As a breast cancer survivor, I’m not sure whether I love October or fear it. Seeing the spectrum of pink colors everywhere can be overwhelming. It’s a constant reminder that I’m sick. And yes, I know that thousands of women and men are afflicted with this disease yearly, so the pink promotion isn’t about me being ill. But sometimes, I just get inside my head. My thoughts go to the scary places that we all want to push away. And sometimes, I just want to cry.
When I was younger, preparation for bikini/wedding/holidays or frankly any season, inevitably meant a new workout regimen. Endless hours were spent scouring magazines for the hottest new fitness fad, hoping it would get me beach-ready. Unfortunately, because of this silly commitment, I became the proud owner of Jane Fonda videos, the Thigh Master, the Bowflex and the Shake Weight. Bring on summer of 2014, then 2015 and now 2016 where my focus is flipped from looking pretty to being well. And now my clothes fit without all the gizmos. How have I done it? Give a round of applause for a plant-based diet, a little yoga and a lot of walking.
You get the phone call or email that a friend has just been diagnosed with [insert crappy diagnosis here] and you don’t know what to do. Do you call? If you call, what do you say? You opt not to call because:
1. You aren’t sure you should know.
2. You don’t know what you would say because you haven’t been in their shoes.
3. Or your friend must be swamped and you don’t want to bother her.
So, how then do you help a sick friend?
I wasn’t scared of the painful side effects from surgery.
I wasn’t scared of fatigue and emotional drain from a packed schedule of cancer doctor appointments.
I wasn’t scared of humongous machines filled with radiation.
And I wasn’t scared of chemotherapy … I was petrified.
When I was first diagnosed, I only knew a few people who went through cancer treatment. And I didn’t know much about their experiences, so I really had no idea what to expect. I feared the worst when I was told I needed chemo; my stomach sank and anxiety filled my chest. I imaged myself regularly hugging a toilet, unable to leave the house and participate in life for 16 weeks of treatment. But this wasn’t my experience at all. In fact, my first chemo treatment was just me, my husband, two nurses and an IV.
I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in the Fall of 2013. The news was shocking and sobering, especially considering I knew very few people who thrived with it. Scared beyond comprehension, filled with sleepless nights and worries dancing through my head, I thought I knew what that diagnosis meant. At the same time, publicity ramped up for Disney’s “Frozen,” but I didn’t pay attention. The movie opened Thanksgiving weekend and after the holidays, the world knew it was not only a box office hit, but the key to a young girl’s heart. I didn’t realize, it would be to mine, as well.
As the world was singing “Do you Want to Build a Snowman, ” I was anxiously awaiting my first set of scans after being diagnosed. My mind was filled with wildly ranging thoughts:
Was this the calm before the storm? Would the results show tremendous growth and I would only have a few months or years left?
If so, would my child really know me? Should we tell him or not?
Will my new treatments debilitate me? Will I feel like myself? Will I be myself?
As the hours set in after my initial cancer diagnosis, I went from feeling disbelief to craving information. I wanted to know more. So rather than jump on the internet, since I was warned to stay away, my husband and I drove to the nearest Barnes & Noble bookstore. I purchased a few “you have cancer” books and quickly learned that any piece of literature, story, infographic or even a soundbite could bring me to tears if I wasn’t ready. Since unfortunately others have been and will be touched by cancer, below is a short list of books that provided me information without scary statistics and overwhelming tales. These delivered inspiration to move forward and take care of myself, while I let my medical and support team take care of me.
My Favorite 4 Books to Help Someone with a Cancer Diagnosis
1. Crazy Sexy Cancer Tips by Kris Carr
NY Times Best Selling Author and Wellness Warrior Kris Carr can be seen as the ultimate resource for someone who wants to be a good medical patient, while also investigating natural modalities. She speaks about her own rare cancer diagnosis and guides you through organizing your patient appointments and medical needs. She offsets her light bootcamp, aka Cancer College, with suggestions on how to start a wellness makeover. She’s a spit-fire, sharing silly stories (hers and others) and embarrassing moments, which makes her relatable. She gives you a lot of information in an easy fashion, so it’s not too overpowering to read and take notes over a few days. This was one of the first books I read when I was initially diagnosed for the second time. I wish it would have been around in 2004, when I was first diagnosed with breast cancer and clueless as to what mattered most.
2. Anticancer: A New Way of Life by David Servan-Schreiber
Brain surgeon and cancer patient David Servan-Schreiber combined several research studies on cancer and lifestyle to create his own wellness plan and anti-cancer activities. While this book is filled with medical jargon and 30 pages of footnotes, he created an index with easy to read tables outlining the most substantiated data. With the internet today, there are so many different sites and magazines catering to “super foods” and “mindful practices.” This book came before their time and is a one-stop shop highlighting specifics to change your lifestyle including mind, body and spirit practices.
3. The Cancer Recovery Plan: How to Increase the Effectiveness of Your Treatment by D. Barry Boyd, MD and Marian Betancourt
Dr. Boyd is known as a pioneer in the field of integrative medicine and writes about maximizing the effectiveness of cancer treatment. In this book, he outlines a nutrition guide and exercise plan as well as showcases several naturopath options to help patients through cancer treatment. In addition, he shares success stories of his patients to provide insight and inspiration a long the way. I read this ten years ago before he became my doctor. Now, I’ve become his patient and learn a tremendous amount about nutrition, lifestyle and my cancer at our appointments.
4.The Silver Lining: A Supportive and Insightful Guide to Breast Cancer by Hollye Jacobs, RN, MS, MSW
This breast cancer guide has received a ton of publicity within the past year. Hollye Jacobs is a well-known, nurse, social worker and child development specialist, who found “silver linings” through her experience as a breast cancer patient. The Silver Lining is half memoir, half resource guide. Each chapter opens with a story about her own diagnosis, treatment and recovery. The second half of each chapter is told from Hollye’s perspective as a medical expert. It is beautifully illustrated through photography by her close friend, Elizabeth Messina.
Tell me what you think about these books? Are there any other resources that you recommend for a patient or caregiver going through cancer?
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