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Living with Cancer

Dealing with a cancer diagnosis, treatment or long-term survival issues can sometimes be overwhelming or confusing. If you're an adult patient or the caregiver of an adult patient, there are books that can help you find ways to better manage your new responsibilities. Browse the list below for books that can help you cope.

Suggested Reading - I Survived From Cancer to Runway

I Survived: From Cancer to the Runway by Erica Campbell
Dzire2Survive, March 26, 2021, 130 Pages, Paperback
ISBN: 978057878825

In “I Survived” author Erica Campbell shares her remarkable survival journey as a Hodgkin Lymphoma patient turned advocate for patient education and fashion model.  From a faith-based perspective, this personal account describes the onset of symptoms, the numerous physician appointments, multiple surgeries, the feelings of loneliness, and life after cancer. In the aftermath, she triumphed, and her resilience helped her ignite a spark to beat the odds in all facets of life.

Author’s website:

Suggested Reading - The Big Ordeal

The Big Ordeal: Understanding and Managing the Psychological Turmoil of Cancer by Cynthia Hayes
River Grove Books, February 2021, 264 pages
ISBN 978-1-63299-335-9 Print
ISBN 978-1-63299-336-6 eBook


Nothing can truly prepare you for the emotional rollercoaster of a cancer diagnosis, but The Big Ordeal will help you anticipate and respond to the psychological turmoil ahead. Written by a cancer survivor with the help of a psychotherapist and two oncologists, The Big Ordeal presents the typical emotional experience, illustrated by patient and caregiver stories. The book explains the science behind those emotions, helping you understand why you feel the way you do, and offers advice on how to cope. The book is based on interviews with over 100 patients, caregivers, oncologists, neuroscientists, and other experts.

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Suggested Reading - Cycle of Lives

Cycle of Lives: 15 People's Stories, 5,000 Miles, and a Journey Through the Emotional Chaos of Cancer by David Richman
River Grove Books, 2020, 376 Pages
ISBN 978-1-63299-299-4 Paperback
ISBN 978-1-63299-300-7 eBook

Cycle of Lives chronicles the lives of 15 people affected by cancer, including patients, doctors, researchers, and caregivers.  These moving stories cover many aspects of a cancer diagnosis.  Readers are able to examine a wide range of experiences and viewpoints to help them grow in empathy, and to better understand how issues affect the way people deal with the traumas that shape their lives.

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Suggested Reading - When Blood Breaks Down

When Blood Breaks Down - Life Lessons from Leukemia by Mikkael A. Sekeres, MD
MIT Press, April 2020, Hardcover, 328 Pages
ISBN: 9780262043724

In When Blood Breaks Down, Dr. Mikkael Sekeres, a leading cancer specialist, takes readers on a journey that patient and doctor travel together.  Sekeres tells the compelling stories of three people who receive diagnoses of adult leukemia within hours of each other: Joan, a 48-year-old surgical nurse, a caregiver who becomes a patient; David, a 68-year-old former factory worker who bows to his family's wishes and pursues the most aggressive treatment; and Sarah, a 36-year-old pregnant woman who must decide whether to undergo chemotherapy and put her fetus at risk. We join the intimacy of the conversations Sekeres has with his patients, and watch as he teaches trainees. Along the way, Sekeres also explores leukemia in its different forms and the development of drugs to treat it—describing, among many other fascinating details, the invention of the bone marrow transplant and a treatment that targets the genetics of leukemia. The lessons to be learned from leukemia, Sekeres shows, are not merely medical; they teach us about courage and grace and defying the odds.

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Suggested Reading - Braving Chemo

Braving Chemo: What to Expect, How to Prepare, and How to Get Through It by Beverly A. Zavaleta, MD
Sugar Plum Press LLC, November 2019, Paperback, 240 pages
ISBN: 978-1-7334565-0-0

In Braving Chemo, Harvard-educated physician and cancer survivor Beverly A. Zavaleta MD combines her medical expertise with a survivor’s insight to provide practical advice for both chemotherapy patients and cancer caregivers. This book will give you clear answers to your most urgent questions, such as: what to eat; how prevent nausea; and how to face tough feelings like fear of dying.  Braving Chemo is a valuable resource about what to expect during chemo, how to minimize the side effects, and how to live life as normally as possible when life itself is on the line.

Author’s website:

Suggested Reading - The Perks of Having Cancer

The Perks of Having Cancer: An Inspirational, Positive and Humorous View of a Not-So-Inspirational, Positive or Humorous Situation by Diana Bosse (Author), Steve Wallace (Illustrator)
Chilidog Press LLC, Paperback , October 2019, 232 pages
ISBN: 978-1-733-9955-1-1

A poignant, witty and laugh-out-loud funny journal of the day-to-day discoveries, surprises, and indignities of battling cancer. When Diana Bosse was given the news of her lymphoma diagnosis, she promised herself that she would stay positive throughout her journey to improve her chances of survival.  With humor, inspirational quotes and occasional religious references, she began posting daily “Perks of Having Cancer.”  By sharing her own experiences, she resolved to also lift the spirits of others dealing with cancer or helping a loved one fight the disease.

Author’s website:

Suggested Reading - Voices of Cancer

Voices of Cancer: What We Really Want, What We Really Need - Insights for Patients and the People Supporting Them by Lynda Wolters
Mascot Books, October 2019, Hardcover (160 pages) and Kindle
ISBN: 1645430391

Voices of Cancer offers a candid look into the world of a cancer patient, informed by Lynda’s own story (as a Mantle Cell Lymphoma patient) and conversations she had with dozens of patients weighing in on their needs, wants, and dislikes as they navigate the complex world of diagnosis, treatment, and beyond. With comprehensive and accessible insight from people who’ve been there, Voices of Cancer helps educate, dispel fears, and start positive conversations about what a cancer diagnosis truly means, while shining a light on how best to support a loved one on their own terms.

Suggested Reading - Hundred Percent Chance

Hundred Percent Chance: A Memoir by Robert K. Brown
3/3 Press 2019, 273 Pages, Paperback or Kindle
ISBN: 9781733159005

Hundred Percent Chance: A Memoir is a raw and realistic memoir about a young college student who was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia in 1990 while he was studying abroad in Lancaster, England – halfway across the world from his home in Seattle.  From battling life-threatening symptoms during a rushed, emergency departure from England, through multiple rounds of chemotherapy and complications over the next eight months, this moving, page-turning story will remind you to make the most of every day.

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Suggested Reading -The Long Road Back to Boston

The Long Road Back to Boston: Running Marathons with Leukemia by Phillip Fields, PhD
Published by BookBaby, July 2019, Paperback, 322 pages (also available as e-book)
ISBN: 9781543958508

What we do when confronted with bad news defines who we are and what we will be from that moment forward.  In 2008, an oncologist told Dr. Fields, "You have leukemia, a five-to-seven year life expectancy, and stop running marathons." What he did next made his diagnosis only life-changing and not life-shattering. Between February 2009 and December 2012, he ran a marathon in every state and DC (51 marathons/47 months). His accomplishment is a testament that a diagnosis is not the end of life; it is only the beginning. Interwoven with his story of running with leukemia are stories of his loves, losses, travel, and embarrassing childhood memories.

Suggested Reading -The Scars, Aligned

The Scars, Aligned (A Cancer Narrative) by Brad Buchanan
Finishing Line Press, 2019, Paperback 93 pages
ISBN: 9781635348514

The Scars, Aligned follows the author's journey through the many phases of a cancer patient’s experience and interweaves lines of famous poetry. He covers feelings of uncertainty, paranoia, diagnosis, acceptance, expectancy, crisis, treatment, and finally recovery. The narrative working through these poems is a powerful and universal one, but the details of an intensely lived physical and emotional ordeal make this book far more than a mere succession of unfortunate events.

Suggested Reading - Sending

Sending - An Athlete Confronting Cancer by Jennifer Erin Pinkus and Dorrance Publishing, 2018
ISBN: 978-0-36-803943-0 Softcover, 178 Pages
ISBN: 978-1-6470-2653-0 Ebook

SENDING is a generic term for successfully completing a vertical rock or ice climb. Jennifer Erin Pinkus approached her struggle against cancer with the determination and emotional strength she used when tackling the most challenging mountain.  When Jen received a diagnosis of lymphoma, she decided to start a daily journal describing her experience with hair loss, “chemo brain,” metallic tastes and insurance coverage. Her talent for using the written word in prose and poetry to describe coping with this horrific illness is raw and honest. It shows Jen’s courage as she faces her fears, the unknown and finally death.

Suggested Reading - How Steve Became Ralph

How Steve Became Ralph: A Cancer/Stem Cell Odyssey (with Jokes) by Steve Buechler
Written Dreams Publishing, 2018
ISBN: 978-1-7335034-2-6 Paperback, 232 pages
ISBN: 978-1-7335034-1-9 Hardcover, 174 pages
ISBN: 978-1-7335034-3-3 Ebook

Upon receiving a diagnosis of acute myeloid leukemia, Steve Buechler began telling his story with an email to his neighbors. Over the ensuing months, he composed over sixty such reports for an ever-expanding group of recipients. With the addition of a preface on lessons learned and an epilogue on identity changes, this compelling account documents and reflects upon his diagnosis, treatment, and recovery, including a detailed account of the stem cell transplant that saved his life.

Suggested Reading - Consider it Pure Joy

Consider It Pure Joy by Jennifer Jones Austin
Published by The Church Online LLC, February 2018, Paperback, 217 pages (also available as e-book)
ISBN: 9781940786612

Author Jennifer Jones Austin - wife, mother, lawyer, child advocate and the picture of good health - finds herself with an acute form of leukemia that requires a bone marrow transplant to increase her chances of survival.  The story recounts how Jennifer, her family and friends, are in a race against time as she fights cancer and searches for a bone marrow donor to cure her and others of the deadly disease. With scripture and bible verses, Jennifer describes how her power of faith, and her power of community, help to transform desperation into joy.

Suggested Reading - My Journey with Leukemia: The Power of Family, Faith, and Humor

My Journey with Leukemia: The Power of Family, Faith, and Humor By Jennifer Venegas
​Published by Outskirts Press, 2018, 175 pages
ISBN: 978-1-4787-7904-9

This book outlines the personal journey of 45 year old Jennifer Venegas who was diagnosed with Ph-positive Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.  Jennifer chronicles her daily experience as she undergoes chemotherapy and an allogeneic transplant, then deals with Graft vs Host Disease (GVHD).  From a faith-based perspective, she describes the realities of managing her treatment, her changing roles, and the financial impact of her cancer diagnosis.

Suggested Reading - Living with Cancer - A Step-by-Step Guide for Coping Medically and Emotionally with a Serious Diagnosis

Living with Cancer - A Step-by-Step Guide for Coping Medically and Emotionally with a Serious Diagnosis by Vicki A. Jackson, MD, MPH, David P. Ryan, MD and Michelle D. Seaton.
Johns Hopkins University Press, 2017, 351 pages
ISBN 1421422328 Hardcover (also available in paperback and e-book)

Doctors Vicki A. Jackson and David P. Ryan have crafted a step-by-step guide aimed at helping people with cancer grasp what’s happening to them while coping physically and emotionally with treatment.  It is a practical, easy to read and comprehensive reference covering everything from understanding one’s diagnosis to managing symptoms and side effects and dealing with end of life concerns.

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suggested reading - Into The Funhouse

Into the Funhouse: An Unpredictable Story of a Relentless Leukemia By Walter Harp
LS Publishing; First edition, 2016, 280 pages
ISBN-10: 0998206830
ISBN-13: 978-0998206837

Author begins his narrative with- "I should have died more than once. Yet I remain alive (at least for now), as can anyone with cancer, regardless of how dreadful the prognosis. People do beat the odds." What unfolds on the following pages is a story of life. Yes, Harp is diagnosed with a life-threatening and often debilitating disease, but ordinary daily life has a way of creeping in, and Harp relays it all beautifully. Between snippets about diagnostic tests, treatments, fear, and the challenges of acceptance, there is the wonderfully mundane. Passages about everyday living while your body is hurting make his story relatable.

suggested Reading - Night Reflection

Night Reflections: A True Story of Friendship, Love, Cancer, and Survival By Robert Thomas Winn (Author) and Timothy R. Pearson (Contributor)
Humanix Books, 2016 , 380 pages
ISBN-10: 1630060704
ISBN-13: 978-1630060701

Life was near perfect for Dr. Robert Winn, medical director of Deer Valley and The Canyons in Park City, and his beloved wife Nancy. But when, seemingly out of the blue, Nancy was diagnosed with the life threatening disease Acute Myeloid Leukemia, their world went tumbling and careening out of control. Because Dr. Winn could not speak of Nancy's illness without getting choked up or crying, he started the almost nightly ritual of sending letters to friends and family about Nancy. An elegant and introspective writer, and medical expert, these messages chronicle an inspirational story of courage, love, devotion, struggle, and ultimately triumph. Night Reflections will help anyone suffering from a devastating illness, their loved ones, caregivers, and the medical community alike find the strength to face even the darkest of days.

Suggested Reading - And in Health: A Guide for Couples Facing Cancer Together

And in Health: A Guide for Couples Facing Cancer Together by Dan Shapiro
Trumpeter, 2013
ISBN-10: 161180017X ISBN-13: 978-1611800173

Engaging and digestible lessons for couples navigating the life changes brought about by a cancer diagnosis. Dan Shapiro draws on his more than twenty-five years of clinical work as a health psychologist who has researched and worked with couples facing cancer, and on his own experiences of being both the patient (having and beating Hodgkin's lymphoma in his twenties) and the supporter/advocate (when his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer) to weave together insights on facing cancer while maintaining a strong relationship. And in Health gives advice in short lessons on the main areas of concern or conflict that can come from life with cancer-from diagnosis to treatment and life post-treatment. Topics include: How to forge yourselves into a powerful team and avoid common conflict points Dealing with physicians and getting the best care possible, along with tips for navigating the medical world Strategies for coping with the emotions that can interfere with your relationship-anger, mood swings, spouse fears, and depression Distinguishing between supportive and draining people in your lives, and learning to invite and accept help Opening to new types of intimacy and making peace with dependence

Suggested Reading - How to Cope Better When You Have Cancer

How to Cope Better When You Have Cancer by William Penzer
Esperence Press, 2012
ISBN-10: 0983501718 ISBN-13: 978-0983501718

Dr. William Penzer's journey through what he came to call Cancerville began in 2005 when his 31-year-old daughter was diagnosed with breast cancer. Despite being a caring and seasoned psychologist for almost forty years who helped others navigate the choppy waters of life, he was emotionally drowning in that very sea. He searched for a book to help support him during this difficult time but found none. As he learned how to adapt and cope in Cancerville, he promised himself he would write a helpful book someday to support family and friends facing that same situation. In fact, he did and How to Cope Better When Someone You Love Has Cancer, for the people he calls heart and soul givers was published in January 2012. Cancer patients who read that one urged him to write this one.

Suggested Reading - The Lovin' Ain't Over for Women With Cancer

The Lovin' Ain't Over for Women with Cancer by Barbara Alterowitz & Ralph Alterowitz
CIACT, Inc.,2011
ISBN-10: 192916324X ISBN-13: 978-1929163243

Treatment for breast, gynecological and other cancer can have a devastating effect on sexuality. The Lovin' Ain't Over for Women with Cancer is a guide to overcoming the sexual difficulties, written by a husband-and wife team of certified sexuality counselors who has dealt with cancer in their own lives. They explain the effects of different cancer therapies on a woman's sexual function, lay out the 4-step AIDA system for regaining your sense of self, and provide a roadmap to rebuilding your sex life. Written in plain, frank language, this is a reader-friendly, proactive, practical and optimistic guide for women and couples struggling with sexual difficulties after cancer. The goal is to help readers cope and take the necessary action to make their sex lives as vibrant, vital, and fulfilling as they would like.

"Whoever you are and no matter what your situation may be, you will be able to find yourself in this book. The Lovin' Ain't Over For Women With Cancer can be viewed as a guide to better living through making informed choices regarding your relationships as well as by maneuvering some of the choices during treatment." -Dr. Joycelyn Elders. former U.S. Surgeon General.

Suggested Reading - Coping with the Emotional Impact of Cancer: Become an Active Patient and Take Charge of Your Treatment

Coping with the Emotional Impact of Cancer: Become an Active Patient and Take Charge of Your Treatment By Neil Fiore
Bay Tree Publishing, 2009, 178 Pages
ISBN-10: 0980175836 ISBN-13: 978-0980175837

The author of this book is a 30-year survivor of a terminal cancer diagnosis, dramatically demonstrates how patients can maintain personal control of their lives while subject to sometimes harsh treatments. Offering hope and reassurance, Fiore provides practical tools for: managing the initial shock at receiving a cancer diagnosis, lessening stress and worry, combating depression, preparing your body for treatment, and living a rich full life with cancer despite the fear and possibility of recurrence. The author shares practical techniques for coping with the emotional and physical impact of this life-threatening disease. He shows how to establish team relationships with doctors and therapists, communicate with family and friends, and deal with feelings of helplessness. The book offers guidance in building emotional support systems with physicians, family and friends.

Suggested Reading - Fighting Cancer with Knowledge and Hope: A Guide for Patients, Families, and Health Care Providers

Fighting Cancer with Knowledge and Hope: A Guide for Patients, Families, and Health Care Providers by Richard C. Frank, M.D.
Yale University Press, 2009, 257 pages
ISBN-13: 978-0-300-15102-2

Anyone who is diagnosed with cancer receives a frightening blow, and in many cases the diagnosis is accompanied by a bewildering array of treatment choices. In this invaluable book, Dr. Richard C. Frank offers comfort and help to cancer patients, their families, and their caretakers. Dr. Frank empowers patients by unlocking the mysteries of the disease and explaining in plain language the ways to confront and combat it. An award-winning medical oncologist recognized for his humanitarian approach as well as his research accomplishments, Dr. Frank understands that cancer patients and their families need insight into the disease along with a sense of control. He therefore addresses these vital topics: what cancer is and how it spreads how cancer treatment strategies are chosen how cancer-fighting drugs work to shut down the growth of the disease which factors affect a patient's prognosis how patients can visualize cancer treatments at work in the body and why this is helpful how to deal with "uncurable" cancer and more. With a wealth of patient case histories, helpful coping strategies from cancer survivors, and up-to-date information on useful resources, Fighting Cancer is the book cancer patients and their loved ones can turn to with confidence and hope. Richard C. Frank, M.D., is director of cancer research, Whittingham Cancer Center, Norwalk Hospital, Norwalk, CT, and medical director, Mid-Fairfield Hospice, Wilton, CT. He lives in Fairfield, CT.

Author's website:

Suggested Reading - Cancer Etiquette: What to Say, What to Do When Someone You Know or Love Has Cancer

Cancer Etiquette: What to Say, What to Do When Someone You Know or Love Has Cancer By Rosanne Kalick
Lion Books Publisher, 2005, 146 pages
ISBN: 0874604508

Have you ever been at a loss for words when a friend or colleague or a loved one has been given a diagnosis of cancer? Have you ever wanted to do something "nice" for a person who is being treated for cancer and not known exactly what would be appropriate? This book contains myriad suggestions for saying and acting on the most helpful, compassionate and appropriate responses and explains why they are. Rosanne Kalick's valuable contributions are drawn from her personal experiences dealing with cancer not once, but twice. This unique position empowered her to conduct intense research, personal interviews and to use letters and emails from cancer patients all over the world. (Atlas Books) About the Author: Rosanne Kalick - Although cancer has changed the author's life, it has not changed who she is. While she no longer jogs (she had completed three New York City Marathons), she is an avid walker. She is particularly gifted in her ability to communicate, having been a professor and chairperson of the Library and Learning Resource Center at Westchester Community College in New York. She ultimately received the State University Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Librarianship. (Atlas Books)

Suggested Reading - Diagnosis Cancer: Your Guide to the First Few Months of Healthy Survivorship, Expanded and Updated

Diagnosis Cancer: Your Guide to the First Few Months of Healthy Survivorship, Expanded and Updated By Wendy Schlessel Harpham, M.D.
W.W. Norton, 2003, 262 pages
ISBN: 0393324605

The author, a physician and cancer survivor, guides patients through the first few frightening months after diagnosis. An easy-to-read format, up-to-date basic information and advice is presented on the physical, emotional and practical challenges of evaluation and treatment. This new edition includes Harpham's Decision Tool, a unique grid that helps people make informed treatment decisions in collaboration with their healthcare team.

Suggested Reading - Handbook for Mortals: Guidance for People Facing Serious Illness

Handbook for Mortals: Guidance for People Facing Serious Illness By Joanne Lynn, M.D. and Joan Harrold, M.D.
Oxford University Press, 2001, 256 pages
ISBN: 0195146018

Designed for caregivers as well as patients, this book combines insight and inspiration with practical information and suggestions for coping with critical illness in all its physical and emotional complexity. Topics include accepting a new lifestyle, controlling pain, getting help and grieving. There is also a section that explores the question of when to let go of pursuing uncomfortable treatments in favor of making a positive choice about how to live near the end of life.

Suggested Reading - Live Longer, Live Larger: A Holistic Approach for Cancer Patients and their Families

Live Longer, Live Larger: A Holistic Approach for Cancer Patients and their Families By William M. Buchholz, M.D., and Susan W. Buchholz, Ph.D.
O' Reilly & Associates, Inc., 2001, 389 pages
ISBN: 1565928458

Through years of practice as a hematologist/oncologist/psychologist team, the Buchholz's have helped people to construct strategies for dealing with life-threatening illness. Addressing medical and psychological issues, this book includes stories, exercises and tools to help patients live "longer" and more meaningfully, regardless of prognosis or stage of disease.

Suggested Reading - The Human Side of Cancer: Living with Hope, Coping with Uncertainty

The Human Side of Cancer: Living with Hope, Coping with Uncertainty Jimmie C. Holland, M.D., and Sheldon Lewis
HarperCollins, 2000, 340 pages
ISBN 0060173718

Provides practical and compassionate guidance for dealing with the uncertainty of a cancer diagnosis. Dr. Holland, who chaired the Department Psychiatry at Sloan-Kettering, dispels societal myths and beliefs about coping with cancer, from diagnosis, through treatment and beyond.

Suggested Reading - After Cancer: A Guide to Your New Life

After Cancer: A Guide to Your New Life By Wendy Schlessel Harpham, M.D., and Robert Jones, Editor
HarperCollins Publishers, 1995, 299 pages
ISBN: 0060976780

The author, a cancer survivor herself, understands that surviving cancer is more than just killing cancer cells and getting through treatment. She explores the practical issues and the psychosocial elements of recovery after cancer treatment that includes the emotional, social, spiritual and financial fallout of a cancer diagnosis. By helping survivors understand that they can't go back to where they were before cancer, Dr. Harpham encourages people to move forward to a different, "new normal."

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