A New York City–based film editor confronts a diagnosis of terminal cancer in this debut memoir.
In August 2017, Cramer was told that she had stage 4 ovarian cancer. During a routine medical appointment, a nurse practitioner examined a bump on the author’s pelvis and quickly handed her a slip to get an urgent CT scan, as though it were a baton in a “relay race.” She was later told that she had a “fourteen-centimeter tumor” and that she must undergo surgery to remove “the big mass...the uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, all of it,” and then receive chemotherapy. The memoir describes how Cramer, a New York film editor; her husband, Todd; and their young son, Noah, came to terms with the news. She describes all aspects of her treatment, from awaiting surgery to having a port inserted in her chest for infusions. She also poses penetrating questions—one chapter, for example, is titled “Should I Fight?”—and approaches the act of wig shopping with wickedly mordant wit: “I sit down in the wig barber’s chair looking like my two-year-old-self refusing to wear underwear because it is itchy.” The book goes on to explore how the author’s cancer diagnosis has changed her outlook on life, asking “will an illness as serious as this teach me that I no longer need to fix things, and can I finally release my grip and get on with living?” Cramer’s writing is characterized by an eagle-eyed search for positivity: “Fuck it. I want to live my life not spend time making legacy boxes of my unfinished one.” For the author, this statement is an act of personal catharsis, but her message has an inspirational universality. Some readers may flinch at her bluntness, but for most, her writing will offer revitalizing guidance: “I’m told death is close, it is imperative that I take initiative to go any direction away from stuck.” Overall, this keenly observed memoir delicately balances humor and heartache while signaling the importance of each passing moment.
A profoundly moving remembrance that’s alternately sad and uplifting.
5.0 out of 5 stars A Brave, Honest & Humorous Telling of Living with Cancer
"I downloaded this book when I woke up in the morning, and read it throughout the day, stealing moments on my Kindle app while I waited in lines, and finished it in one day. I was gripped from the very first page. The author's background as a visual story teller certainly translates to the written word too. I was prepared to cry -- and I did -- but I also laughed out loud, more than I expected. The author's frank, honest approach to her life is something we can all learn from. Her relationships shine in her telling her story, and I can't help but think what a wonderful gift it is for the people she is closest to. I really loved this book."
Thank you to #NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book prior to publication in exchange for my honest review.
This is a very moving story of Beth Cramer, a regular woman who is a daughter, sister, wife and mother who goes to the doctor for what she thinks is heartburn and is on her way out the door with some Prilosec when she happens to mention a lump in her pelvis. Things get serious very quickly and she comes home with a diagnosis of Stage 4 ovarian cancer. Cramer has an inclusive style of writing that makes the reader feel like they are another sister or friend that she is sharing her story with. At times Cramer will make you laugh. She laments that ovarian cancer does not even have its own color, sharing the hated color teal with prostate cancer and more than thirty other diseases/illnesses, wondering why she could not have gotten something more recognized and with a better chance of survival, like breast cancer. At other times, she will make you cry as she talks about her son Noah and her hope that he will have a bar mitzvah while she is alive to see it or while she plans trips so her son will have good memories of her. It is a memoir that is well worth reading and it could be a book that might save your life or the life of a loved one as it brings to light ovarian cancer known as the silent killer.
5.0 out of 5 stars serious book
"The author writes in a compelling manner. It made me laugh and cry at various points, but what the author does best is bring up points that those that contemplate death rarely consider or write about. It is at those points that one stops reading and ponders and think through your own thoughts and feelings about situations considered. The characters in the book come alive and it seems you were a member of the family going through what the author and family experienced. Highly recommend."
5.0 out of 5 stars Life Deserves to be Lived Fully
"I received Beth Cramer’s book this morning and finished it a short time ago. I had seen an article about Beth in my local paper, and thought I would take a look at her book. I’m glad I did. While it reads like the poignant memoir it is, it is especially thought-provoking and insightful. It sort of stops you in your tracks and makes you think about what we aren’t noticing in our daily lives, what we are missing. I am hopeful that something of what I am feeling tonight will remain with me for the long term."
5.0 out of 5 stars A personal story with a universal message
"While the journey is unique and very personal to her, Beth Cramer's messages throughout her book are universal. One would be hard pressed not to look at one's own life through the lens she so eloquently shares and this book is a must read for anyone saddled with regrets, doubts and what ifs. She writes with extreme insight and grace as she faces serious illness and attempts to forge her own path while honoring her husband and extended family. At the end of the day, Beth Cramer's words are the ultimate gift to her son who turns out to be not only enough, but everything."
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling in every way.
"Every word and every description of every instance was poignantly stated- I was able to visualize and feel everything I think as you intended me to. It’s so rare that the meaning doesn’t get diluted between the writer and the reader- we come to words with our own stuff attached to them and while I was reading yours.. I felt completely attached to your intention."
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written memoir
"What a beautiful and honest memoir. I really connected to the bond that Beth shares with her son, Noah. Their love for one another is unbreakable and pure. It is a story of hope, even on the days when it was impossible to be hopeful. It is a story of love, when at times it was a challenge to love even herself, it is a story of family...and sisters and how the bond between them is unbreakable. I couldn’t put it down."
5.0 out of 5 stars Flawless
"If only I had Ms. Cramer's ability to convey a sweeping range of feelings, this review might adequately describe the depth of emotions a reader will feel upon reading "Why Didn't I Notice Her Before?" This memoir draws you in from the first page and does not let go of you until the last. Her writing style is such that you feel like you're in the room with her, hovering like a satellite, watching and feeling everything she sees and feels. You will feel the best moments of *life* and living, and the worst. Pain and joy. Cynicism and hope. Sobs and laughter. Exhaustion and energy. This book is a symphony of emotions, and there will be times when you may hear your self saying things like, "oh my!" out loud even though there is no one there to hear it. You will do more than "notice" her. You will see her, feel her and absorb her life affirming message: "Yes, life can deliver its blows, but there is so much beauty and love. Be present for it."
5.0 out of 5 stars “Why didn’t I notice her before?” - A must read!
"A wonderful, authentic, raw, honest, candid, real, profound, intense, introspective, heartfelt (and even funny at times) memoir of an unexpected journey. Cramer presents her memoir with everything she has in her soul. A page-turner and a must read! Five stars!"
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful
"Tore through this book --- very POWERFUL. Beth writes with a raw honesty that had my stomach in knots - worried for her and seeing myself. This is her personal journey but one that will resonate globally and with DEEP effect. Told in first person narrative journal entries and embellished with her filmic storytelling and sardonic humor had me wincing, laughing and crying. We all wonder what our purpose is, and what our legacy will be - this is a great accomplishment and a true gift."
5.0 out of 5 stars A Debut That Should Not Go Unnoticed
"While happily nearing my goal of reading 100 books in 2019, I opened the 96th with a trepidation not felt with any other title that year (if ever). It was, “Why Didn’t I Notice Her Before,” by Beth Cramer.
Understandably, a memoir that recounts the cancer journey of a wife and mother that is subtitled, “A Memoir About Dying to Live” might give anyone pause. That the author is also a dear friend made the prospect doubly fraught. Would the fact that she’d been rather reticent about the issue (with me anyway) make this feel like an invasion of privacy? Would I be shown cracks in a beloved couple’s marriage whose vows I had witnessed? Or lastly, would I simply find it a disappointing read… and be forced to find something to praise at our next group brunch?
Far from it. Not surprising really, considering the many inspired—if wine-fueled—intellectual tete-a-tetes we regularly engage in. The surprise was in just HOW insightful and effective her narrative was. And how raw and resonant her prose.
The author has a rare talent for mining small, but lasting lessons—whether reflecting on a host of new parenting concerns or weighing the dueling emotions one feels towards an overly attentive family. And those windows into her marriage that I worried over were, in the end, touching reminders that the coupling of ANY two personalities—by its very nature—is bound to cause some feather ruffling, friction and emotional dissonance. The true test of love is how we live with them.
I applaud Beth’s refusal to be cancer’s role model. But hope she’s okay being a literary one. New York is filled with wanna-be authors and their imagined books. But here’s someone who sat down and wrote hers, despite (or because of) hugely challenging circumstances.
Her personal recounting reveals the universal truth that "appreciating life" is complicated. Making her debut as effective as anything else I read last year."
5.0 out of 5 stars Didn’t want to put it down.
"I was hooked the moment I started reading. I couldn’t wait to come back to it when I had to put it down to do other things. I laughed I cried I was taken right in and wanted more and more.
I read the other reviews to see how others had liked it and they all said what I felt about it, and more eloquently than I can write.
I highly recommend this book.
It is about so much more than cancer. It touched my heart deeply in so many ways.
I hope she is still writing so we can continue to follow her and her family through a most amazing journey in life."
5.0 out of 5 stars More than just another book about cancer
"Cancer here is just the trigger point for a myriad of ideas, emotions, and a reexamination of a life. Ms Cramer attempts and most often succeeds in drawing the tendrils of her life into a vivid self portrait that grabs the reader by the seat of their pants."
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredibly moving
"I've often wondered how I would handle news like a stage 4 cancer diagnosis. What would carry me through? I would like to imagine that I would handle it with as much grace as Beth Cramer. I found her stories totally relatable. The ups and downs of relationships the bond of sisterhood, her desire to be the best mom, wife, daughter, sister all while dealing with cancer. Beth is a straight shooter and funny all at once. I absolutely loved this book!"
5.0 out of 5 stars Why Didn’t I Notice Her Before? A memoir about dying to live
"Beth Cramer has written an incredible memoir. It’s beautiful, raw, funny, heartbreaking, unique, honest and powerful.
Relatable and enriching-it has everything... Read it!"
5.0 out of 5 stars A compelling and poignant work of authenticity!
"This book is a very personal story full of Heartache ,humor and honesty. Beth Cramer has tackled this very difficult journey dealing with cancer in a Brave and courageous Manner that has a universal relationship for us all. I recommend this story of unexpected hopefulness to all that may find it useful."
5.0 out of 5 stars Full of heart
"Beth Cramer provides raw, funny and honest telling of her incredible story. She lays bare her soul to show us the beauty it holds, and guides us all toward the redemptive nature of living life to its fullest."
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, raw and truthful
"I loved this book, Beth speaks her truth and all the eternal conflict we feel. This book is raw and beautifully written. I loved her sense of humor in times of great grief, it’s a real triumph!"
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely beautiful writing
"What an incredible writer. I am blown away by Ms. Cramer's art for telling her story. This book is so fluid. And so personal and beautiful. I am honored to be allowed into her world."
5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing and unusual perspective
"This book is a must read for anyone who has ever dealt with depression or a life threatening illness with loving, complex family members in the mix. It is raw and serious but Cramer really expresses the humor and yes, the total craziness of life. I could not put it down!"
5.0 out of 5 stars Heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time. A must read!
"Beth Cramer writes with heart, raw emotion, pain, truth and a little bit of humor. Her journey is inspiring and thought provoking. I couldn't put it down."
5.0 out of 5 stars Heartwarming, Hopeful and Inspirational
"I'm keeping it by my side even though I finished it. It was so relatable.. from sister dynamics, family bonds, mother/son love, depression and cancer... raw, hopeful, humorous, inspirational... A must read.."
5.0 out of 5 stars Lyrically evocative, heart-squeezing memoir . . .
"I read “Why Didn’t I Notice Her Before?: a memoir about dying to live” in one fell swoop, turning each page with breathless anticipation! Author BETH CRAMER’s lyrically evocative writing of her heart-squeezing profoundly life-changing medical odyssey is generously interwoven with wonderfully irreverent wit & deliciously cathartic humor! Thank you for writing this book, Beth! It’s one of those unusual books one can read again and again and continue to be inspired by its insightful observations and laugh uproariously as though the first time reading the laugh-out-loud humorous portions!"
5.0 out of 5 stars A heartwarming read
"Everyone who has been diagnosed with cancer will find this book informative as well as emotional and uplifting. The author expresses herself so intimately that you feel every emotion that she tells us. It’s an exceptional book for everyone to read, whether you have had cancer or not."
5.0 out of 5 stars Real and honest
"Beth Cramer's book is an honest, raw portrayal of living life with stage IV cancer while also dealing with the realities of being a mother, wife, daughter, sister and friend. She has a no holds barred style of storytelling. She vividly describes the reality of what it is like to get a terminal diagnosis - cancer is messy, just like life. The many revelations she has through her experience are not cliche or sappy - rather they are real, hard won, and still evolving. I was grateful for this frank snapshot into a complex life filled with the ups and downs that all of us experience but few are willing to share so openly."
5.0 out of 5 stars Touched My Heart!
"I just finished reading this book and I'm so glad that I did. To get an inside understanding of one's deeply personal and unique experience with cancer is a gift given by Beth Cramer. How a story can be so honest, vulnerable, sad and funny all at once is remarkable."
5.0 out of 5 stars A powerful voice that quietly stays with you.
"Beth tells her story so quietly and intimately, as though you are sitting across from her. Regret, rumination, release, love and a reality that hangs heavy in the air and all at once floats light as feather. This memoir broke my heart and broke my heart wide open."
5.0 out of 5 stars An astonishing book
"My daughter gave me this book to read. Our family has had way too much experience with cancer, and we have managed to retain a bit of equilibrium. But I wish we had had this memoir two decades ago. Everything in it is true, pertinent, and clear. And it's both funny and fun to read. Humor shines through. You can start at the beginning and read through, or, as I did by chance, start with "Playing the C Card." Just get it and read it. You may emerge a better person."
5.0 out of 5 stars A deeply personal story about much more than cancer
"Beautifully written with a sense of urgency. The memoir is honest, personal and inspiring."
I didn't let that stop me from reading this book, though, and I'm so glad I continued. The abortion wasn't the focus of the story, it's the catalyst that lets the actual story begin. This book is a memoir about a woman's journey through cancer.
Beth receives a cancer diagnosis in 2017: Stage 4 Ovarian. She had spent the past several years obsessively trying to have another child after her abortion, and sees the cancer diagnosis as a kind of freedom from that obsession. This freedom allows her to look at her life differently, and do things differently than she did before. She notices things about herself she didn't see before, hence the title of the book.
This is normally when I would post an excerpt for you to read, but I think that would take away from the story as a whole. I recommend that everyone read this book. I found more hope in this story than I thought I would. To be honest, when the story started, I asked myself "OK, why did I request this book again? This is so depressing!" But I stuck with it, and was so grateful I did.
Beth's writing is positive, even during a sad, depressing experience. She was so vulnerable, and it popped through on the pages. I could tell she didn't just want to pass on her own story, but she wanted to encourage the reader to create his or her own.
It doesn't matter what areas of life we are going through, Hope is a powerful thing. Living is a powerful thing. Surviving is not enough, we need to thrive through whatever is thrown at us.
The subject matter makes giving this book a full five stars difficult, but the way it's written, with such authenticity and transparency, makes it an easy 5 stars. If you enjoy memoirs, please pick this book up. If you enjoy a story that could send you running for the tissues every once in a while, please pick this book up. If you enjoy a story that is full of hope and life, please pick this book up.
I hope I have given this book the justice it deserves, and I hope you can find it in yourself to get past the subject matter, and find the life underneath. I could go on and on about this book for an entire book by itself, but I think I'll just recommend it, and let you discover it yourself.