During the first six months of my recovery from surgery and chemo, I read twenty or so very good books. A number of them related to the healing journey I found myself on, and of those, a few were truly noteworthy. By request, here is a list of some of the books I found extremely helpful in dealing with major, life-altering illness. I hope it’s of some value to you and yours.
1) Radical Remission: Surviving Cancer Against All Odds
Dr. Kelly Turner, PhD.
Dr. Turner's Doctoral thesis led to this groundbreaking work, ten years in the making. Finding 1000 cases of so-called "spontaneous remissions" in the medical journals, as a researcher she set out to find the commonalities between all the patients who had survived despite an extremely poor prognosis--many of them after being sent home with mere weeks to live. Her approach is one of hard science, but she also allows the survivors to speak for themselves, giving us insight into their own, very human experience of cancer survival. This book tops my list for a good reason. Dr. Turner offers 9 steps that all the survivors have in common, something which had never been studied. To paraphrase Dr. Turner: if we're going to fight the war against cancer, we should take some cues from those who've already won.
2) Anti-Cancer: A New Way of Life
David Servan-Schreiber, M.D.
This book is an excellent primer for anyone living with cancer. Dr. Servan-Schreiber is the voice of experience, having survived brain cancer in the 1990’s to go on and create a practical, wise, holistic paradigm for managing the illness that straddles both sides of the medical / natural healing fence. Though not against chemo and radiation when the severity of the situation demands it, he is strong on a natural, easily achievable approach. The DVD is also excellent. Paraphrasing my favourite passage from the live lecture: “Some people believe that I am spreading false hope by teaching that cancer can be managed, and sometimes even prevented, by natural means. I say the evidence for this is so strong that to NOT tell you about it is to spread false hopelessness.”
3) Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow
Truth be told, I’m not much of a self-help literature enthusiast; I typically derive my inspiration from other sources. But sudden, serious illness requires a fancy quick-step of internal reorganization, and this book came highly recommended by a wise friend. When we first fall ill, it’s truly helpful if we can get our thoughts and emotions organized without delay, and find some inner direction that feels constructive and positive. The stories in this book are the kind that can spark the reflection process and help you find meaning amidst the madness.
4) The 22 Non-Negotiable Laws of Wellness
Although the title sounds self-help-ish, this is no new-age manifesto, but a beautifully moving treatise on twenty-two timeless values that, when understood, can transform an ordinary life into a magnificent one. Greg Anderson had advanced lung cancer, had already lost one lung, and finally was told he had about a month to live. While lying in his bed those final days, he undertook some inner work that eventually led to a full recovery. He wrote this book eleven years later, in 1995, and continues to write and teach to this day. That says it all; if someone who has done THAT wants to tell me how he achieved it, I’m all ears. It’s a truly meaningful book.
5) The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World - Lewis Hyde
If you are an artist of any kind, this book is very life-and-purpose- affirming (and all things life-affirming are extremely valuable if you’re literally fighting for your life). It clearly expresses the true role and meaning of artists in society, and the struggles they encounter trying to exist in a market economy. Hyde speaks of the “gift economy” that all true art is inherently anchored in, and how we can bring this to life. Part anthropology, part story, part sociology, I found it a deeply worthwhile read.
6) Letters to a Young Artist
The device is based on Rilke’s “Letters to a Young Poet” and personally I would have been just as happy for a straightforward sharing of the life wisdom it contains. Just the same, this book is a good kick in the pants – actually many good kicks in the pants – to just get up and do. This was important for me when I was feeling physically wretched. Every line written, every colourful stitch taken, every sketch finished is a victory, and a statement that you are alive and moving forward. These small acts of doing are immensely healing, and we can do a little something every day even if we’re a physical and emotional wreck. Keep doing, and we keep moving toward wellness of spirit, and hopefully, body.
Stephen Sinatra, M.D., Martin Zucker, Clinton Ober
This book kicked around our house for weeks before I could get past the title enough to pick it up (“Earth-ing? Really?) I’m glad I finally did, because I believe it’s a really important book. Earthing refers to grounding; being physically connected to the earth (just like your Rogers cable.) Basically the book relates a wisdom possessed by our grandmothers, with the support of reams of modern, empirical data to back it up: you can’t grow a decent cabbage indoors, never mind a healthy human being. The free exchange of electrons between the earth and our bodies balances us electrically and waylays the chain of events that leads to inflammation (which in turn leads to most modern illnesses.) In industrialized nations, humans (and often pets) have become so disconnected from the earth that this natural exchange no longer has an opportunity to take place, with dire consequences. The information is sensible, the data believable, and the stories of healing ring true. Well worth getting past the title, I believe this book holds some very important keys to health and healing in the age of condo-living and office towers.
8) Dying to Be Me
This book gives an uplifting, personal account of one woman's experience of surviving cancer after actually entering final days, slipping into a coma, and being admitted to hospital to die. She awoke from her coma, and three weeks later was sent home, cancer-free. Though it sounds incredible, this is a true story, and well-documented by the medical community.
There are so many books I could add! Perhaps I'll post a second list in the future, Be well, all - Rosemary