Around here we know something about cancer and its impact. More than we ever wanted to know. So does Bob Riter, cancer survivor. He is also the executive director of Cancer Resource center of the Finger Lakes in Ithaca, New York. He is also the author of When Your life Is Touched By Cancer: Practical Advice and Insights for Patients, Professionals and Those Who Care.
The nine chapters of this book are made up of various columns author Bob Riter wrote for the Ithaca Journal newspaper about his cancer as well as cancer in general. At age 40 Bob had breast cancer, had a mastectomy, and treatment. He wrote about, not only his experience, but the various cancer questions he has heard from patients or their loved ones over the years. This is book that is not meant to be read in one sitting. The short chapters are designed to be read here and there as the mood or need strikes. This is especially true in the beginning because the patient and loved ones are over whelmed.
The first chapter addresses that stunning “Just Diagnosed” time in those first few days after the doctor or, in our case here, five doctors tell you the news. Along with the aftermath and dealing with that, the chapter explains some questions that are really okay to ask, whether a second opinion is warranted and how to go about it, and the power of positive thinking and hope.
Starting on page 16 with “Chapter 2: Talking About Your Cancer” the author gives some advice on how to tell the kids. Just as hard can be telling your parents and the in-laws. How does one deal with telling others at work and in one’s social circle? Their expectations and their concerns? How does one deal with that well-meaning look of pity that cancer patients get all the time. These are just some of the common topics dealt with in this chapter.
“Chapter 3: Treatment Choices” opens with some words on alternative cancer therapies and alternative practitioners. Clinical trials are covered here as is a little bit about various treatment options and quality of life.
Communicating with your health care providers is hugely important and that is the subject of “Chapter 4: Your Health-Care Team.” Beginning on page 39, the author has advice for patients and medical providers on how to communicate effectively. Communication both ways between the patient and the team is incredibly important and that thought is reinforced repeatedly through this chapter.
“Chapter 5: Caring for Yourself During Treatment” is possibly the most important chapter in the book— in my opinion. Dealing with the depression, the anxiety, the stress, and all the rest of it is just part of this chapter. Also included are explanations of some of the treatment side effects such as “chemo brain” as well as the various physiological transitions of the disease.
Relationships are an element of the entire book, but get special consideration in “Chapter 6: Cancer and Relationships.” Starting on page 65 the chapter addresses being single with cancer followed by addressing what it is like to be a relationship. What that means for the patient as well as the spouse. Specifically addressed in the chapter is how men often want to “fix it” for their spouse and the fact that is not possible brings its own burden and frustration. It certainly has been an issue for me.
You finished your treatment. Your cancer is gone and yet you are still tired and the mind is still very muddled. You should feel better, you think, and yet things seem weird and you miss your treatment team. You may have a case of the post treatment blahs and that is covered in “Chapter 7: After Treatment.” Dealing with survivor’s guilt is covered here. Also covered is how to cope if or when the cancer returns as well as dealing with cancer as a chronic disease.
“Chapter Eight: Reflections on the Cancer Experience” begins on page 83 and covers how folks responded to the diagnosis of cancer in others. There are a lot of good people out there doing wonderful things that one never hears about in the daily diet of politics, wars, and crime in the nation’s media. Also covered here is the power of support from others and how much it means for patients and their families. As noted in earlier chapters, the power of hope is part of this chapter as is relishing the moment of now.
Often one does not know really what to say when a person they love or know has cancer. It isn’t easy. “Chapter Nine: Supporting Others with Cancer” is all about that in every aspect. The difficulties of being a caretaker and trying to help someone from a long distance are just some of the areas covered here in the final chapter of the book.
A two page resource list comes next followed by a five page index.
The subtitle of this short book, Practical Advice and Insights for Patients, Professionals and Those Who Care makes it very clear what the book is designed to do. The book delivers across the board in all aspects and is very much a supportive and caring read. I truly wish something like this had been around on Thanksgiving Day 2011 when Sandi was diagnosed with cancer the first time. It would have helped.
Reading this book now months after her cancer came back with a vicious vengeance in late 2012 and everything we have been through since was an incredibly emotional experience. Our lives weren’t just touched by cancer; they were run over by a 50 ton cancer bulldozer. A bulldozer that has made repeated passes over us and continues to loudly snarl and spins its treads in preparation to roll over us again. So, it is impossible for me to be remotely objective about cancer or this book. Cancer isn’t something I can look at dispassionately and be objective about as I such rage about the diease and what t has done to us. nor is the book. While the author may be unsettled by equating the terms of war and military combat with having cancer, for us, it is a war. It is a flat out physically and emotionally grueling day by day war where we measure everything by various test results and how she feels.
All I can say is When Your life Is Touched By Cancer: Practical Advice and Insights for Patients, Professionals and Those Who Care by Bob Riter is an incredible book. I hope and pray you will never need it, but if you ever do, it’s good to know it is out there and can help ease everything just a little bit.
When Your life Is Touched By Cancer: Practical Advice and Insights for Patients, Professionals and Those Who Care
Hunter House Publishing
Material supplied by the good folks of the Plano Texas Public Library System.
Kevin R. Tipple ©2014W