Reviewed by Kathy L. Brown | Content warnings: cancer, death of a spouse
An impassioned discussion on the ills of cancer care and a compelling story of getting through the most difficult days
Mark Mallardi was diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer in 2021. Now, he’s sharing his tumultuous journey with us. I Love You More…To Suzanne, From Mark is part memoir, part spiritual devotion guide, and part medical information source. Mallardi sheds light on alternative therapies and is an advocate for patient choice in treatment methods. Most of all, he wants to bring hope to people with cancer.
The book is most compelling as a memoir. In the opening scenes, we find a newly divorced Mark meeting the woman who will become the most significant person in his life: Suzanne. She becomes his wife, his human-relationship mentor, his spiritual guide, and ultimately the muse for this book. Because, shortly after Mark’s cancer diagnosis, Suzanne herself is diagnosed with an aggressive tumor. She dies shortly thereafter.
Mark’s story includes his upbringing by a loving but often absent father and a doting mother. Unfortunately, she was subject to intense bouts of clinical depression during which she emotionally withdrew from the family. Her illnesses—first depression, then breast cancer—were important influences on Mark. The side effects of the ineffective cancer care she received in the 1990s shaped his attitudes about treatment plans offered to him in 2021.
Suzanne changed Mark’s life. They traveled widely and grew spiritually together. Their relationship to God was foundational as they each confronted death in the form of catastrophic illnesses. “I didn’t, I couldn’t, stop and see what really mattered in life…God stopped me in my tracks, first taking away my mom all those years ago, and when that wasn’t enough to get my attention, He then took away my beloved Suzanne and my career.”
The book’s voice is conversational, with the memoir sections benefitting from a strong, engaging narrative flow. Other parts of the book outline the details of the holistic, alternative treatments Mark received, primarily in Mexico, as well as his methods to nurture spiritual growth. Some sections include historical descriptions of the US healthcare system development, particular chemotherapy for cancer, and the author’s opinions about his and other patients poor care under this system.
I Love You More… is a compelling love story and an honest, insightful memoir. It is most successful as the story of Mark and Suzanne. The key messages are of the power of love and the need to trust in God, but some parts of the book can distract from that. Not to say the US healthcare system is perfect—far from it!—but the book’s indictment of US cancer care sometimes calls into question which statements are facts and which are opinions.
Readers interested in a story of people learning to love, develop a relationship with God, and battle great challenges will be touched by this book. It provides much food for thought and should provoke lively discussion of healthcare modalities and how the US medical community might improve patient outcomes.
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