Book Review: Red Sunshine by Dr. Kimberly Allison

Book Review by Mira Geffner, Program Associate, Medical Information Services, Breast Cancer Connections

Red Sunshine: A Story of Strength and Inspiration from a Doctor Who Survived Stage 3 Breast Cancer

red sunshineWhen Kim Allison was diagnosed with breast cancer and making her early treatment decisions, she wanted to know, “not just would I survive, but how would I survive.” As the director of the Breast Pathology service for her hospital, she knew more about her disease and its treatment than most patients do at the outset. But she wanted to know how she would feel—physically and emotionally—both during treatment and after, and she wrote this memoir in the hope that her experience would help other patients.

Dr. Allison shares her experience with everything from diagnosis, through worries about switching medications and having surgery, to the pressure she felt to surrender her identity as an “optimistic atheist” so that the hospital chaplain would visit her and provide support. Dr. Allison was in her early 30s with two small children when she was treated. On stopping breastfeeding (cold turkey) in the week following her diagnosis: “Man, I do not recommend this!”

The title of the book comes from Adriamycin, sometimes called the “Red Devil” for its color and its side effects. Allison renamed the drug to help herself envision it as an ally in her struggle for health. The book includes photos from all stages of treatment, including smiling family snapshots. This is an engaging read throughout, and concludes with Dr. Allison getting used to life post-mastectomy, and tips for her co-survivors.