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No Cure for Being Human
Cover of No Cure for Being Human
No Cure for Being Human
(And Other Truths I Need to Hear)
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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The bestselling author of Everything Happens for a Reason (And Other Lies I’ve Loved) asks, how do you move forward with a life you didn’t choose?

“Kate Bowler is the only one we can trust to tell us the truth.”—Glennon Doyle, author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Untamed
It’s hard to give up on the feeling that the life you really want is just out of reach. A beach body by summer. A trip to Disneyland around the corner. A promotion on the horizon. Everyone wants to believe that they are headed toward good, better, best. But what happens when the life you hoped for is put on hold indefinitely? 
Kate Bowler believed that life was a series of unlimited choices, until she discovered, at age thirty-five, that her body was wracked with cancer. In No Cure for Being Human, she searches for a way forward as she mines the wisdom (and absurdity) of today’s “best life now” advice industry, which insists on exhausting positivity and on trying to convince us that we can out-eat, out-learn, and out-perform our humanness. We are, she finds, as fragile as the day we were born. 
With dry wit and unflinching honesty, Kate Bowler grapples with her diagnosis, her ambition, and her faith as she tries to come to terms with her limitations in a culture that says anything is possible. She finds that we need one another if we’re going to tell the truth: Life is beautiful and terrible, full of hope and despair and everything in between—and there’s no cure for being human.
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The bestselling author of Everything Happens for a Reason (And Other Lies I’ve Loved) asks, how do you move forward with a life you didn’t choose?

“Kate Bowler is the only one we can trust to tell us the truth.”—Glennon Doyle, author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Untamed
It’s hard to give up on the feeling that the life you really want is just out of reach. A beach body by summer. A trip to Disneyland around the corner. A promotion on the horizon. Everyone wants to believe that they are headed toward good, better, best. But what happens when the life you hoped for is put on hold indefinitely? 
Kate Bowler believed that life was a series of unlimited choices, until she discovered, at age thirty-five, that her body was wracked with cancer. In No Cure for Being Human, she searches for a way forward as she mines the wisdom (and absurdity) of today’s “best life now” advice industry, which insists on exhausting positivity and on trying to convince us that we can out-eat, out-learn, and out-perform our humanness. We are, she finds, as fragile as the day we were born. 
With dry wit and unflinching honesty, Kate Bowler grapples with her diagnosis, her ambition, and her faith as she tries to come to terms with her limitations in a culture that says anything is possible. She finds that we need one another if we’re going to tell the truth: Life is beautiful and terrible, full of hope and despair and everything in between—and there’s no cure for being human.
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  • From the cover Chapter One

    Best Life Now


    I was in bed in the surgical wing of Duke University Hospital when the doctor popped his head in the door and smiled apologetically before flicking on the fluorescent lights. It was 4:00 a.m., the end of my second night in the hospital, but no one in a hospital sleeps in the conventional sense. There are only intervals of sleep without rest, interrupted by unfamiliar voices.

    What’s your date of birth? On a scale from one to ten, how would you rate your pain?

    To this day, if you wake me up from a nap, I will immediately tell you my birthday.

    I opened my eyes and saw a boyish face. The doctor wore a white coat too large for his frame and his eyes were bleary either from a day that had only begun or from a night that had gone on too long.

    “Six, sixteen, 1980. June 16.”

    “Right,” the doctor said, then paused. “So . . . you’re thirty-­five.”

    I nodded, and my eyes began to water. I brushed the tears away quickly. Not the right moment for that now, thank you.

    “If you keep replenishing my fluids, I’ll just keep crying,” I explained. “Maybe keep me in a stage of light dehydration for the next few days.”

    The doctor suppressed a laugh and began to riffle through my case history. “The patient has a history of abdominal pain after meals. Significant weight loss. Nausea and vomiting. No ultrasound evidence of gallstones or cholecystitis, but results of hepatobiliary scan led to a surgical consult to remove the patient’s gallbladder . . . then you got a CT scan.”

    “No,” I corrected. “I yelled at a surgeon for the first time in my life and said that I was not leaving his office without a scan. Then they ordered a scan.”

    This had been the biggest showdown of my life, the doleful surgeon with his arms folded and me loudly demanding some kind of treatment. It had been five months, and I had lost thirty pounds. I was doubled over with the pain. “I can’t bear this much longer,” I had said, again and again as doctors benignly shuffled me along.

    The young doctor glanced up at me and then turned back to his notes.

    “The scan revealed that the liver has multiple focal lesions; the largest are seen within the caudate and right hepatic lobe in addition to several scattered subcentimeter lesions, some are noted within the periphery of the liver and some are subcapsular. The large left transverse colon mass was what created the functional obstruction for you, hence the pain.” He looked up at me quickly. “And then there are local regional lymph nodes that are worrisome for early peritoneal carcinomatosis.”

    The heart monitor beeped softly.

    I cleared my throat nervously. “Um, so, this is my first real conversation since the diagnosis. I mean, I know I had surgery, obviously.”

    Flustered, I tried to start again. “The day before yesterday, a doctor’s assistant called me on the phone at work to tell me that I had Stage Four cancer. But I don’t know what these terms mean except that it sounds like I am a spaghetti bowl of cancer. People keep saying ‘lesions,’ ” I said. “I haven’t had a chance to google it. What are lesions exactly?”

    “Tumors. We’re talking about tumors.”

    “Ohhhhh,” I said, embarrassed by another flood of tears. “Right. And are there more than four stages of cancer?”

    “No.”

    “Okay, so I have...
Reviews-
  • AudioFile Magazine Canadian professor and author Kate Bowler narrates her own story of the fear, hope, and confusion of an unexpected cancer diagnosis. For her, it meant sitting down with her own painful mortality after decades of studying life through the lens of Christian history. After being diagnosed with colon cancer and metastasis to the liver, Bowler found herself trying to figure out what mattered the most and how she would spend the last few months of her life. Bowler's narration of her own work allows listeners to hear her very personal story with all the fear, laughter, and sarcasm that her journey truly deserves. Bowler's words sound genuine and pull listeners into what comes across like a conversation with a close friend. V.B. � AudioFile 2021, Portland, Maine
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from June 28, 2021
    In heartbreaking essays, Bowler (Everything Happens for a Reason) recounts lessons learned after being diagnosed with stage four colon cancer at the age of 35. An associate professor at Duke Divinity School, she thought that everyone had limitless choices before receiving the grim diagnosis that pegged her survival odds at 14%: “Hope for the future feels like a kind of arsenic that needs to be carefully administered, or it can poison the sacred work of living in the present.” While mourning the loss of a future with her husband and two-year-old son, Bowler enrolled in a clinical trial for a new immunotherapy drug, and, miraculously, was one of 3% of patients to successfully respond to it. After searching her whole life for a “formula for how to live,” she writes, “cancer treatment had provided the clearest one of all.” Bowler’s strong faith is present throughout, though the writing, refreshingly, never feels overtly religious. More than anything, her convictions underscore the importance of living life on one’s own terms. “Someday... God will draw us into the eternal moment where there will be no suffering,” she writes. “In the meantime, we are stuck with our beautiful, terrible finitude.” Those in need of a wake-up call will find it in this breathtaking narrative. Agent: Christy Fletcher, Fletcher & Co.

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No Cure for Being Human
No Cure for Being Human
(And Other Truths I Need to Hear)
Kate Bowler
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