top of page

What happens when a novelist with a “razor-sharp wit” (Newsday), a “singular sensibility” (Huff Post), and a lifetime of fear about getting sick finds a lump where no lump should be? Months of medical mishaps, coded language, and Doctors Who Don’t Get It.

      With wisdom, self-effacing wit, and the story-telling artistry of an acclaimed novelist, Elizabeth Benedict recollects her cancer diagnosis after discovering multiplying lumps in her armpit. In compact, explosive chapters, interspersed with moments of self-mocking levity, she chronicles her illness from muddled diagnosis to “natural remedies,” to debilitating treatments, as she gathers sustenance from family, an assortment of urbane friends, and a fearless “cancer guru.” 

       Benedict’s sagacity jackets her fears, which are personal, political, and ultimately global. Amidst weighty concerns of the Covid pandemic and an all-consuming obsession over her ailments, Rewriting Illness is suffused with suspense, secrets, and the unexpected solace of silence.

Rewriting ILLNESS: A View of My Own

SKU: 9781942134916
  • Elizabeth Benedict is a best-selling novelist, journalist, teacher of creative writing, editor and writing. coach.  She has published five acclaimed novels including the national bestseller, Almost, and the
    National Book Award finalist, Slow Dancing, authored the classic book on writing about sex in fiction, The Joy of Writing Sex, in print for 25 years. Her personal essays have been selected as “Notable” in four editions of Best American Essays. She has written reviews and articles for The New York TimesBoston GlobeEsquire, Real Simple, and Daedalus, and been a regular contributor to Japanese PlayboyHuffington Post and Salmagundi, writing on sexual politics, money, and literature, and on figures from Monica Lewinsky to British psychoanalyst Adam Phillips. 


    She conceived of and edited three prominent anthologies, including the New York Times Bestseller, What My Mother Gave Me: 31 Women on the Gifts That Mattered Most (2013); Mentors, Muses & Monsters: 30 Writers on the People Who Changed Their Lives; and Me, My Hair, and I: 27 Women Untangle an Obsession (2015). Her books are featured regularly in reviews and interviews on All Things Considered, Fresh Air, and many other public radio shows, including the BBC's"Women's Hour," and Australia Public Radio. She has taught creative writing at Princeton, the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and Columbia, and is on the Fiction Faculty at the New York State Summer Writers Institute.

  • “Memoirs of serious illness are often good suspense stories, and this one is a page-turner. I read Elizabeth Benedict's Rewriting Illness in a single sitting and finished it infinitely more knowledgeable about what itmeans to be diagnosed with cancer. Here is someone who’s figured out not only how to think about the unthinkable but how to turn her into an honest, gripping, and genuinely humorous story. It’s the kind of inspiring book you want to share with all the important people in your life.” Sigrid Nunez, author of What Are You Going Through and The Friend, A Novel, 2018 Winner of the National Book Award for Fiction


    Rewriting Illness is a superbly intelligent and surprisingly entertaining memoir about what happens when a lifelong fear of illness collides at last with illness itself. Elizabeth Benedict applies her formidable talents as a novelist to bringing to life the scenes and characters from her annus horribilis dealing with lymphoma. She writes with an honesty and a sly sense of humor about herself that make this book hard to put down.”  Stephen McCauley, author of My Ex-Life


    "Rewriting Illness, Elizabeth Benedict’s eighth book, will mess with you— in irresistible ways. Despite its scary subject, this chronicle reads more like a breathtaking whodunnit — or rather, a whatdunnit... Best of all, Benedict’s writing sparkles.... Benedict whips language around like a gunslinger.... For all its roller-coaster terrors, Benedict’s story … amuses and entertains, even while we’re clutching the book pop-eyed.... Benedict’s fearless descriptions of how every step (and misstep) felt, are mesmerizing.... Give it to friends. It’s supremely worth the journey.” Boston Globe 


    "A New York City cancer memoir informed by Susan Sontag and Nora Ephron.... A fine antidote to anodyne cancer accounts." Kirkus Reviews

    "Her surprisingly entertaining memoir should be required reading for every medical student, resident, and physician, prompting us to reflect on how we talk to and care for our patients – an ideal teaching." Kathy G. Niknejad, MD, Faculty, Harvard Medical School 

    "When I finished the book, I felt like I had made a new friend, and all I wanted was to keep our conversation going. This is more than a memoir; it's an experience." Lori Gottlieb, Maybe You
    Should Talk To Someone,
    and co-host of the "Dear Therapists" podcast


    "By turns witty, vivid, and harrowing, Rewriting Illness reads as though Nora Ephron had written a book called, ‘I Feel Bad About My Tumor.’ Especially good on the abrupt, stopped time feeling when
    the flow of life - city life, complicated life, sentient life - collides with illness." Thomas Beller, Lost in the Game: A Book About Basketball

    "It's not courage unless you're afraid, and Elizabeth Benedict has courage - and fear - in abundance, in this frank, riveting and often hilarious memoir. If you've had cancer, or love someone who
    had or has it, or are just plain afraid of it -- that's to say pretty much everyone -- then you'll want to read this book." Claire Messud, The Emperor's Children; The Woman Upstairs

    "Elizabeth Benedict's beautiful, brave memoir about her own fears, especially fear of illness, which was eventually realized and had to be overcome, has so much to say about rational and irrational anxieties and the way they haunt women and deprive us of the larger life we crave." Katha Pollitt, Learning to Drive and Other Life Stories; Subject to Debate: Sense


    "The moment every woman dreads of finding a lump where no lump should be is the jumping off point
    for Elizabeth Benedict's startling, self-aware, and wickedly funny memoir. Whether she's describing her sister teaching her Tibetan chants to calm her nerves, the big city doctors who dismiss her concerns, or her problems with Susan Sontag's cancer metaphor critique, Benedict brings a novelist's deft storytelling to a narrative we think we already know. It's full of drama, humor, essential lessons for dealing with doctors, crushing vulnerability -- and wonderfully -- plenty of hope." Mara Liasson, NPR, National Political Correspondent


    "I devoured Elizabeth Benedict's beautiful book in one sitting--truly couldn’t put it down. I’m moved and astonished by how she made her cancer story universal, even for someone who is not yet, knock wood, a member of that club. Brava for this forthright and fascinating account.” Betsy West, documentary director (RBG, Julia, Gabby Giffords Won't Back Down)


    "Nuanced, thoughtful, with not a cliché in sight, Elizabeth Benedict’s memoir is impossible to put down because the rich inner life of the writer―this excellent writer―is so compelling. The story she tells―vividly, in fits and starts, as it happened--is a reflection of encountering the unpredictable vicissitudes of life, and its one certainty." Katherine Dalsimer, Dept. of Psychiatry, Weill Cornell Medical College, Virginia Woolf: Becoming a Writer and Female Adolescence Psychoanalytic Reflections on Literature

bottom of page