1. Health
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

It's Not About the Hair: And Other Certainties of Life and Cancer

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating


Updated February 11, 2008

It's Not About the Hair

It's Not About the Hair

Debra Jarvis

The Bottom Line

If laughter, empathy, and good listening skills could cure cancer, this book might just do the trick. Debra Jarvis, a hospital oncology chaplain faces her own diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer while continuing to counsel, comfort, and encourage other cancer patients. With respect for many belief systems, and lots of humor, she combines prayers, love -- and when needed, Kleenex tissues -- to help family, friends, patients and herself through the cancer experience.
<!--#echo encoding="none" var="lcp" -->


  • Enthusiastic and encouraging words from a survivor
  • Funny, wise, compassionate
  • Good conversations about facing death
  • Broad appeal for many faiths


  • Sometimes the author's enthusiasm exceeds her grammar
  • Articulate use of expletives may offend some readers


  • Author: Debra Jarvis
  • Publisher: Sasquatch Books
  • ISBN-10: 1570615365
  • Copyright 2007
  • List Price: $23.95
  • Book Details: 256 pages, 10 chapters, in hardback.

Guide Review - It's Not About the Hair: And Other Certainties of Life and Cancer

God speaks to us in many ways. For Debra Jarvis, God sometimes sounds like a "still, small voice" and sometimes like Mr. Martha Miyagi. (I'll let her explain that to you herself.)

As a hospital oncology chaplain, Ms. Jarvis visited patients with all kinds and stages of cancer, taking the full range of treatments. Her patients were as diverse as their diagnoses, but all of them faced the problems of how to deal with cancer, life, and death. She listens to all of them with compassion and coaches them to speak openly about their concerns, listening without judgment, but with great love. Ms. Jarvis goes beyond the ordinary "one size fits all" type of prayer, using words from the Judeo-Christian tradition, and including Buddhism, Zen, and whatever else works to bless her patients. Her ecumenical cocktail mix of prayers and attitudes, and some of her vocabulary may offend conservative Christians.

Debra Jarvis was diagnosed with breast cancer and chose to be treated, and continue working at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. "It's Not About the Hair" is not just her story, but also a full picture of the cancer patients and the oncology staff, working together to treat bodies, minds, hearts, and spirits. Her book gives a picture of oncology from both sides of the exam table – health professional and patient. You may need to wipe your tears several times while reading this book, as she makes you laugh at her irreverence, and cry with her compassion. No where else will you read that she wants "Heaven to be like a Versed/Fentanyl IV drip where you awaken and forget all your bad experiences on earth."

Debra is very close to her husband, Wes, a research scientist/physician. Wes was very supportive during Debra's treatment and recovery, and it is a testament to their bond that the author dedicates the book to "Wes, my one and only."

<!--#echo encoding="none" var="lcp" -->
Related Video
How to Cut Your Child's Hair at Home
Managing an Event on the Day
  1. About.com
  2. Health
  3. Breast Cancer
  4. Support and Resources
  5. Helpful Books
  6. Breast Cancer Memoirs
  7. It's Not About the Hair by Debra Jarvis - Review of It's Not About the Hair

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.

We comply with the HONcode standard
for trustworthy health
information: verify here.