After the Cure

The Untold Stories of Breast Cancer Survivors

203 pages

August, 2010

ISBN: 9780814707357



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Emily K. Abel is Professor in the School of Public Health and Women’s Studies Department, University of California, Los Angeles. A breast cancer survivor, she is the author of many books, including Hearts of Wisdom: American Women Caring for Kin, 1850–1940.

All books by Emily K. Abel

Saskia K. Subramanian is assistant research sociologist in the UCLA Center for Culture and Health as well as a visiting assistant professor in the UCLA Women’s Studies Department.

All books by Saskia K. Subramanian

2009 Choice Outstanding Academic Title

2009 Association of American University Presses Award for Jacket Design

Chemo brain. Fatigue. Chronic pain. Insomnia. Depression. These are just a few of the ongoing, debilitating symptoms that plague some breast-cancer survivors long after their treatments have officially ended. While there are hundreds of books about breast cancer, ranging from practical medical advice to inspirational stories of survivors, what has been missing until now is testimony from the thousands of women who continue to struggle with persistent health problems.

After the Cure is a compelling read filled with fascinating portraits of more than seventy women who are living with the aftermath of breast cancer. Emily K. Abel is one of these women. She and her colleague, Saskia K. Subramanian, whose mother died of cancer, interviewed more than seventy breast cancer survivors who have suffered from post-treatment symptoms. Having heard repeatedly that “the problems are all in your head,” many don't know where to turn for help. The doctors who now refuse to validate their symptoms are often the very ones they depended on to provide life-saving treatments. Sometimes family members who provided essential support through months of chemotherapy and radiation don't believe them. Their work lives, already disrupted by both cancer and its treatment, are further undermined by the lingering symptoms. And every symptom serves as a constant reminder of the trauma of diagnosis, the ordeal of treatment, and the specter of recurrence. 

Most narratives about surviving breast cancer end with the conclusion of chemotherapy and radiation, painting stereotypical portraits of triumphantly healthy survivors, women who not only survive but emerge better and stronger than before. Here, at last, survivors step out of the shadows and speak compellingly about their “real” stories, giving voice to the complicated, often painful realities of life after the cure.

This book received funding from the Susan G. Komen Foundation.


  • “With cogent, compassionate analysis, Subramanian and Abel (herself a survivor) remind us of the lasting effects of cancer diagnoses, and the tremendous work still ahead for patients who must learn to trust their gut, and doctors who must learn to listen more considerately.”

    Pubishers Weekly

  • “An in-depth exploration of the symptoms experienced by some women after breast cancer treatment, giving voice to a neglected aspect of the breast cancer experience. . . . This book calls important attention to the plight of these women.”

    —Patricia A. Ganz, University of California, Los Angeles, Schools of Medicine and Public Health

  • “Reveal[s] the long-term posttreatment symptoms that physicians fail to address. . . . Women who have felt more isolated after treatment will welcome this validation that they are not alone.”

    Library Journal

  • “Reveals the long-term post-treatment symptoms that physicians fail to address.”

    Library Journal

  • “After the Cure provides voice to breast cancer survivors thrust into a netherworld of chronic disability.”

  • “A collection of humanizing, honest portraits that point beyond the lives of the women to a need for society to reexamine its policies and demands for perfection.”


  • “This compelling work questions what it means to “cure” disease and should be of interest to the medical community, cancer survivors of all types and those who face medical symptoms that cannot be validated by traditional means. These authors are marking a new developmental phase of cancer care that may lead affected persons to seek partnership with their physicians to combat the long-term side-effects of cancer and its treatments.”

    Centre Daily