Annapolis sparked a love story 40 years ago when Iain Baird took the girl he’d marry sailing for their first date. Life’s strange journey took them back where it began for retirement — with Hurricane Isabelle in their rearview mirror. But before Annapolis the second time around came Virginia, Louisiana and two more deadly storms: Hurricane Katrina and prostate cancer. Baird has written Two Storms: Prostate Cancer and Katrina in New Orleans to chronicle his tale of surviving the Big C in the Big Easy, post-Katrina.
This is a timely read in September, which is National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month and the five-year anniversary of Katrina. It’s also a compelling read. Baird’s story is as dramatic as an episode of Showtime’s new cancer dramedy, The Big C, except that it lacks the carpe diem resignation. Don’t even get him started on the celebratory ribbons of survivor pride.
This is cancer for quiet people, where the scars and depression he shares with the recovering city are laid bare in surprisingly detached and entertaining fashion. For the 217,000 American men who will be diagnosed with prostate cancer this year, this book is a beacon to guide them through the storm.
The chapters are concise, informative and often amusing sound bites, alternating between updates on Baird’s and the region’s recuperation. If laughter is the best medicine, it’s no wonder he triumphs. He likens the biopsy to a Simpsons’ episode, complete with a medical technician who fancies himself a stand-up comic. When he receives his diagnosis, he can’t help but wonder “why something so negative is couched as a positive result.” Curious about morphine? “It’s like Disney World, but more colorful.”
Beyond the humor, Baird addresses the most indelicate implications of the disease, from the bathroom to the bedroom, with both delicacy and disarming candor. Because he has no medical training, he demystifies an alphabet soup of medical procedures and lab results by speaking in layman’s terms.
The journey to wellness sometimes reads like a travelogue, full of poetic imagery and local color: from the culinary secrets of a great New Orleans oyster Po’ Boy to an outing in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. Bay readers will be pleased to see that Charm City plays a supporting role, as Baird undergoes treatment at Johns Hopkins. Then it’s back to New Orleans, where “violence infects the city, and … death is in the air,” where he tries to rise from the metaphoric mud and mold that weigh him down even as everyone tells him not to worry too much.
This book follows a journey no one wants to make. But if it must be trekked, Baird has blazed a trail worth following. Would that all diseases came with such an owner’s manual. If you know someone affected by this disease, give him this book. It’s worth a gross of get-well cards: www.iainbaird.com.