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BALLOON POODLES: A step-by-step chronological guide to not losing your mind over losing your esophagus and other major surgeries by Martin McMillan

BALLOON POODLES: A step-by-step chronological guide to not losing your mind over losing your esophagus and other major surgeries

by Martin McMillan

252 pages
A true and sometimes humorous story about surviving esophageal cancer.

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Category: Health:Medicine:Cancer
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About the Book
Can an e-mail message history of a life-threatening health crisis be personal, informative and humorous?

Personal and informative, yes; Humorous, sometimes.

Balloon Poodles is a chronological series of e-mails which drew the author’s family and friends – and now readers -- into his unplanned, yet ultimately successful experience with the lesser known, yet almost always fatal, esophageal cancer.

Balloon Poodles is the internet successor to the traditional series of handwritten letters rolled into a single volume. While Martin maintains the constant flow of personal correspondence over a nine month period, it is the immediacy of his reflections which drive the action to another level. The book welds a breaking news urgency with an old-fashioned, easy going narrative style. He is communicating the impact of an event only hours, sometimes minutes, after the occurrence.

Above all, Balloon Poodles is practical. If you are facing major surgery -- cancer related or not – or know someone who is -- this book is an outstanding resource. The author includes checklists on things to do before, during and after surgery. He also cites helpful links for those wanting to research their own condition.

By being aware of the instant feedback of these updates, the reader is ever-present; sometimes eavesdropping and sometimes dealing with all the medical speak and butterflies. There are no thundering crescendos or ever increasing levels of action; just the drama of real life.

Some 20 years ago, Martin would have traveled to his hometown to visit friends and family. There, he would have disclosed the news of his cancer diagnosis. He also might have sent out a form letter, or he could have called friends in his personal network and asked them to help pass along the information to those who would want to know. With modern technology, these methods of communication became unnecessary.

As chat rooms replace coffee shop talk for many and politicians hold town halls online, so Balloon Poodles is the cyberspace version of a neighborhood fence conversation. All the same, this email thread could not have been more honest and intimate if read aloud by the fireplace.

For those who are curious, the title Balloon Poodles is derived from an offhand remark Martin made in an email discussing what his interior might look like after surgery. This type of humor – pervasive throughout the book - both entertained his email audience and allowed him to experience brief mental respites in dealing with this deadly serious situation. This makes reading about this very serious subject both enjoyable and instructive.

The author lets the reader know he or she can and must take charge of their health care situation and become informed about their medical condition. In so doing, you, too, will be in a less fearful and more proactive position. You will be able to form a foundation from which to ask the right questions, allowing you to make the best decisions in any particular situation.


Balloon Poodles is the first book to deal with the complexities of an esophageal cancer diagnosis from the patient’s point of view. It is informative, well written and very reader-friendly. I can highly recommend this book to patients, family and friends facing esophageal cancer, Barrett’s or major surgery in general.
- Donna Vining, President, GastroEsophageal Cancer Foundation



About the Author
Martin L. McMillan is a professional and a graduate of the University of Tulsa. He is an esophageal cancer survivor and is a founding board member of the GastroEsophageal Cancer Foundation (GECF). His family includes his wife Karen, a daughter and two dogs.



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