Coping with Cancer – A patient book of thoughts, advice and inspiration for the ill by Veronica Blaha Decker and Linda Weller-Ferris.
I have previously discussed a book called There’s No Place Like Hope, by Vickie Girard. That book had a great impact on me, but it was not without its faults. One of which, is its frequent recommendation and solicitation for Cancer Treatment Centers of America. To some, this can be off-putting as their model of treatment is not for everyone and is not without controversy.
A nurse at the hospital where I receive my chemotherapy told me they were thinking about replacing There’s No Place Like Hope with a different book, one that did not contain the same institutional favoritism. I was asked to review another book, Coping with Cancer as a possible successor. The book is a quick read, about 70 pages long and is written by two very well educated psychologists with many years of experience. You can tell this book was written by professionals in the field and contains very sound advice.
I am going to somewhat compare and contrast the two books below and try to point out their strengths and weaknesses.
- One of the great aspects of There’s No Place Like Hope, is that it is filled with personal anecdotes and quotes from people undergoing cancer treatment. This helps alleviate the feeling of isolation that can come with a cancer diagnosis. It creates the sense that you are part of a larger community past, present and future that have felt the same emotional and physical pain that you are feeling. This can be very uplifting, especially in the days after being diagnosed. Coping with Cancer has very few stories from those experiencing the fear and uncertainty that comes with a cancer diagnosis.
- Coping with Cancer is brimming with activities and strategies that help a person develop the internal and external support mechanisms for recovery. It has a lot of ideas to aid someone in structuring their life for the marathon that is cancer treatment and the many challenges placed on family and friends. It does this with concrete examples and suggestions, that many people will find beneficial and worthwhile.
- There’s No Place Like Hope frequently incorporates faith and spirituality into its anecdotes. Some may find this helpful as it makes it more in-line with their own spirituality. Coping with Cancer only has a few mentions of religion, this may make it more accessible for those who are not Christian and those who are not religious.
- One of my favorite suggestions in Coping with Cancer, is the dream board. This is a poster of activities, events, travel brochures, etc. that a person can look forward to doing. They suggest placing it in a visible place so that when you are feeling down you can look at it as way to perk yourself up. I think this is a great idea. During my first round of chemo, I was greatly looking forward to having a large dinner party for supportive family and friends as a way of thanking them for their support and love. It was something that I talked about frequently and looked forward to with immense anticipation. For me cooking for others is one of my favorite activities. This event was something I would reflect on when feeling down and the though of it provided a smile whenever I was feeling depressed or overwhelmed.
- In chapter 11, page 48 of Coping with Cancer, there is a list of activities one can perform in a given day that can help perk yourself up. I really enjoyed this list, and is definitely something to look at and incorporate if you are feeling down and are looking for a smile or pleasurable activity.
Overall, Coping with Cancer has a very clinical feel to it. It has great exercises from a cognitive behavioral therapy angle. This is to be expected given the authors’ backgrounds and professions. But in turn it makes the book less personal and harder to relate to. It has lot of great coping strategies and activites but doesn’t have the same gut felt impact of There’s No Place Like Hope. The strategies provided in Coping with Cancer are beneficial to patients who are trying to build a long-term plan for dealing with their illness. The fight against cancer is a marathon, once you get past the initial shock of diagnosis, a framework of dealing with each day is important, and Coping with Cancer is a great resource.
They are both great books and are very complimentary to each other. One makes you feel less isolated in your feelings and situation. The other helps provide a sustainable manner to pick yourself up and keep moving forward on the path to recovery. Would I recommend one over the other? I really feel they address two different problems. Coping with Cancer does not have the same uplifting impact on the newly diagnosed cancer survivor, but its long-term advice is something that is very important for the marathon that is cancer treatment. There’s No Place Like Hope really helps slow the tears and soothes the initial pain of diagnosis. But anecdotes, while insightful, are more akin to a sprint. They help you feel better now, but don’t necessarily provide the sustaining nourishment you need to get through the long haul of recovery.