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Pale Girl Speaks: A Year Uncovered

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Hillary Fogelson led a charmed life: as the young wife of a successful Hollywood executive, her only major concerns were her acting auditions, interior decorating, and unexpected visits from her high-maintenance parents. Then, one day, her doctor told her she had malignant melanoma—a cancer that leads to more deaths for women between the age of 25 and 30 than any other—and Hillary Fogelson led a charmed life: as the young wife of a successful Hollywood executive, her only major concerns were her acting auditions, interior decorating, and unexpected visits from her high-maintenance parents. Then, one day, her doctor told her she had malignant melanoma—a cancer that leads to more deaths for women between the age of 25 and 30 than any other—and her life was forever changed. Pale Girl Speaks is the darkly funny story of Fogelson’s neuroses and struggles after her diagnosis with melanoma. In her witty, wisecracking narrative, Fogelson recounts how her battle with cancer brings up other issues in her life that she’s been ignoring, especially her anxieties about her relationship with her husband, her friends, and her parents. The apprehension she feels soon manifests itself in more concrete ways—panic attacks, heavy reliance on alcohol, and a compulsive need to constantly check in with her doctor—but when her father discovers that he has melanoma as well, Fogelson has to learn to lead by example and let go of her fear. A story that will appeal to anyone who has faced adversity and lived to tell jokes about it, Pale Girl Speaks is about one woman who experienced the worst possible fallout of being fair-skinned—and survived with her sense of humor intact.


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Hillary Fogelson led a charmed life: as the young wife of a successful Hollywood executive, her only major concerns were her acting auditions, interior decorating, and unexpected visits from her high-maintenance parents. Then, one day, her doctor told her she had malignant melanoma—a cancer that leads to more deaths for women between the age of 25 and 30 than any other—and Hillary Fogelson led a charmed life: as the young wife of a successful Hollywood executive, her only major concerns were her acting auditions, interior decorating, and unexpected visits from her high-maintenance parents. Then, one day, her doctor told her she had malignant melanoma—a cancer that leads to more deaths for women between the age of 25 and 30 than any other—and her life was forever changed. Pale Girl Speaks is the darkly funny story of Fogelson’s neuroses and struggles after her diagnosis with melanoma. In her witty, wisecracking narrative, Fogelson recounts how her battle with cancer brings up other issues in her life that she’s been ignoring, especially her anxieties about her relationship with her husband, her friends, and her parents. The apprehension she feels soon manifests itself in more concrete ways—panic attacks, heavy reliance on alcohol, and a compulsive need to constantly check in with her doctor—but when her father discovers that he has melanoma as well, Fogelson has to learn to lead by example and let go of her fear. A story that will appeal to anyone who has faced adversity and lived to tell jokes about it, Pale Girl Speaks is about one woman who experienced the worst possible fallout of being fair-skinned—and survived with her sense of humor intact.

30 review for Pale Girl Speaks: A Year Uncovered

  1. 4 out of 5

    Christa

    Yes, this is a book about melanoma, but it's really a lot more inclusive than that. In fact, before she was diagnosed, the author probably wouldn't have pegged herself as the typical reader of this kind of book--who would expect a 25-year-old to have firsthand experience with it? Memoirs are, by definition, extremely personal, but this one really reads like a look into her everyday life. It's almost like a diary in the way it details the occurrences, the feelings, the conversations, everything th Yes, this is a book about melanoma, but it's really a lot more inclusive than that. In fact, before she was diagnosed, the author probably wouldn't have pegged herself as the typical reader of this kind of book--who would expect a 25-year-old to have firsthand experience with it? Memoirs are, by definition, extremely personal, but this one really reads like a look into her everyday life. It's almost like a diary in the way it details the occurrences, the feelings, the conversations, everything that's going on. I was actually surprised when I found out after reading that she wrote the book almost 10 years after the fact. Fogelson's style is very engaging and different, which I sometimes find distracting, but I thought worked very well here. For example, she displays conversations almost like an instant message or a text message, which fits with the fast-paced, non-nonsense tone of the book. The author takes us on a nothing-barred look into her diagnosis, treatment, and recovery, as well as her changing relationship with her parents and her husband. It's a story about hope, since that's something Hillary never loses, but it's also one that's imploring for awareness. The information she shares in this book makes it clear that melanoma can be--and often is--deadly, but the human face she puts on it drives the point home a lot more than just reading a CDC brochure would.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Rosanne

    This memoir covers the year following the author's diagnosis with melanoma. If nothing else, reading it will make you think seriously about making an appointment with the dermatologist. In addition to dealing with her own fears and concerns, her father is diagnosed with the same cancer as well. Obviously, such a frightening diagnosis causes violent emotions which the author expresses with swearing. If you are seriously averse to a potty mouth, this isn't the book for you. I found the book intere This memoir covers the year following the author's diagnosis with melanoma. If nothing else, reading it will make you think seriously about making an appointment with the dermatologist. In addition to dealing with her own fears and concerns, her father is diagnosed with the same cancer as well. Obviously, such a frightening diagnosis causes violent emotions which the author expresses with swearing. If you are seriously averse to a potty mouth, this isn't the book for you. I found the book interesting and informative, but less than stellar.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    Thought provoking. As a "pale girl" myself, it has encouraged me to get dermatology checks. As a health care provider it helped me understand more what patients must go through as they await results. Thought provoking. As a "pale girl" myself, it has encouraged me to get dermatology checks. As a health care provider it helped me understand more what patients must go through as they await results.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Mary Benesh-zoeller

    Loved Fogelson's recount of her year following her diagnosis. She captured my very thoughts and placed them in print. I laughed and cried. Just as I did when I was diagnosed. Thank you Hillary!! Loved Fogelson's recount of her year following her diagnosis. She captured my very thoughts and placed them in print. I laughed and cried. Just as I did when I was diagnosed. Thank you Hillary!!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Lunney-Boyd

    Amazing. As a fellow Melanoma warrior, I could relate to every single word in this book. It is nice to know I am not alone with all my feelings. Wonderful read, great way to spread awareness.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn Amundson

    Mixed feelings about this book. The basic topic of a young, married woman with melanoma describing her inner thoughts and outer interactions sounds boring. Add the extreme neurosis and the fact that she's a self-described instigator and you know there's humor ahead. Take the quotation "why is everything always a fight?" from a neurotic instigator and you realize that much of the humor is unintentional. So you're definitely laughing at her, not with her. Fortunately, she seems perfectly ok with b Mixed feelings about this book. The basic topic of a young, married woman with melanoma describing her inner thoughts and outer interactions sounds boring. Add the extreme neurosis and the fact that she's a self-described instigator and you know there's humor ahead. Take the quotation "why is everything always a fight?" from a neurotic instigator and you realize that much of the humor is unintentional. So you're definitely laughing at her, not with her. Fortunately, she seems perfectly ok with being laughed at. Maybe because she's an actress?

  7. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    Reading this book is like listening to a close friend who has been diagnosed with cancer. Informative and written with a sense of humor.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    The swearing was atrocious.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    This was a great book and I would highly recommend it to anyone who has a loved one with the disease, or just wants to udnestand cancer from the perspective of a woman in her mid-twenties. I am only 5 months removed from my own melanoma diagnosis, and 4 months removed from my surgery, so some of the book was difficult to read. It was nice though to read about another young person dealing with this disease (I turned 27 1.5 weeks prior to my diagnosis), and I learned some things from the author. T This was a great book and I would highly recommend it to anyone who has a loved one with the disease, or just wants to udnestand cancer from the perspective of a woman in her mid-twenties. I am only 5 months removed from my own melanoma diagnosis, and 4 months removed from my surgery, so some of the book was difficult to read. It was nice though to read about another young person dealing with this disease (I turned 27 1.5 weeks prior to my diagnosis), and I learned some things from the author. The most emotional part of the book for me was definitely the beginning, when the author was able to put into words exactly how I felt when I heard the news: "I have cancer I have cancer I have cancer. I need to say it one more time. I have cancer...Okay. I'm just going to sit here in my den with my dog at my feet...it's that word that's bothering me so much....The one...ya know, the "c"-word..."That word" always seemed fairly easy to say when I'd used it in stories about other people. Stories about older people...It was just another word. It's just another word when you're talking about someone else. But now, I don't have..that word. I just can't. It's so weird. I'm sitting here on my couch and everything around me looks the same as always...yet I feel like everything is so completely different. I feel like a completely different person than I did 10 minutes ago." Reading this brought tears to my eyes as I remembered my own emotions and thoughts when I heard the news. It's difficult to explain to someone how it feels to be diagnosed with cancer, but this managed to capture almost exactly what I felt. I almost want to give this to some of my friends so they uderstand what it's like to get that call. The author takes you on a journey and leaves nothing out, which is as it should be. Melanoma is a terrible disease, and one that doesn't go away once the cancerous mole is removed. In fact, reading about the woman whose melanoma had spread who wouldn't sign up for additional treament really bothered me and made me think. What would I do if I was ever in that situation? While I haven't turned to alcohol, I can completely understand why someone would. Espeically with the worries about family members also having the disease. There are many parts of this story that don't parallel my journey, but it was still interesting to read. Her relationships with her husband and parents were fun to read too, though I feel terrible about her father. The best part of this book for me has to be in the author's note: "I can now say...there is no real way to move past a cancer diagnosis. To move past soemthing evokes a sense of finality, and unfortunatly, with cancer, there is no actual endgame...except the inevitable. Staying proactive about one's health requires awareness and constant vigilance...Fighting cancer is a contiuous battle. The battle may not be raging every moment or in the forefront of one's mind every hour of every day, but it's never far behind. It's there, kinda wandering around, poking it's ugly head into and out of the action. Yes, melanoma is part of my history, but it is also my present and my future, and that I have come to accept."

  10. 5 out of 5

    Leeann

    I enjoyed reading this book because the author took a difficult subject (melanoma/skin cancer) and was able to convey many of her feelings and experiences in a relatable way. She didn't always do or say what I wanted her to, but in such a scary and stressful time, few of us do. Am I right? My dad is a ten plus year melanoma survivor and he is currently battling that beast yet again. He is absolutely my hero. It is an ugly, ugly cancer. I was happy to have the insight I gleaned from reading the b I enjoyed reading this book because the author took a difficult subject (melanoma/skin cancer) and was able to convey many of her feelings and experiences in a relatable way. She didn't always do or say what I wanted her to, but in such a scary and stressful time, few of us do. Am I right? My dad is a ten plus year melanoma survivor and he is currently battling that beast yet again. He is absolutely my hero. It is an ugly, ugly cancer. I was happy to have the insight I gleaned from reading the book and for the writer's humor throughout. I laughed out loud a number of times. This is a fairly long quote from the book that I wanted to add: "There was something about the show, a feeling I was left with, that I can't seem to shake. All of Chekhov's protagonists, all his pasty "artists" struggling to find meaning in their lives- whether personally or professionally- they all seem to be questioning the point of things. I mean, we're all headed to death, the unavoidable end. And we're just supposed to keep pushing and struggling an sweating it out until...what? Until we're happy? Fulfilled? Until we're... dead? I've read 'The Seagull' more times than I'd like to admit, butchered it, watched it open-mouthed as I sounded out the words, and yet this was the first time I really felt connected to "the struggle." I think *that's* the point Chekhov's trying to make: Life is about struggle. It's that struggle, and our need to persevere, that make life worth living. I've always focused on the end result, the final act, questioned what all those crazy Russians were ultimately fighting for, but I've been at it all wrong. It's not about the end, maybe not about the result of the finish line. It's about the middle. Because the end is the end, and it's all the same, for all of us. It's only the middle stuff, all the crap between point A and point B, that we have some say in. The middle- that's where all the action is. That's where we really find out what we're made of. It's about the race. It's all about how we choose to get there- the process, not the result."

  11. 4 out of 5

    Erika Saeger

    Hillary Fogelson is an inspiration to not only her friends, family and melanoma survivors, but to the younger generation of girls and young women who live in a culture where tan skin is desired and encouraged. After reading her story, I felt compelled to send it to all my friends and family - and to ask them to pass it on. I laughed and cried and ran to the store to buy sunscreen. I bought my first rash guard for my trip to Hawaii. I made an appointment with my dermatologist and practically walk Hillary Fogelson is an inspiration to not only her friends, family and melanoma survivors, but to the younger generation of girls and young women who live in a culture where tan skin is desired and encouraged. After reading her story, I felt compelled to send it to all my friends and family - and to ask them to pass it on. I laughed and cried and ran to the store to buy sunscreen. I bought my first rash guard for my trip to Hawaii. I made an appointment with my dermatologist and practically walked in the door naked showing her every mole I could find. I called my parents and asked them to make appointments. This is not only a fun read, but an important one. This is a movement we should all join - whether we've been affected by melanoma or not. A must read.

  12. 5 out of 5

    T.D.

    I thought this was a great book. I enjoyed the writing style and the honesty of this memoir. I've seen a couple of reviews (and the blurb on the back of the book) that refer to the book as "hilarious." I don't agree with that. It's not a humorous memoir, just an honest one. That occasionally includes moments of humor, but it doesn't read like a stand-up routine about cancer. I enjoyed the read and actually learned quite a lot as well. I didn't know much about melanoma before reading the book. On I thought this was a great book. I enjoyed the writing style and the honesty of this memoir. I've seen a couple of reviews (and the blurb on the back of the book) that refer to the book as "hilarious." I don't agree with that. It's not a humorous memoir, just an honest one. That occasionally includes moments of humor, but it doesn't read like a stand-up routine about cancer. I enjoyed the read and actually learned quite a lot as well. I didn't know much about melanoma before reading the book. One thing I will warn you about... you will become paranoid about every mole and odd skin tag you may have. And maybe that's a good thing - early detection being so important. All I know is, I'm going to see the doctor about this strange mole I have noticed. ;)

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jenn S. (Book Buzz)

    I read this for a friend who is fighting Melanoma. The biggest lesson I found in the story is to be aware of your skin and watch for any changes in your moles...made me double check everything. Make an appointment with your dermatologist and remind your loved ones to do the same. It had some good information about sunscreen as well. The authors writing style and swearing was somewhat of a turn off. I kept thinking "how does she remember every conversation word for word"? The story is written in I read this for a friend who is fighting Melanoma. The biggest lesson I found in the story is to be aware of your skin and watch for any changes in your moles...made me double check everything. Make an appointment with your dermatologist and remind your loved ones to do the same. It had some good information about sunscreen as well. The authors writing style and swearing was somewhat of a turn off. I kept thinking "how does she remember every conversation word for word"? The story is written in a conversational style. I admire her "bravery" and fight. The book is informational, although I probably would not have picked it up if it wasn't for my friend who has Melanoma. I am more informed and if anything can relate more to her battle and situation.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Polly

    Smart, sassy, super human, unique point of view; heavy use of entertaining dialogue transcription makes it a quick, easy read... Language is salty, which is not a problem for me in the slightest, but would knock some people out of the potential readership category... And P.S. it's really educational and thought-provoking on the issue of melanoma. Has me checking my own moles, which is totally NOT me! An awesome read. Smart, sassy, super human, unique point of view; heavy use of entertaining dialogue transcription makes it a quick, easy read... Language is salty, which is not a problem for me in the slightest, but would knock some people out of the potential readership category... And P.S. it's really educational and thought-provoking on the issue of melanoma. Has me checking my own moles, which is totally NOT me! An awesome read.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ginny T

    Interesting read. I liked the author's unique style and the way the book was presented in a conversational fashion. The author allowed us to see the fear and anxiety behind a cancer diagnosis but with a twist of humor. I think we can all see ourselves behaving as she did if dealing with the same thing. Interesting read. I liked the author's unique style and the way the book was presented in a conversational fashion. The author allowed us to see the fear and anxiety behind a cancer diagnosis but with a twist of humor. I think we can all see ourselves behaving as she did if dealing with the same thing.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Anita

    What great writing - I felt like I was a part of Hillary Fogelson's friend base - like we were just sitting and talking about the dangers of melanoma and life problems and girl talk. Lots of info about melanoma presented in a non-threatening but important way and made into a life story that reads like a novel. Loved it. What great writing - I felt like I was a part of Hillary Fogelson's friend base - like we were just sitting and talking about the dangers of melanoma and life problems and girl talk. Lots of info about melanoma presented in a non-threatening but important way and made into a life story that reads like a novel. Loved it.

  17. 5 out of 5

    B Zimp

    I didn't realize this book was a memoir or about cancer (should of read the cover), but I liked it quite a bit. I thought the author was very honest and must have needed tons of therapy to become so self-aware. I think that by sharing her thought processes, she has helped me understand some of my patients better. I didn't realize this book was a memoir or about cancer (should of read the cover), but I liked it quite a bit. I thought the author was very honest and must have needed tons of therapy to become so self-aware. I think that by sharing her thought processes, she has helped me understand some of my patients better.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Martha Bullock

    Great book. Raw feelings captured perfectly. You can really see the author growing over the course of the year of the book. I share her fair skin and respect for the sun. I have a great dermatologist too!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Kimberly Simpson

    It might be hard to imagine that a memoir about melanoma would be a great beach/pool read.... but IT IS!! it really IS!! It's funny, sad, wise, heartwarming and all the things that make you want to pass out copies of the book to everyone you know. love this book. It might be hard to imagine that a memoir about melanoma would be a great beach/pool read.... but IT IS!! it really IS!! It's funny, sad, wise, heartwarming and all the things that make you want to pass out copies of the book to everyone you know. love this book.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kristin Louise Duncombe

    A funny, page turner of a read. The dialogue is fantastic. Hillary Fogelson does an excellent job of creating a very readable, accesible description of dealing with a health crisis, anxiety, and the realities of skin cancer.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jaime

    Entertaining dialogue. Easy read about a serious topic. Makes you really think about taking skincare and sunscreen more seriously.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Candice =^,,^=

    This is a thought provoking memoir by the author and her courageous fight against Melanoma . It's a big eye opener for people who never thought it would happen to them, that it absolutely can. This is a thought provoking memoir by the author and her courageous fight against Melanoma . It's a big eye opener for people who never thought it would happen to them, that it absolutely can.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    Suggested by Mel L. Interesting look at her story of melanoma....timing and experience coincided with my diagnosis and illness so quite interesting from that perspective. March 2013

  24. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth Noyes

    Quick read - but didn't completely love the style in which it was written. Probably would only recommend to someone diagnosed with melanoma Quick read - but didn't completely love the style in which it was written. Probably would only recommend to someone diagnosed with melanoma

  25. 4 out of 5

    Brooke Warner

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kathy Warren

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Long

  28. 4 out of 5

    Todd

  29. 4 out of 5

    Barany

  30. 4 out of 5

    just1heather

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