Welcome to the comments and discussion of the Young Adult Cancer Book Club! We are reading Everything Happens for a Reason and Other Lies I’ve Loved by Kate Bowler. Catch up on Chapter 1.
Let’s get started!
Chapter 2: Object Lesson
Commentary by Xenia R.:
This chapter begins with Kate sharing with the reader an earlier life event when her “body failed her.” She goes on to describe how her arms stopped working, became numb, and were unable to perform the simplest of tasks when she was 28 while working on her dissertation. “Life had become an obstacle course of things to be overcome to the sound of a ticking clock.”
Completing her dissertation meant that Kate had to visit various churches where spiritual healings would be taking place and she would become the main attraction. The church leaders would usher her into a room and ask her questions trying to figure out why this had happened to her. She was viewed as a puzzle that needed to be solved.
Kate was also visiting doctors to figure out the cause of this paralysis, 35 doctors in six months. The anecdote she shares is of how a pair of doctors assumed the cause of her issue was being large chested and doing a lot of yoga, even though Kate informed them she does not partake in yoga.
The chapter continues with Kate sharing that she had to move back to her parents so that they could help her complete her dissertation by typing her dictation. You can’t help but grin when she describes spending hours watching Law and Order episodes and eating Chinese take-out (we’ve all been there).
In the closing pages of the chapter Karen shares the details of another doctor’s visit, his rationale was that everything was in her head and she was referred to psychiatry. Her reaction was to call her friend, Chelsea, whom she had grown up with. “We both grew up with unlimited hope that life was fair. But that confidence to crumble in our hands as our twenties wore on.” Karen continues to write that “spiritual law offers an elegant solution to the problems of unfairness.”
The chapter ends with Karen describing her “endless cycle of hope and disappointment” being admitted to the hospital for surgery only to find out that she was pregnant. Both she and her husband were elated, however, within a few hours she was sobbing in her husband’s arms on the floor of the bathroom having miscarried the baby.
Commentary by Mariel N.:
Chapter 2, Object Lesson, gives us more background on the author’s past and how her “body has failed her before.” A statement that I have felt and said many times before, as well. The chapter, though, feels like not only has her body failed her but also the doctors were failing her and the gospel.
As she loses the ability to use her arms while writing her dissertation, she fights for medical help while doctors have difficulty finding a diagnosis. She advocates for herself by seeing doctor after doctor and demanding testing to be done. And after all of that, the last doctor diagnosed her with a psychosomatic disorder, which infuriated her. I can relate to her frustration and feeling like doctors are letting you down because before I was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 28, several doctors insisted I was too young to have breast cancer and gave other preliminary diagnoses. Some doctors didn’t even think I needed further testing.
She discusses the prosperity gospel and how people use proof to show their lives are successful and moving in a positive direction. But what does it mean then when you get a serious medical condition? The prosperity gospel also has a set of God’s principles and rules that should be followed. These give a cause and effect and answer any question of the fairness of life. If something bad happens, then you must have not followed the rules. As a cancer survivor, this thought process is difficult for me to follow. This suggests that getting cancer is due to something I have done or in response to another action. For me, this thought has crossed my mind but it creates a greater sense of anxiety moving forward. I do see how this can give an explanation to experiencing a terrible event. It gives reason to a very unfair situation. However, do I now move through life questioning everything that I do because it may cause a terrible effect?
The chapter ends with the author, Kate, going through another tragedy, a miscarriage. Her body had failed her once again. We know from the first chapter that she has a son, so that gives me hope that she was able to get through this tragic time. I’m looking forward to continuing to read and to see how these life and health events affect her views on the gospel, the prosperity gospel, and how she handles “everything happens for a reason”.
Commentary by Lauren W.:
“I was sad and angry in equal measure most of the time” I’m not sure anything quite sums up a cancer diagnosis quite like that sentence. And Kate wasn’t even talking about cancer in this case – it was about the unexplainable occasional loss of mobility in her arms, years before her cancer diagnosis. Most of the chapter is spent on the consequences of that loss of mobility – unable to shake hands, having to move home with her parents, an endless stream of doctors who can’t figure it out (and won’t take the time to).
10 years out from my own cancer diagnosis, I still get hit by the sad and angry. When I think about whether or not I’ll ever be able to have kids. When I look down at the zipper scar running down the center of my stomach. When I overreact to basic health things because I’m terrified that once again it’s going to be cancer. And that’s not fair. It’s also why I really related to Kate (and her best friend’s) loss of the “unlimited hope that life was fair.” Because I truly haven’t thought that in over a decade.
One of the most interesting parts of Chapter 2: Object Lesson for me was the intersection of Kate’s research into the prosperity gospel and her real-life interaction with it. The dissidence between what the prosperity gospel is about – healing through prayer – and not being able to find an answer to heal what was happening. The back and forth between her research and her life is engaging – I’m always waiting to see how this ties back into what’s going on with her.
Join in next Monday for the comments and discussion on Chapter 3: Magic Tricks!
Thanks for joining us for Chapter 2: Object Lesson of Everything Happens for a Reason and Other Lies I’ve Loved by Kate Bowler! Join in next Monday for the next chapter!
We will talk about a few chapters each Monday until the book is done. If Monday happens to be a holiday, then the post will publish on Tuesday. Once we finish the book, we’ll use one more Monday to talk about general feelings from the book and anything else you’d like to discuss. We’ll also have a video chat book club discussion at the end! Join in, in the comments every week! Also, there will probably be spoilers so read along with us!
Excited about the young adult cancer book club? Have any suggestions for future reads? Let us know!