bibliotherapy: sick

Books and articles I’ve been reading because of breast cancer, some given to me by my friends and family.


Breast Cancer? Breast Health! by Susun S. Weed (herbalist)

I’ve read lots of parts of this but haven’t yet sat down to read it through and through. Lots of interesting information about anti-tumor and immune-boosting foods and herbs, plus herbal support during chemotherapy. However, she is against chemo and radiation and her evidence, what I know of it, is alarmist and not objective.

Mom’s Marijuana: Life, Love, and Beating the Odds by Dan Shapiro
Given to my mother by my stepsister for reasons that are only revealed in my mother’s latest book!

Good Harbor by Anita Diamant (author of The Red Tent)
My stepsister Deb sent this one to me. One of the two main characters has DCIS (sort of pre-breast cancer) after having had a sister die of inflammatory breast cancer. Cheery, huh? What I found interesting was her reaction to having cancer and how it differed from mine.

Grace and Grit: Spirituality and Healing in the Life and Death of Treya Killam Wilber by Ken Wilber (philosopher-author guy)
This one is really interesting and useful for its introduction to spiritual practices and alternative healing options. Also an incredible story of their experience with breast cancer in 1983-1989. Long, useful, informative, sad, inspiring.

When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times by Pema Chodron. Prescribed by my Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner. Interesting and readable (for me, that’s saying a lot about this kind of book!). I try to read a chapter or part of a chapter every day.

Dancing with the Diagnosis: Steps for Taking the Lead When Facing Cancer by Michelle Waters, MA
I liked the beginning section about the language we use to talk about cancer, so I bought this one, and it is interesting. A self-help book that looks at your words, your attitude, your communication with doctors and others, how you think of your treatment, how you think of your sick self. I will probably be recommending this to others. It’s not advice you can find online or from your medical care providers.

The Earth House by Jeanne DuPrau
I read this one in 1995–it was published where I worked. Another story mixing Buddhism, meditation, and a life with cancer–plus building an earth-walled house. More on what medidation is, not much on building, and actually only a little of the book is about the author’s partner dying of cancer. Kind of like a tiny echo or preview of Grace and Grit in a way.

Nordie’s at Noon: The Personal Stories of Four Women “Too Young” for Breast Cancer
A book co-written by 4 women diagnosed at 30 or under. I found offputting their concentration on the importance of pedicures, the continued mentioning of how great it was to get a “tummy tuck” as part of breast reconstruction (have you SEEN the kind of scar you get from hip to hip after TRAM flap reconstruction?), and how important it seems to be to most of them to get back to highlighting their hair. It’s useful to read these stories but! the book is kind of superficial, in the end. Weirdly.

Cancer Vixen
This is the story of New Yorker cartoonist Marisa Accocella Marchetto’s breast cancer year, which is of course in graphic novel form with LOTS of pictures of needles. I found her initial focus on appearance above all else offputting, but overall the story was much more real and affecting.

2013 & onward

My Parent Has Cancer and It Really Sucks: Real-Life Advice from Real-Life Teens by Maya Silver & Marc Silver (a daughter and dad)

Book I haven’t read yet but has been recommended to me: Dying Well by Ira Byock, founder of Hospice.  Sounds like all those birth-story books I have read and recommended for pregnant people.  I will definitely read it sometime.  Click here for an instant crowd-sourced bibliography of similar books (thanks, Amazon).