Skip to main content
Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
Ordinary Life

Ordinary Life

A Memoir Of Illness

Kathlyn Conway

Henry Holt and Co.



This book is a striking departure from the literature of illness as well as a remarkable literary work in its own right. The stories we typically hear about people coping with serious illness are set up as heroic tales that emphasize the victim's triumph over adversity or even portray the experience of illness as a transformative event that makes the survivor "a better person."

In this compelling account written from within an illness, Kathlyn Conway gives us a deeply honest description of her own struggle with breast cancer and its many reverberations through her everyday life, bringing us to the heart of the experience of illness without preachiness or sentimentality.

Conway did not experience breast cancer as a means for reevaluating her life, but rather as a terrible threat to her future and that of her family. Making difficult choices among treatment possibilities, dealing with nurses, doctors, and lab technichians, undergoing a mastectomy, and enduring chemotherapy, Conway discovered that although she wanted to play the part of the brave, long-suffering patient, she could not. Angry and upset much of the time, overwhelmed by her situation, she found it difficult to cope even with the support her family and friends provided.

In her willingness to share this story of herself as a frightened, sometimes selfish, often despairing human being, Kathlyn Conway gives us not only an unsettling portrait of our everyday mortality but a renewed appreciation of life itself.

Ordinary life

Chapter one
Waiting Rooms
It is March 31, 1993, two years since my last mammogram and the day I am scheduled for another. Because the New York Times has been filled with the controversy...

Reviews from Goodreads

Kathlyn Conway

Kathlyn Conway is a practicing psychotherapist who lives in New York City with her husband and two children. Ordinary Life is her first book.