Sunday, January 6, 2013

Book Club

Last month in the support group that I facilitate, I thought it might be a good change of pace to have a "book discussion night".   I suggested a book that a group member had actually given to me (that someone had given to her).  Some of the women enjoyed the book.  Some started it and had to put it down.  Some objected to having to discuss it at all (based on its' depressing title), and some were just not interested in reading it at all.  

Book Night was an excellent reminder for me that everyone has different styles and ways of coping with their cancer (and with life!).  Some of the group members are going through treatment and don't want to read anything "cancer related".  Absolutely valid point.  Who can blame them?  As important as it is to talk about their cancer experiences, sometimes it is just as important to be able to NOT talk about it too.  Sometimes you need a little escape from "Cancer Island".

Other members of our group want to devour everything they can get their hands on that is written about cancer and there can never be "too much" information or too many books read about cancer.  This is fine too!  Whatever works for you!

Since this is a blog for cancer survivors and their loved ones, my goal has always been to just tell you what I like, and what works for my patients and the great team of professionals that I work with.  You may absolutely disagree with me and that is totally cool. We are all different, with different needs, and preferences.  One size does not fit all (tell me about it!!).

Also, it depends on where you are in your cancer journey.  A book that might appeal to someone who is newly diagnosed is different than one that might appeal to someone who has had a recurrence.  This same goes for someone who has metastatic disease.  Or those who might be getting ready to enter the palliative or hospice phase.  My point....not all books (or resources) are for everyone. 

Who am I to give reviews on anyone else's work?  I have spent a fortune on cancer books to share with my patients and their families.  I have read more "dog" cancer books than I can say.  If I can spare one single cancer survivor from spending $15 on a bad book, so they can save that money for something else (like a bad movie!!) then that will please me.

In two prior posts I have told you about two of my all time favorite cancer related books:  "Between Me and the River" by Carrie Host and "Cancer on $5 a Day" by Robert Schimmel.   A list of my favorite cancer related books sits on this blog under the "My Favorite Things" column.

Keeping all of this in mind, I will now give you a quick review of a book that I just read today and two that I am in the process of reading. 

The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe

This is a book about a son and his mother (who has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer) and how they find a way to connect and communicate through her 2 year illness by reading and discussing books and forming their own special "book club for two".  Both are lifelong avid bibliophiles (he is in the publishing business).   Their  "book club" is really a way for them to spend quality time together, and a way for both of them to communicate with each other as they both face the challenges of a pancreatic cancer diagnosis and its' treatment. 

Many of the words they find difficult to speak are more easily shared with each other in the context of the discussion of the books they are reading.  Some of the themes of the books they choose to read, lead to discussion by the duo of more serious and personal heartfelt emotions. 

There are parts of this book that I loved, and parts that I found to be extremely irritating.

My first thought is that I just wish that I could have met the mother in this book.  She was an extremely impressive individual and I love that her son honors her by telling the story of her life.  He loved his mother and he wants you to get to know her through his book.  

I love that they used this unique approach to communicate with each other in the final 2 years of her life.  As you read the book, you see that they really have communicated through their informal discussions of books, all their lives. 

I can see how this might be a "doable" way that other cancer patients might find it easier to share their feelings with their own family and friends.  Not everyone is a voracious reader, but I can also see how just getting together and quilting together or knitting together etc. could have a similar outcome, depending on if it is an activity that you both enjoy.

I found myself highlighting paragraphs that I loved which means I liked the book.

What I found a little annoying were the constant explanations of the different books.  It was like reading 100 mini book reviews interspersed with the important stuff.  Yes, I get that is what the major point was, and that it was important to do,  but it stressed me out that I will never have time to read half of these books!!  Also, I felt that part made the book flow a little less smoothly. 

But the gist of the book, I really liked the way this couple chose to spend their precious time together.  The book discussions were really the conduit for sharing their feelings.  Just as everyone will react differently, this is what worked for them.

This book is on the Amazon list of best books of 2012.  

Ballerina by Bob Carey

This is a coffee table photography book.  I LOVE IT!!

Bob Carey is a professional photographer.  His wife is a metastatic breast cancer survivor.  To make her laugh, he started taking photos of himself dressed up only in a pink tutu in various locations around the world.

Let me be clear here, Bob Carey is no male model (although, he is quite adorable!!).  He is kind of your average, hairy, stocky-Joe dressed up in a pink tutu, photographing himself while performing some very non-Baryshnikov-like ballet leaps and jumps. 

His photos are actually quite beautiful.  They made his wife laugh.  She shared them with other patients in the chemo clinic where she is treated and the pictures made them smile.  So, now they sell a book with all of these pictures and the net proceeds go to  breast cancer organizations including (a GREAT organization) and Beth Israel (nyc) Department of Integrative Oncology Fund.

Per Bob, "During these past 9 years, I've been in awe of Linda's power, her beauty, and her spirit.  Oddly enough, her cancer has taught us that life is good, dealing with it can be hard, and sometimes the very best thing-no, the only thing- we can do to face another day is to laugh at ourselves, and share a laugh with others." 

This book is pricey at $50.  But the photography is beautiful (see some photos below) and it is for a good cause. 

Mr. Carey has given away many free copies to hospitals around the country too.  I LOVE THIS GUY!!! 

But I Just Grew Out My Bangs (A Cancer Tale) by Katya Lezin

I am only about 75 pages into this book, but I like the author's humor and writing style already.

Here's the description of the book from  I will come back to this blog posting after I have finished the book to give you an update on whether this book is as good as its' first 75 pages!

"In this frank and witty memoir, Katya Lezin chronicles the way her world was turned upside down by an ovarian cancer diagnosis and the year of treatment that followed. Interweaving the e-mail updates she regularly sent out during her journey, newspaper columns she wrote for The Charlotte Observer, and her own candid reflections on her experience, Lezin highlights the many physical hardships and indignities she suffered as a result of her surgeries, treatment and recovery, and the emotional toll this battle took on her and her loved ones. But Lezin's Ovarian Odyssey is ultimately an uplifting account of the many triumphs she experienced along the way, and serves as a tribute to the power of love, friendship, humor and the indefatigable human spirit". 

Hope one of these books works for you!!! 



All Photos by Bob Carey from "Ballerina" 

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