on the patient’s symptoms and her concerns. This family member is right. I don’t. One can never understand the pains of a patient and loved ones going through hepatitis-related liver cancer. Andrea’s living and sharing with us her sister’s illness and their agony are a teaching lesson for all of us. It is a wake-up call for us to value what we have, and not to meddle with drugs. And if one is to have cancer, we’ve got to keep hope. I always said to Andrea, who serves as one of the patient advocates of the National Cancer Institute Liver and Bile Ducts Cancers that I chair: ‘Through your work and dedication, Adrienne never died.’ And now Andrea, through your book, Adrienne is alive in all of us.
An awe-inspiring, bare-all account of sisters Andrea and Adrienne Wilson’s five-month journey after Adrienne is diagnosed with—and dies from—liver cancer at age fifteen. Intertwined throughout are anecdotes that explain Andrea’s obligatory “parent” role, the evolution of their supranormal sibling bond, and how this dual dynamic helped them navigate that journey. Despite the outcome, Adrienne beat liver cancer; Andrea tells us how her hero did just that.
Better Off Bald: A Life in 147 Days is a phenomenal depiction of the shock, horror, realities, and the humanity of a cancer diagnosis and battle. Andrea Wilson Woods’ depiction of her sister’s battle with liver cancer is both heart-wrenching and warming. As the mom of a stage IV brain cancer survivor, it was hard for me to read because it brought back so many of the emotions I experienced on our own journey. It was striking to see so many similarities, including moments of frustration, fear, love, and exquisite human tenderness. Andrea is as brave as her sister, Adrienne, for sharing their story with such honesty and for her tireless devotion to helping liver cancer patients. Grab a tissue …
This exceptional memoir presents a poignant, touching, heart-wrenching and heart-warming recounting of the author’s experience caring for her younger sister Adrienne, who is tragically diagnosed with liver cancer at the age of fifteen. Andrea’s prose is clear, the story gripping, and the issues relevant for all who have or will experience the catastrophic illness of a loved one. Andrea’s story of her sister and her family’s journey is one of courage and commitment, told with love and honesty. Adrienne’s story challenges and inspires us, but also highlights the major global health burden due to chronic viral hepatitis—which now causes more deaths than tuberculosis, HIV, or malaria—often of young people in the prime of their lives, and is one of the unrecognized scourges of our time. Andrea now commits a major proportion of her time in advocacy to prevent and improve treatments for viral hepatitis and liver cancer. I trust that this book will provide a realistic window into the life of a family battling one of the major health problems of our time, provide comfort and hope for those who face this unwanted intrusion in their lives, and encourage us all to support individuals, families, and communities facing the devastating effects of viral hepatitis and liver cancer. The book will hopefully motivate us to support affected persons, and also advocate for improvements in health policy that will lead to better screening for hepatitis and early-stage cancer and improved treatments to help eliminate these now completely preventable illnesses.
Andrea tells an extraordinary story of courage and persistence important for all patients with liver and other cancers to read. Her strength and hope continue in her perpetual fight against the disease as a tireless advocate for others facing the same devastating diagnosis.
Better Off Bald is a raw story about two sisters, one a teenager and the other barely an adult, facing cancer. Andrea Wilson Woods works hard to be the grown-up and a mother to her younger sister, Adrienne, when the diagnosis of cancer crashes down on them. Read this book to learn what goes on in the minds of patients fighting cancer. Ms. Wilson Woods holds nothing back and delivers a story that at times feels like you are on a roller coaster ride with these two sisters as they try to stay on track with life. Better Off Bald will jolt you emotionally and hopefully inspire all medical professionals to do a little better, and all patients to fight a little harder.
Better Off Bald is the beautiful and painful true story of how the author lovingly shepherds her sister Adrienne through diagnosis and treatment of advanced liver cancer, striking at far too young an age. I wish for every doctor and medical trainee to read this book. Andrea Wilson Woods’ words bring to vivid life both the devastation—as well as moments of joy—that flooded these sisters’ lives as they navigated the medical system, faced cancer, experienced suffering and courage, and held fast to each other.
The hero of this story—15-year-old Adrienne Wilson—shows incredible strength and courage as she faces a diagnosis of advanced hepatocellular carcinoma with her older sister and guardian Andrea by her side.
This was a beautiful and poignant story, one that had me on the verge of tears from the moment I started reading. Andrea and Adrienne had such a special connection that became even more solid as they spent more time together. Adrienne showed strength and determination that I don’t think many of us have. Her zest for life, her sassy yet endearing personality, and her simple needs made her a standout person. I truly believe that Andrea was able to learn so much from her 15-year-old sister who lived her life the way she wanted to and wasn’t apologetic about it. This is an emotional read, one that told me a brilliant story while making me feel like a part of it. Kudos to the author!