Shormistha Mukherjee’s book strikes a chord

Shormistha Mukherjee
| Photo Credit: Special arrangement

There’s nothing funny about cancer yet you cannot help but grin while reading Shormistha Mukherjee’s book Cancer, you picked the wrong girl – a true story. The author shares her “no-holds-barred account of her journey navigating a breast cancer diagnosis and treatment”. Despite knowing what is coming, the part where the author gets her tests done and goes to collect her reports sets your heart pounding. Shormistha’s story could be the story of thousands of women in similar situations. What makes the book endearing and unputdownable is the candour with which she tells a story laced with humour and a bit of wackiness.

Shormistha’s true story

Shormistha’s true story
| Photo Credit:
Special arrangement

Her musings vary from mundane to melodrama; her thoughts wander from wondering who gets to decide which channel to play on TV in the hospital waiting room to comparing getting an appointment with a doctor to finding a matching blouse for a sari. At the chemotherapy bed, she eyes the kidney tray to tell herself, “What lovely, shiny katoris. Perfect for dahi’!! and she calls the Red Devil, Rooh Afza!

Write way

Co-founder of Flying Cursor Interactive, a digital agency in Mumbai, a blogger since 2006 Shormistha has also written a series of short stories. Cancer, You picked... is her first book. “When I was diagnosed with cancer, blogging sometimes helped me deal with the anxiety,” she shares with us over the phone from Mumbai.

A couple of publishing editors approached her with a request to write a book. “When they asked, I was undergoing treatment. I was thinking about myself. I never said no. I always knew there would be merit in writing a book like this because there was nothing on this conversation; it is a silent topic. I was not in a state to commit to anything. So I told them that once the treatment is over, I’ll be in a better place to take a call.”

Shormistha was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018 and her treatment, which included 16 rounds of chemo and 20 rounds of radiation, ended in 2019. “I told my publisher (Harper Collins) that I want to live my life and feel everything again like walking into the auto, cafes, meeting friends, going to the office…I want to savour every moment. They were kind and said okay. I started writing the book in 2020 and it took about six months.”

Of experiences

Shormistha says that her book is not a self-help manual, nor are there any tips. “I am not an oncologist and cannot give tips. I was aware that that part is to be left to the doctors. Also, this is not an inspirational or motivational book either. The book is only about my experience, and in that, if you find comfort and find something to hold on to, then that’s fine. It is just my story.”

Shormistha decided that she’ll write this book the way she wants to. “I discussed this with my publishers. This book is going to be the most honest version of what I went through. That means it will include a lot of things that people won’t talk about, whether it is menopause, mastectomy, nipple removing, constipation… it is such a large part of what happened to me, how could I gloss over it? I would be so jealous of my friends.. they are all going out and having their life… and I was not proud of myself and was not judging myself… but I want to include this in the book. In that sense, I knew they (publishers) were giving me a free hand.”

Reliving the time

When Shormistha started writing, she knew it would be hard but it also meant coming to terms with it. “Lots of times, we go through something life-altering but are too busy to focus at that time and don’t process everything. You are going through this because this is what needs to be done. You have to relate to it and reflect on it to write about it later… it is no longer impending doom. There were times when it was difficult and sometimes, overwhelming.”

Would she advise more cancer survivors to talk about their experiences? “The responsibility of getting more people to talk about it does not lie only with the cancer patient. It lies with every single person, even those who never had cancer. People don’t want to talk and live in denial. it is such a widespread disease, there’s no harm in discussing and in knowing what it is like for those who are going through it and understanding what medical science says and research. By talking about it you are not going to get it,” she laughs.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *