A White Rock woman who faced triple-negative breast cancer has chronicled the experience in a memoir to show “how adversity can transform a person into a warrior with a new and grateful perspective.”
Anne Kristiansen further describes her Angel in the Marble book as a “punchy” read, one she hopes will be “that friend on your nightstand who’s been through it,” for others who find themselves facing a similar battle.
It was something that was lacking through her own journey, she told Peace Arch News.
“I found that the literature was either extremely medical – which was really sterile – or it was sort of, a little bit fluffy,” she said.
With Angel in the Marble, “you can read it from the perspective of, ‘hey, I’ve been there, I get what you’re going through.’”
Kristiansen’s journey began nearly five years ago, with a diagnosis at the end of 2016 that rocketed her into a year of chaos.
“Pretty quickly, within a few weeks, I was in surgery and had a mastectomy, then started chemotherapy for six months – it was awful – and then had to have another mastectomy, just as a precaution, and then all kinds of things went wrong with that,” she explained.
“So, there were five surgeries in all. It was just gruelling… incredibly intense.”
Interestingly, Kristiansen in no way fits the bill for a triple-negative breast cancer diagnosis. The less common yet more aggressive form of the disease is typically diagnosed in women who are in their forties to early-fifties and are either Hispanic or Black, she said.
In addition to having no family history of the disease, the mother of three daughters has “Caucasian, British, Irish, Scottish background, and I was almost 60 when I got it.”
She’s since learned of a 37-year-old friend of one of her daughter’s who went through it, however, so “there’s something else going on,” she said, explaining her plan to donate a portion of proceeds from her memoir’s sales specifically to research into triple-negative breast cancer.
Kristiansen said Angel in the Marble evolved from a blog she kept as she navigated her battle. It gives the book a sense of immediacy, she said, “taking you through the moment.”
“I like the kind of raw energy that I brought to it,” she said. “I was swearing a lot, and that’s in the book. You don’t tend to see that in breast-cancer stories. Mine’s a little edgy, more raw.”
The title she chose was not random, and references Renaissance artist Michelangelo’s comment on his Statue of David sculpture, which the Italian great carved from a 20-foot slab of marble.
“You really can’t depend on society for defining your identity,” Kristiansen explained. “You can’t depend on your family, anything. You have to pick that within yourself.
“No matter what life throws at you, you have to create your own strength and own identity and that will give you freedom. And that’s where the term ‘the angel in the marble’ comes from; where Michelangelo said he carved the angel in the marble until he set it free.
“And that’s the whole thing – you’re carved and shaped and changed and everything, but that’s also a way of achieving freedom, free to be who you are.”
Italy has long been close to her heart, she added. The Langara art history instructor spent 10 summers teaching in Florence, and travelled to Lake Como in Northern Italy in 2018 as part of her path to recovery.
In addition to wanting her book to also provide her daughters and others with a guide for navigating anything major that life puts in their paths, Kristiansen said it is also a call to “get mammograms, ladies.”
“A mammogram saved my life,” she said.
Kristiansen is currently in Toronto preparing for an Oct. 3 launch and book-signing in that city, but will be returning to the Semiahmoo Peninsula for a similar by-invitation event on Oct. 23. Set for 12:30-3 p.m. at the Turnbull Gallery in the South Surrey Recreation and Arts Centre – barring any unforeseen changes to COVID-19 restrictions – it will be limited to 40 people at a time, and she is planning to give two readings in order to accommodate as many people as possible.
For more information or to order Angel in the Marble, visit www.angelinthemarble.ca
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