Some books recommended by our list members

When Life Becomes Precious: A Guide for Loved Ones and Friends of Cancer Patients. 
Elise NeeDell Babcock. 1997. 
ISBN 0-553-37869-4

Reviewed by Alyssa Burkuss Rolf

This book is written to help friends and family provide support to cancer patients, but is also highly recommended for people who are newly diagnosed, or who are finding that they are not getting the support they need from family and friends. In a gentle way, and covering a range of topics, the author helps people understand what a cancer patient may be going through emotionally and physically, as well as provide ideas on how to support them.

The author begins the book discussing the range of emotions you may feel when someone you know or love is diagnosed with cancer. Writing throughout the book in an anecdotal tone, she discusses eleven common reactions people feel upon diagnosis, including shock, fear, anger, guilt and even hope. She then provides techniques to help turn negative thoughts into a positive outlook, and reveals that for many people, having cancer can have a positive impact on their family relationships (surprising but true!).

The author spends several chapters discussing the importance of conversations between cancer patients and their loved ones - something that can often be a significant impact to their relationship following diagnosis. By providing specific examples of how to start these conversations, some of which can be extremely difficult, she provides a tremendous, and easy-to-understand tool.

The next few chapters provide specific ideas for helping cancer patients, at home and at work, as well as for supporting the caregivers, something that is often forgotten. Many people will say to a patient "Let me know if there's anything I can do", which puts the burden on them to feel comfortable asking for help or providing specific examples. Many of the ideas are inexpensive, but demonstrate thoughtfulness and compassion, and all would be greatly appreciated.

The author takes several chapters to discuss family issues, including helping children deal with their emotions and understand the complexities of the illness. She provides a range of scenarios and ideas to ensure that children are able to get the support they need during what can be a tough and confusing time.

I was grateful to my husband for picking up this book, because it helped us identify where some of the challenges or "hot spots" might be for the two of us along the way. I highly recommend it.

Table of Contents: Chapter 1 - Eleven Common Reactions: Understanding Your Feelings When Cancer Strikes Someone You Care About

Chapter 2 - Why We Stop Talking When We Need to Start: How Our Fears Can Separate Us from Each Other

Chapter 3 - What Do I Say? How to Begin Talking to Someone Living with Cancer

Chapter 4 - Along the Way: Keys to the Tougher Conversations

Chapter 5 - From the Goodness of Your Heart: 52 Gifts You Can Give

Chapter 6 - The One Who Needs You: Providing Comfort to the Primary Caregiver

Chapter 7 - Managing Cancer in the Workplace

Chapter 8 - Giving Without Giving Out: A Guide to Well-being

Chapter 9 - How to Support Your Children When Someone They Love Has Cancer

Chapter 10 - A Family Challenge: Overcoming Long-Term Problems

Chapter 11 - Finding the Best Doctors: What You Can Do Before the First Appointment

Chapter 12 - Building a Winning Health Care Team

Chapter 13 - Break the Rules: Enjoying or at Least Surviving the Holidays

The Oncology Interactive Education Series


The OIES has been developed in collaboration with over 300 oncologists and has been certified but the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The program is being used in some of the leading cancer institutions and has now been made available to the general public. It recognizes the need for patient education in empowering them to make informed decisions and participate in their own care and treatment. The OIES consists of 23 titles on individual types of cancer and comes in two levels: general and clinical.

The OIES is available on CD-Rom and therefore can be accessed by anyone owning a computer. The program offers 20 to 25 hours of comprehensive content per title. Patients and their family members will find information on risks and prevention, diagnosis, treatment options and side effects, supportive care, diet and nutrition and much more. The OIES is a multimedia program designed to facilitate easier learning of complex concepts. The multimedia components include 3D anatomy models, patient interviews, animations, narrations and user notes that enable customization of the program to one's specific needs. In addition the program consists of an FAQ section, Glossary of terms and links to other printed and online resources.

With the help of the OIES cancer patients can save valuable time by forgoing lengthy Internet, library and bookstore searches that often offer fragmented or medically advanced information.

Authors, Dean and Jessica King, and Jonathan Pearlroth
Bantam Publishers
ISBN # 0-553-37845-7

Reviewed by Suzzanne Wagemann - diagnosed with Non Hodgkins Lymphoma - March 2000, currently in remission.

Initially, two things drew my interest in this book; first, two of the authors are cancer survivors and the third was a support person for her husband with cancer; secondly, the entire book is filled with personal experiences of people with many types of cancer. "Down in the trenches"--- "I’ve been in your shoes" appeals to me.

Cancer Combat covers "The First Days"- after discovering something may be wrong, to the final chapter called, "After the War - rebounding and rebuilding". It takes you through all phases and situations you might encounter while on this cancer journey. Also, included are other resource books to further your self-education.

Cancer Combat is a fine resource book for persons with cancer or those trying to understand and support someone with cancer.

While reading through Cancer Combat, I often underlined things I identified with, thought useful for future reference, or anything I felt might be of help or encouragement. At the back of the book are blank pages which I used for jotting down page numbers, with a brief notation on those things I had underlined that seemed especially useful. So in essence, it serves me as a quick reference to the many topics in this book ie. page 89 - perspecitive, page 163-164 - teeth and radiation.

While skimming the pages of Cancer Combat for this review, I came upon a notation scrawled in the margin of the "How to be Brave" chapter... it read as follows:

"I never think "why me". I just don’t ever feel that way. Babies, little children and lots of people get cancer, so "why me" would be so foreign. It wouldn’t make sense. It would serve no purpose. We wouldn’t want someone else to have it. It just is. Now let’s get on with it and take the steps to get better. Suzzanne 5-27-00".

Noticing the date, I realized I wrote this two months after diagnosis with Non Hodgkins Lymphoma and just beginning chemotherapy. Fortunately, I had Cancer Combat as a resource book right from the start.

I found the "personal-experience" style of writing to be easy reading - a must when your mind is already overloaded. Also, it is easy to skip around to any chapter that may be of particular interest. Cancer Combat is a book worthy of a place in your reference library.