A Series of Catastrophes and Miracles

July 8, 2021

Mary Elizabeth Williams’s memoir, A Series of Catastrophes and Miracles, about her devastating bouts with malignant melanoma is equally heartbreaking and hilarious. “I’m in the waiting room in my F-CANCER shirt and magical butt-flattering Lululemon Groove pants, which is as close to being in my pajamas in public as I feel I can pull off.”

Her view of her cancer is unflinching and honest. She takes us into how her illness affected her marriage, her daughters, and her feelings about herself. As readers, we are with her for every scalpel incision, wound cleaning, and nauseous reaction to medication.

Williams gives us just enough science to understand the miracle of immunotherapy and how it cured her. But the larger promise in her memoir is how immunotherapy might bring a cure to those who receive a cancer diagnosis now or in the future or for those of us who might have a recurrence.

She is eloquent in her description of what melanoma gave her, which is that cancer is a terrible gift but she uses it to put her life into clear perspective. “That as I figure it, is the work of the rest of my life. And that work will never be a battle. It will instead be what it’s always been. A love story.”