Monique Muro

When Words Heal: A Writer’s Cancer Journey Reviewed

One in eight women are diagnosed with breast cancer, an achingly common statistic Diana M. Raab, writer, nurse, and breast cancer survivor, will never forget. In her emotionally charged memoir, “Healing with Words: A Writer’s Cancer Journey”, Raab tells the story of her life-altering brush with breast cancer at the age of forty-seven, with absolutely no recorded history of it in her family.

As more and more people become aware of the growing regularity of this disease, be it cancer in the pancreas, prostate, or lungs, we can’t imagine the agony of the sufferer unless we witness it, either first hand, or in the once-healthy body of a loved one.

Raab delivers the sheer agony of breast cancer discovery with a level of acuity both gratifying to the reader, and easily graspable. She simplifies confusing medical jargon the best way she was able to understand it at the time of her diagnosis, and instills a tremendous amount of sympathy in her audience during her mastectomy recovery. The most poignant of these is the moment she writes of the harrowing discomfort of having her breast replacement tattoed to look real by a robotic, mostly unsympathetic nurse. It’s the moment in the book every woman will likely shudder at, not just for the needle involved, but for the despair of recreating the most natural part of being a woman. What Raab brings to the table from a non-fiction standpoint is truth, a disease that has remained stubbornly faceless for as long as it’s existed, one that Raab effectively brings to the fore. With a writing style both real and effective, Raab details her cancer journey  from the very first time she returned to the doctor’s office on that fateful day when her mammary test became suspect, to the removal of a breast, the staple of womanhood.

Scattered throughout the book are bits of poetry by Raab, quotes, diary entries, and blank sections in which breast cancer survivors, and/or anyone in a smilar battle, can jot down their thoughts and share in overcoming. Towards the end of her recovery, Raab shares of her attempts at holistic healing practices, and medication to eliminate the bouts of depression that eventually left her reaching for anti-depressants with reeling side effects.

The road to Raab’s recovery was long, having backslid from living life to the fullest some days, to feeling nothing but exasperation and defeat on others, shaking up her relationship with family and friends.

Eventually, she was able to bounce back with the help of her writing. The daily outpourings of grief and affliction relieved Raab from her own inner torment, bringing forth a terrifically uplifting novel and a tremendously inspiring woman, who will no doubt bring solace to the thousands of sufferers and survivors touched by this unfathomable ill.

You can find interviews, links, and more of Raab’s work at

  1. Thank you, One Book Bum for the review of Healing With Words. It was a great review.

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