Garden Waterfall

Marie handed me a brown paper bag with five books in it. "I picked these up at a book sale and kept meaning to give them to you sooner."

Her timing was flawless. I'd just reached the point where I was bored with the fiction I had been reading and inclined to dig into something with more reality to it. I was ready to read about recurrences and the emotional consequences of having breast cancer. This was more than the once-over-lightly reading I'd done before and during my primary treatment.

 

I've listed some books I've found helpful. The books are organized into categories; some are listed under several categories.

Each has a link to Amazon.com and the ability for you to order it online.

 

 

Humor

Medical Information

Emotional Recovery

Personal Stories

Politics of Cancer

Alternative Treatments

Inspirational

Scary Stuff

 


Reviews

Humor

Anatomy of an Illness and Head First are both by Norman Cousins. He is a well known proponent of the view that a positive outlook and a good relationship with your doctor improves your chances of survival. This is a historical look at some of the research into humor and healing. I liked the second book best. It is more contemporary and less of a diatribe. The author had to learn that medical science could not be based on personal experience. While anecdotes make for good writing, they are by nature unable to be validated scientifically. His findings apply to all kinds of serious illness, not just cancer.

Love, Laughter & a High Disregard for Statistics by Sue Buchanan is a survivor's story told from the heart with humor. She makes the point that statistics apply to groups of people not to individuals. There is a Christian foundation in her life and she never stopped believing in miracles.

Medical Information

After Cancer: A Guide To Your New Life by Wendy Schlessel Harpham, M.D. was the first book out of Marie's sack. I'd missed her first book, Diagnosis: Cancer, but this book seemed to be talking to me where I was at when I first read it. After a brief autobiographical prologue she segued into a discussion of the medical aspects of recovery, aftereffects of cancer treatment, practical issues, and emotional issues of survivorship. Her question and answer format made it easy to skim for the questions I was beginning to ask. My favorite section was the one she called Insights and Handles to Help You Get to Your New Life. Dr. Harpham wrote that sometimes a simple phrase helps more than all the sophisticated, caring discussion that may be provided. Although her cancer was a lymphoma, not breast cancer, her experiences seemed similar to mine. Her appendices include a glossary, an annotated bibliography, resources for the recovering patient, a section on which doctor does what, personal medical records, warning signs, cancer prevention, cancer screening, and lymphedema.

Breast Cancer: What Every Woman Should Know by Rita Baron-Faust takes a less personal approach. The author is a medical journalist and had numerous breast cancer authorities review her text before it was published. The information is as up to date as is possible for a publication date of 1995. There are brief quotations from cancer patients that illustrate points throughout the book. This helps to overcome the somewhat detached manner in which the material is presented. There is an excellent list of resources, further reading, and an index included in this volume.

Dr. Susan Love's Breast Book by Susan M. Love, M.D. with Karen Lindsey is often referred to as the Bible for breast cancer. It is as personal as a talk with your own doctor (which says a lot about the kind of doctors I have had) and is a current as anything in the popular press. It covers all the conditions of the female breast. The indices at the end include a list of drugs, resources for each chapter, regional support organizations, cancer centers listed by state, divisions of the American Cancer Society, a statement of what you should expect from your doctor and what he or she should expect from you, notes on each chapter, a glossary and an index. I have loaned this book out to friends who are facing breast cancer because it was the best general resource I've read.

Dr. Susan Love's Hormone Book by Susan M. Love, M.D. with Karen Lindsey. Because hormones are contraindicated in many women with breast cancer I thought this book would not be of much interest to me. However I found many lifestyle changes and alternative approaches suggested in this book to help me make informed choices about menopause.

Finding Your Way to Wellness is a local information and resource guide by the Puget Sound Chapter of the Susan G. Komen Foundation. It is very useful for finding local resources for breast cancer patients and their families. It also has general information about breast cancer and its treatment.

Sexuality & Cancer by Leslie R. Schover, PhD, is available from the American Cancer Society. It is a pamphlet and it is packed with information about how cancer and its treatment affect women who have cancer and their partners. There are some good first steps to help you keep your sex life going.

Living Beyond Breast Cancer by Marisa C. Weiss, M.D., and Ellen Weiss is a survivor's guide for putting your life back together after treatment ends. This is not a read cover to cover book. This is a book you will refer to again and again as different problems or questions come to the front of your attention. It covers medical issues, emotional issues, and practical issues with sensitivity and occasional touches of humor.

Emotional Recovery

After Cancer: A Guide To Your New Life by Wendy Schlessel Harpham, M.D. was the first book out of Marie's sack. I'd missed her first book, Diagnosis: Cancer, but this book seemed to be talking to me where I was at when I first read it. After a brief autobiographical prologue she segued into a discussion of the medical aspects of recovery, aftereffects of cancer treatment, practical issues, and emotional issues of survivorship. Her question and answer format made it easy to skim for the questions I was beginning to ask. My favorite section was the one she called Insights and Handles to Help You Get to Your New Life. Dr. Harpham wrote that sometimes a simple phrase helps more than all the sophisticated, caring discussion that may be provided. Although her cancer was a lymphoma, not breast cancer, her experiences seemed similar to mine. Her appendices include a glossary, an annotated bibliography, resources for the recovering patient, a section on which doctor does what, personal medical records, warning signs, cancer prevention, cancer screening, and lymphedema.

Spinning Straw Into Gold by Ronnie Kaye is a book on emotional recovery. The author is a survivor of breast cancer and a psychotherapist who has lead many support groups for women with breast cancer. She shares her insight into the grief, anger, terror and lonliness that many survivors feel. She sees the emotional crises of cancer as opportunity for growth, for facing reality, improving communication with others, and taking back control of our lives. Reading and rereading this book helped me sort out my own feelings.

Dancing in Limbo is by Glenna Halvorson-Boyd and Lisa K. Hunter. They are surviving oral cancer and malignant melanoma. Limbo is the metaphor they used to describe the painful uncertainty of life after cancer. They show by example, theirs and others in their survivors' groups, how to face the denial, grief, fear, delusions of control, and social problems that met them in their private terra incognita.

A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows Through Loss is by Gerald Sittser. This book is not about cancer. Its author lost in a tragic car accident three generations of his family: his mother, his wife, and his young daughter. His loss was unique; he found that the experience of loss is universal. He shows that we can grow and even find joy at the same time that we feel darkness in our spirit.

Living Beyond Breast Cancer by Marisa C. Weiss, M.D., and Ellen Weiss is a survivor's guide for putting your life back together after treatment ends. This is not a read cover to cover book. This is a book you will refer to again and again as different problems or questions come to the front of your attention. It covers medical issues, emotional issues, and practical issues with sensitivity and occasional touches of humor.

Personal Stories

The Race is Run One Step at a Time by Nancy G. Brinker with Catherine McEvily Harris is the story of a woman who coped with her sister's breast cancer death by starting an organization to raise funds for education and research. Then she discovered that she also had cancer of the breast. The things she learned from her crusade were applied to her own life. She shows by example how a patient can surround herself with a team of medical experts and people for emotional support. The glossary, a resource guide and an index made this book useful for reference as further questions arise.

Cancer as Initiation by Barbara Stone is a survivor's story. I was privileged to hear Dr. Stone talk on this subject just before I started radiation. She emphasizes the mind-body connection while telling her own story. Dr. Stone discovered her lump just three months after her second marriage and midway through her doctoral program in clinical psychology. Her doctoral thesis was written about the effects that various healing modalities had on her. She used both Eastern and Western medicine and tracked the results with careful description and Kirlian photography. Her dream analyses show an in-depth look at the emotions that accompany cancer and its treatment.

Spinning Straw Into Gold by Ronnie Kaye is a book on emotional recovery. The author is a survivor of breast cancer and a psychotherapist who has lead many support groups for women with breast cancer. She shares her insight into the grief, anger, terror and lonliness that many survivors feel. She sees the emotional crises of cancer as opportunity for growth, for facing reality, improving communication with others, and taking back control of our lives. Reading and rereading this book helped me sort out my own feelings.

Dancing in Limbo is by Glenna Halvorson-Boyd and Lisa K. Hunter. They are surviving oral cancer and malignant melanoma. Limbo is the metaphor they used to describe the painful uncertainty of life after cancer. They show by example, theirs and others in their survivors' groups, how to face the denial, grief, fear, delusions of control, and social problems that met them in their private terra incognita.

Anatomy of an Illness and Head First are both by Norman Cousins. He is a well known proponent of the view that a positive outlook and a good relationship with your doctor improves your chances of survival. This is a historical look at some of the research into humor and healing. I liked the second book best. It is more contemporary and less of a diatribe. The author had to learn that medical science could not be based on personal experience. While anecdotes make for good writing, they are by nature unable to be validated scientifically. His findings apply to all kinds of serious illness, not just cancer.

Dancing on the Edge by Dorothy Palmieri Doyle describes with utter honesty the impact that breast cancer had on the author and her family. Her description of what radiation felt like is right on target and her description of chemotherapy is quite vivid. There is a bibliography and several pages of resources.

First You Cry by Betty Rollin is a classic in the field of breast cancer stories. I'd heard about this book for years and found it this summer on a table at a rummage sale. Betty was an NBC News correspondent at the time her cancer was discovered and treated. She'd done stories on breast cancer but didn't realize that the small lump in her breast was cancer. Her doctors had missed the diagnosis for a year. She tells her story honestly with wit, courage, and warmth.

Love, Laughter & a High Disregard for Statistics by Sue Buchanan is a survivor's story told from the heart with humor. She makes the point that statistics apply to groups of people not to individuals. There is a Christian foundation in her life and she never stopped believing in miracles.

Converstions With My Healers by Cynthia Ploski is an unusual approach to the breast cancer story. After using both traditional and alternative methods of treatment she interviewed each of her therapists about their experiences as healers, their training and what they believed about their type of therapy. She talked to and tape-recorded visits with a surgeon, an oncologist, an herbalist, a nutritionist, a shamanic healer and others.

Breast Cancer Journal by Juliet Wittman is a survivor's story. There are many such stories, yet this one stands out by the exceptional ability of the author to tell her tale with wit, intelligence, and sometimes anger. At the end is an appendix on 'What I Wish I'd Known When I Was First Diagnosed'. It is outstanding in its common sense and information that is vital to a newly diagnosed patient.

Politics of Cancer

The Race is Run One Step at a Time by Nancy G. Brinker with Catherine McEvily Harris is the story of a woman who coped with her sister's breast cancer death by starting an organization to raise funds for education and research. Then she discovered that she also had cancer of the breast. The things she learned from her crusade were applied to her own life. She shows by example how a patient can surround herself with a team of medical experts and people for emotional support. The glossary, a resource guide and an index made this book useful for reference as further questions arise.

To Dance with the Devil by Karen Stabiner is a journalist's view of recent breast cancer research, treatment, and politics. There is a cast of dozens and several major stories. Seven patients along with their physician, Dr. Susan Love were followed for a year. Three activists and eight research were likewise involved in the war against breast cancer. I never did find where the title originated but we are brought up to date on the war against this enemy.

Alternative Treatments

Cancer as Initiation by Barbara Stone is a survivor's story. I was privileged to hear Dr. Stone talk on this subject just before I started radiation. She emphasizes the mind-body connection while telling her own story. Dr. Stone discovered her lump just three months after her second marriage and midway through her doctoral program in clinical psychology. Her doctoral thesis was written about the effects that various healing modalities had on her. She used both Eastern and Western medicine and tracked the results with careful description and Kirlian photography. Her dream analyses show an in-depth look at the emotions that accompany cancer and its treatment.

Converstions With My Healers by Cynthia Ploski is an unusual approach to the breast cancer story. After using both traditional and alternative methods of treatment she interviewed each of her therapists about their experiences as healers, their training and what they believed about their type of therapy. She talked to and tape-recorded visits with a surgeon, an oncologist, an herbalist, a nutritionist, a shamanic healer and others.

Choices in Healing by Michael Lerner is an important book to read if you are considering any of the complementary approaches to treating cancer, or just want to take an active part in choosing your treatment by conventional means. He explores the uses of hope in healing and says to give yourself permission to hope. He says that healing goes beyond curing and may take place when curing is impossible. "The starting point for informed choice in both mainstream and complementary cancer therapies is the patient's recognition that he can play a crucial role in the fight for his life." He tells what is proven and unproven about several better known therapies, and relates the concerns that scientific medicine has about them without taking sides. He talks about living with cancer, pain control, living and dying, and making informed choices. There is an excellent appendix of resources.

Inspirational

A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows Through Loss is by Gerald Sittser. This book is not about cancer. Its author lost in a tragic car accident three generations of his family: his mother, his wife, and his young daughter. His loss was unique; he found that the experience of loss is universal. He shows that we can grow and even find joy at the same time that we feel darkness in our spirit.

Chicken Soup for the Surviving Soul by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Patty Aubery and Nancy Mitchell, R.N. Cancer can be a horrible experience and it can also lead to new insights and appreciation of every part of one's life. These stories made me laugh and cry. I'm so glad this group is doing more in this series.

Scary Stuff

Holding Tight, Letting Go by Musa Mayer is about living with metastatic breast cancer. The theme of the book in the author's words is "…that many metastatic breast cancer patients can live for years following a recurrence, that the quality of their lives usually remains good until the disease is very advanced, and that skilled intervention can prolong life, often very significantly." There are extensive quotes from women (and one man) and their husbands or partners about their experiences. Musa takes the reader on a journey from waiting for the other shoe to drop to the last days of life. I've read the book twice and wept each time. There are extensive resources, notes, a glossary, and a listing of drugs commonly used in treating metastatic breast cancer and in dealing with the side effects of the treatment.

How We Die by Sherwin B. Nuland is a hard book to read. Hard, because it dispels the romantic ideas we have about death from the world of entertainment. Hard, because he tells it like it really is. Dr. Nuland explains what is happening within the body as a person dies from several different diseases.There is a historical perspective and examples from his own practice and life. He bravely reports his mistakes in handling the issues of whether to tell the patient all the truth and whether to pursue life at any cost. The lessons learned were at great cost: we all die, we can hope to die without great pain, we can hope not to die alone, we can hope not to be subjected to needless attempts to maintain life. We may not see our hopes fulfilled so the best way to have a good death is to have a good life. "The honesty and grace of the years of life that is ending is the real measure of how we die."


Copyright © 1998 by Frances A. Beslanwitch

Main Page / Links / Email Me / Top of page

 

Feel Free to Contact Me Links of Interest