4 Helpful Books For Cancer Patients And Their Families
There are many different ways a cancer patient can try to find solace after their diagnosis. One of the biggest struggles they face mentally is trying to find someone else who can identify with their struggle. As much as family members may want to completely be there for a cancer patient, it’s hard to fully connect when they don’t know the true experience of having and coping with cancer directly.
Thus, there are many different perspectives at play here, too. A person with cancer won’t have the same perspective on cancer that a family member or a doctor will. It can be hard for these viewpoints to mesh at times, and it can be hard to completely articulate feelings to someone in real time — especially when those feelings are negative and they’re being discussed with someone a person views positively. There are times when a cancer patient feels extremely hurtful, unhealthy feelings, and projecting these feelings to a loved one is sometimes scarier than the disease itself.
This is where books come in. People have been writing about cancer for decades, from informative medical-grade textbooks to uplifting dialogues about their own experiences. These five books are great reads for cancer patients and their families in order to get an outside, educational perspective on cancer through someone else’s eyes.
1. “When Breathe Becomes Air” — Paul Kalanithi
When Paul Kalanithi was thirty-six, almost everything in his life was going right. He was about to complete his neurosurgery training, a feat he’d been working on for over 10 years. He’d recently gotten married to the love of his life, his wife and fellow physician. Kalanithi was also a new father. That was also when he was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer out of the blue.
Kalanithi’s story doesn’t come with a happy ending — he died in March 2015 after working on this book, “When Breathe Becomes Air.” However, this doesn’t mean that the book itself isn’t informative and empowering. It’s often those that are confronting an eminent death are the ones who can speak so profoundly on the meaning of life.
This is the purpose of Kalanithi’s book. In “When Breathe Becomes Air,” Kalanithi explores the sudden downturn in his health in the context of how the disease impacts his life. What is it that makes life worth living? What happens when you know your future has a concrete end date approaching? In the end, Kalanithi never gave up and fought the good fight. While he lost his life, he never lost his gratitude for what time he was given.
2. “Picture Your Life After Cancer” — The New York Times
What if you want a more hopeful, energetic read? Try picking up “Picture Your Life After Cancer,” a collective of experiences from cancer survivors around the country. In 2010, the famed newspaper New York Times asked readers a technically simple but profoundly complicated question: “how is your life different after cancer?” Submissions poured in from people of many different ages, creeds and locations, all eager to share their thoughts and experiences.
In some cases, the stories of those who survived cancer patients are included — family members express how life is different after a loved one did lose the battle. Most of the photos and short essays, however, are from cancer patients who were at the time in remission, reflecting on their experiences with emotions ranging from joy to worry.
3. “A Year to Live: How to Live This Year as If It Were Your Last” — Stephen Levine
Let’s now take cancer out of the equation for a second. No matter what the reason, you only have one year left to live — what do you do?
Stephen Levine’s “A Year to Live” explores his journey taking a year from his own life and living by Socrates’ rule that dying is the highest form of wisdom. Pretending he would die at the end of a year’s time period, Levine lived each moment as if it would indeed lead up to his very last.
The purpose behind this book? It’s often that those who are dying feel their death will come all too soon. Levine offers ways to live life in order to feel like when the time does come, you didn’t waste a moment of the time you had left. Cancer patients who don’t have such a severe diagnosis can take from this book as much as a patient who had a fatal prognosis. Death may be coming, but there’s a lot of life to live between then and now.
4. “Everything Changes: The Insider’s Guide to Cancer in your 20’s and 30’s” — Kairol Rosenthal
Cancer has long since been thought of as an older person’s disease. After all, that’s why cancer screenings don’t really come up in doctor’s visits until you’re in your 40s and 50s, right? But what about those cancer patients that may not make it that far because they’ve been diagnosed at 21 or 33?
“Everything Changes” is about those cancer patients who fall by the wayside when we discuss who gets cancer in our modern world. Kairol Rosenthal has created a memoir and survival guide for cancer patients in their 20s and 30s that includes advice on spirituality, resources for medical insurance, dating and sex, adoption and fertility and other topics not often touched upon by polite society.
If you are a younger cancer patient, or you know someone who is, this book is a must read. It can be the difference between losing all hope and realizing you can life to fight another day.