From a woman who’s made her living researching breast cancer—and who lived through it herself—a personal yet practical guide to the medical and emotional facets of this life-changing diagnosis
A leading oncologist at the University of California San Francisco, Dr. Pamela Munster has advised thousands of women on how to cope with the realities of breast cancer, from diagnosis through treatment and recovery. But her world turned upside down when, at forty-eight years old and in otherwise perfect health, she got a call saying that her own mammogram showed “irregularities.” That single word thrust her into a wholly new role—as patient, and not only that of cancer but of the feared BRCA gene mutation as well. Suddenly, she realized that being a true “expert” in a disease was far beyond the scope of her medical training, and that she had a lot to learn if she wanted to hold onto her precious life.
Weaving together her personal story with groundbreaking research on BRCA—responsible for breast cancer and many other inherited cancers affecting both women and men—Twisting Fate is an inspiring guide to living with the uncertainties of cancer. With authority, insight, and compassion, Dr. Munster uses her voice to create a safe space for genuine healing and honesty in a world otherwise too-often dominated by fear—and she is living proof of how important it is to embrace all the twists and turns of fate.
Munster, a San Francisco oncologist and researcher specializing in advanced cancer and BRCA gene mutations, lays out her own struggle with breast cancer in this intense and informative memoir. At age 48, Munster, a married mother of three, sensed something was not right with her body and decided to have a mammogram. Her hunch was spot on; the mammogram revealed several early-stage tumors. Because of the tumors' multiple locations, Munster underwent a double mastectomy. Three months later, prompted by suspicious-looking pathology slides, she pursued genetic testing and discovered that she carried the BRCA2 gene mutation, which increased her chances for ovarian cancer (at first "I refused to fathom that my type of... cancer looked just like the in situ ovarian cancer found in BRCA mutation carriers"). Along with her own story, Munster shares the challenges of her patients, among them a young woman with breast cancer whose father asked how she'd find someone to love her after a double mastectomy. Having studied cancer for 20 years, Munster still marvels at the progress of medicine in her field, such as women who test positive for the BRCA mutation being able to avoid ovarian cancer by having their ovaries removed. Told from the unique perspective of a compassionate physician being treated for the very disease she has spent her life treating, this medical narrative is utterly engrossing.