Six Books That Will Change Your Perspective on Cancer

November 12, 2021
Six Books That Will Change Your Perspective on Cancer

Written by Abigail Hill

 

Living with cancer is a complex, gritty, and sometimes emotionally messy existence. Here are six heart-felt, raw, honest portrayals of what it's like, written by people who have walked in your shoes.  Read on for inspiring examples of how to embrace life to its fullest.

 

 

1. A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles

Written by Mary Elizabeth Williams

A wry, witty account of what it is like to face death—and be restored to life.  After being diagnosed in her early 40s with metastatic melanoma—a "rapidly fatal" form of cancer—journalist and mother of two Mary Elizabeth Williams finds herself in a race against the clock. She takes a once-in-a-lifetime chance and joins a clinical trial for immunotherapy, a revolutionary drug regimen that trains the body to vanquish malignant cells. Astonishingly, her cancer disappears entirely in just a few weeks. But at the same time, her best friend embarks on a cancer journey of her own—with very different results. Williams's experiences as a patient and a medical test subject reveal with stark honesty what it takes to weather disease, the extraordinary new developments that are rewriting the rules of science—and the healing power of human connection

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. When Breath Becomes Air

Written by Paul Kalanithi 

At the age of 36, on the verge of completing a decade's worth of training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, and the next he was a patient struggling to live. And just like that, the future he and his wife had imagined evaporated. When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi's transformation from a naïve medical student "possessed", as he wrote, "by the question of what, given that all organisms die, makes a virtuous and meaningful life" into a neurosurgeon at Stanford working in the brain, the most critical place for human identity, and finally into a patient and new father confronting his own mortality. 

What makes life worth living in the face of death? What do you do when the future, no longer a ladder toward your goals in life, flattens out into a perpetual present? What does it mean to have a child, to nurture a new life as another fades away? These are some of the questions Kalanithi wrestles with in this profoundly moving, exquisitely observed memoir. 

Paul Kalanithi died in March 2015, while working on this book, yet his words live on as a guide and a gift to us all. "I began to realize that coming face to face with my own mortality, in a sense, had changed nothing and everything," he wrote. "Seven words from Samuel Beckett began to repeat in my head: 'I can't go on. I'll go on.'" When Breath Becomes Air is an unforgettable, life-affirming reflection on the challenge of facing death and on the relationship between doctor and patient, from a brilliant writer who became both.

 

 

 

 

3. Help Me Live

Written by Lori Hope

Everyone knows someone who's had cancer. And, of course, we want nothing more than to offer comfort and support, and foster hope. But we don’t always know how—and may feel uncomfortable asking. Following her own treatment for cancer, Lori Hope created a survey for cancer survivors addressing issues they wanted their families, friends, and caregivers to understand. The results of the newly expanded survey are presented with honesty, insight, and humor, and complemented by scores of compelling personal stories from survivors of diverse ages and backgrounds.
 
If you are a caregiver, Help Me Live will help you communicate more effectively and respond more compassionately. And if you are a survivor, it will help you feel validated, empowered, and, ultimately, hopeful.

Amazon.com: The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying eBook : Riggs,  Nina: Kindle Store

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. The Bright Hour

Written by Nina Riggs

Nina Riggs was just thirty-seven years old when initially diagnosed with breast cancer—one small spot. Within a year, the mother of two sons, ages seven and nine, and married sixteen years to her best friend, received the devastating news that her cancer was terminal.

How does one live each day, “unattached to outcome”? How does one approach the moments, big and small, with both love and honesty?

Exploring motherhood, marriage, friendship, and memory, even as she wrestles with the legacy of her great-great-great grandfather, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nina Riggs’s breathtaking memoir continues the urgent conversation that Paul Kalanithi began in his gorgeous When Breath Becomes Air. She asks, what makes a meaningful life when one has limited time?

Brilliantly written, disarmingly funny, and deeply moving, The Bright Hour is about how to love all the days, even the bad ones, and it’s about the way literature, especially Emerson, and Nina’s other muse, Montaigne, can be a bomb and a form of prayer. It’s a book about looking death squarely in the face and saying “this is what will be.”

Paperback Let's Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship Book

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Let's Take the Long Way Home

Written by Gail Caldwell 

In Let's Take the Long Way Home, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Gail Caldwell offers a powerful and moving memoir about her coming-of-age in mid-life and her extraordinary friendship with Caroline Knapp, the author of Drinking: A Love Story.

In her younger years, Caldwell defined herself by rebellion and independence, a passion for books, and an aversion to intimacy and a distrust of others. Then, while living in Cambridge in her early 40s, Caldwell adopted a rambunctious puppy named Clementine. On one of their bucolic walks, she met Caroline and her dog, Lucille, and both women's lives changed forever.

Though they are more different than alike, these two fiercely private, independent women quickly relax into a friendship more profound than either of them expected, a friendship that will thrive on their shared secrets, including parallel struggles with alcoholism and loneliness. They grow increasingly inseparable until, in 2003, Caroline is diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer.

In her signature exquisite prose, Caldwell mines the deepest levels of devotion and grief in this wise and affecting account about losing her best friend. Let's Take the Long Way Home is also a celebration of life and all the little moments worth cherishing - and affirms why Gail Caldwell is rightly praised as one of our bravest and most honest literary voices.

its ok to laugh crying is ok too

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6. It's OK to Laugh (Crying is Cool Too)

Written by Nora McInerny Purmort

Joining the ranks of Let's Pretend This Never Happened and Carry On, Warrior, a fierce, hysterically funny memoir that reminds us that comedy equals tragedy plus time.

Twentysomething Nora McInerny Purmort bounced from boyfriend to boyfriend and job to job. Then she met Aaron, a charismatic art director and her kindred spirit. They made mixtapes (and pancakes) into the wee hours of the morning. They finished each other's sentences. They just knew.

When Aaron was diagnosed with a rare brain cancer, they refused to let it limit their love. They got engaged on Aaron's hospital bed and married after his first surgery. They had a baby when he was on chemo. They shared an amazing summer filled with happiness and laughter. A few months later, Aaron died in Nora's arms in another hospital bed. His wildly creative obituary, which they wrote together, touched the world.

Now Nora shares hysterical, moving, and painfully honest stories about her journey with Aaron. It's Okay to Laugh explores universal themes of love, marriage, work, (single) motherhood, and depression through her refreshingly frank viewpoint. A love letter to life in all of its messy glory and what it's like to still be kickin', It's Okay to Laugh is like a long chat with a close friend over a cup of coffee (or chardonnay).

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