Title – The Tumor
Author – John Grisham
Genre – Fiction, short story
I chanced upon this book that John Grisham has himself called “the most important book I’ve ever written.” The tagline of The Tumor reads “a non-legal thriller”. While this can’t exactly be called a thriller, the story is definitely a very engaging medical read, far removed from Grisham’s usual legal-themed books. In the author’s note, Grisham talks about what led him to write this story. As a student, he drifted away from math and science, eventually settling on law as a career. Around seven years ago, Grisham’s neurosurgeon friend Dr. Neal Kassell had discussed with him about focused ultrasound therapy, and how it could alleviate the need for conventional brain surgery. This sowed the seed of an idea for a story – a fictional account of medical technology that could revolutionize the future of medicine. Grisham’s aim was to not just tell a tale, but bring attention to the development and availability of new technologies in medical science – educate and inform readers through his books.
The Tumor is set in two parts – with the same series of events occurring in two sets of medical scenarios. We are introduced to Paul, a thirty-five year old banker, and his family comprising his wife and three young children. Usually leading an active lifestyle, Paul realizes he has a recent tendency to procrastinate, feels listless and tired, and suffers from tremendous headaches and blurry vision. Blaming his symptoms on stress, he refuses to see a doctor, until he collapses one day at home, in a full-blown seizure. Subsequent tests reveal Grade four glioma – a glioblastoma, the most catastrophic. The story provides details into Paul’s diagnosis and subsequent line of treatment, and the prognosis that follows. Part one incorporates brain surgery as the recommended mode of treatment; part two delves into focused ultrasound therapy as a means of eliminating the tumor. In each of the parts, the reader is taken through Paul’s physical and mental state pre and post admission, the possibility of recurring tumors, the malignancy of the tumors, the number of months or years he could hope to live for, and his quality of life in general.
The story is accompanied by pictures and MRI scans that reveal the location and treatment of the tumor. Radiation therapy, ultrasound focused brain transducers, steroidal medications – with before and after images for all. The purpose of this book is to draw attention to the future of focused ultrasound therapy in treating a myriad of medical conditions and avoiding Premature death – tumors of the brain, liver, pancreas; epilepsy, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Reading about Paul’s prognosis, the reader knows the tumor might eventually take Paul’s life. Focused ultrasound therapy, however, shows us how a fatal condition can be transformed into a chronic, but manageable one. At the end, the book also introduces us to four individuals who have opted for focused ultrasound therapy for various conditions – Grisham’s attempt for the reader to not dismiss this book as a work of fiction entirely, but learn about the importance of this form of therapy over surgery.
A very informative and educative piece of work narrated in the form of a story. Even readers from non-medical fields would appreciate this – the accompanying images make understanding the medical terms easier. Grisham has certainly done his research well. My only grouse is the book seems too promotional towards the end. One realizes the importance of this revolutionary form of therapy and is appreciative of the fact that the story brings light to something the non-medical fraternity might not have known of otherwise. However, pages over pages of the Ultrasound Foundation, it’s board of directors, and some more pages of notes by it’s chairman take up too much book space.
Rating – 3/5