Book thoughts

When the System Unwinds

The Unwinding of the Miracle: A Memoir of Life, Death, and Everything That Comes After by Julie Yip-Williams through me for a loop. I tend to get books without reading the description. It’s kinda like swiping on Tinder and going on a date without reading their bio. It can either be successful or an absolute fail.

I’m not sure what I was expecting when I started this book. It was a refreshing take on the usual cancer narrative. It had lots of hopeful moments, but Julie was so real about how shitty cancer is. I appreciate seeing the side of her where she didn’t feel hopeful and wanted to plan for the time where she would leave her family.

Memoirs are usually about life and I think it’s interesting that this one was about death. Hearing her story made me think a lot about my grandmother. And how the medical system screws over a majority of America.

photo cred to insta @lean_in_my_cereal

While I admired Julie throughout the novel for her candor about cancer, she also pissed me off sometimes. She would talk about her humble beginnings escaping Vietnam and being an immigrant, but sometimes it felt like she took all her access to resources for granted.

For example, when she talks about going to the ER in a predominantly immigrant community. She just kept talking about how she was ready to get out of there in a way that was so condescending. Like that level of care was good enough for the people living in those communities, but not good enough for her.

Or when she started talking about how one procedure would cost her around $7000 a month and how that wouldn’t be an issue for her and her husband to pay. I don’t even make $7000 a month!

And none of that is inherently bad; it’s great that she had that level of access. For all her complaining (and of course she had every right to because she had freaking cancer), I don’t think she realized how privileged she was in all her access to the best medical care.

I can’t help but to get upset when I think about my grandmother and how the medical system basically killed her. She didn’t have access to doctors who could give her second opinions. She didn’t have knowledge of or access to the internet where she could have found alternative medicine (like teas that cost Julie hundreds of dollars that she just gave up on). She was never offered any clinical trials. Racism and sexism caused her pain to be dismissed and ignored despite having others advocate for her or advocating for herself.

If my grandmother had as much choice and specialized care as Julie did, I think she would be alive today, or at least have lived longer than what she was given.

I have talked about my mistrust in the medical system in a previous post, but when I think about my grandmother, that was my awakening to how grossly unjust the system really is to not only people with limited financial means, but also to black and brown folks in general (just see Beyonce’s and Serena William’s cases).Last week was my grandmother’s birthday. She would have been seventy-two. She was very special to me and I miss her all the time. When she was taken from us, she left behind a void that will never be filled.

Just like The Unwinding of the Miracle, that post was depressing lol (my bad habit of adding lol when I want to minimize my feelings to other people… lol). Despite my bitterness at the abundance of privilege, I would recommend this book!

If you feel comfortable enough to share, who is one important person in your life that you have lost and want to honor?

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