Updated: May 16, 2020
I am a researcher by nature, a published one to be exact!! When I am uncertain about something, I look it up and dig for information. When I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer in February 2020, I rented every book I could on cancer and survival from my local library, bought books online and borrowed materials from dear friends. Below is the list of books I chose to read to help me through the difficult times I had processing the diagnosis, understanding treatment options and staying mentally healthy. In no way am I making money for these recommendations, but if you know how I could, let me know!! =) The links below will direct you to amazon to purchase the title.
What I have found is that most books about cancer are written by doctors; they are objective and sterile. There is a time and a place for this kind of book, I read plenty of them. But the book, Bald is Better with Earings by Andrea Hutton, is written from the Patient's perspective. I LOVED THIS BOOK!! For starters, this cancer survival guide is written by a survivor, not a researcher or oncologist. The book is hilarious, shocking, grim, full of honesty and cultivated many moments of laughter and tears. I had Adam read it as well so he could understand what I would be going from a patient's perspective, not the easy breezy doctor's prospective. It is a great book to pick up if you have a friend or loved one with breast cancer diagnosis as Hutton provides insider information on ways to help the patient (provide meals, rides to chemotherapy, offering to clean the house), things NOT to say and how to simply be there for your loved one who is kicking ass with Breast Cancer. Here is video blurb on the author and why she wrote this awesome book. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zG1NmA5CeLY
My mother in law insisted I check out The Cancer Fighting Kitchen: Nourishing, Big-Flavor Recipes for Cancer Treatment and Recovery by Rebecca Katz. She knew that I would benefit from a cook book that would allow me to use my love for food and kitchen skills to make highly nutritious and easy to digest food to strengthen my body before, during and after treatment. What I LOVE about this book is the lists of veggies, fruits, nuts, grains, spices and healthy oils and their evidence based benefits. Before this book I never touched a beet (or barley or farro), but after reading about them in this book I was all for them. Thanks science! Here is a little science blurb from the book, "Beets' rich red color comes from the phytochemical betacyanin: it combines with beets' fiber to fight colon cancer. Beet fiber also increases glutathione levels, which cleanses toxins from cells." Now I do not have colon cancer, but I would love toxins cleared from my body as often as possible, YES PLEASE! This book encouraged me to return to eating the colors of the rainbow even more so and adding all the spices for their abundant health benefits. I even returned to eating grains, (which I had been off of for years). I began returning some grains to my diet including quinoa because, "Quinoa contains ligans, the body converts ligans into enterolactone, which may mimic estrogen in a way that may protect against hormone dependent breast cancer." In my case, it is worth a try, as I have a highly estrogen dependent form of breast cancer. Katz has wonderful recipes for beverages (think healing teas and cool smoothies), soups, mains and easy snacks. When you or a loved one is going through cancer or the treatments; surgery, chemotherapy or radiation, the body is exhausted and the cells deserve to eat highly nutritious and good food. Katz has grouped her easy recipes and made recommendations on WHAT to eat for all sorts of ailments that can come up with cancer, fatigue, blood sugar regulation, low white cell counts, diarrhea, nausea, sore mouths...What ever it is you are going through, there is a healing food option for you. Bon Appetit!
Radical Remission: Surviving Cancer Against All Odds By Kelly A Turner was the recommendation of my massage therapist and stellar friend Staci Nicoletti. This book was written by a researcher and an oncology therapist who started seeing a pattern of survival among her cancer clients that she wanted to look further into. She began to study thousands of folks around the world, asked these incredible survivors WHAT ARE THEY DOING differently, and found there were 75 factors that radical remission survivors do. In this book, Turner describes the most consistent across the board, 9 ACTIONABLE things you can do RIGHT NOW to prevent cancer (fingers crossed) and have better outcomes if you do get diagnosed. PLEASE read this book if you have been diagnosed or have a loved one with a diagnosis. It will give you hope that you really do have some CONTROL of your health, body and mind to survive this thing!! Here is a list of the 9 ACTIONABLE things you can do right now. Please read the book to get expanded and detailed information on each topic broken down by chapter.
1. Radically change your diet: for most this means eliminating sugar, white flour, meat, alcohol (but you already knew this). It also discusses the importance of drinking plenty of clean water to keep your immune system functioning!
2. Taking control of your health: this chapter discussed the importance of not laying down and becoming passive when you are diagnosed with anything, especially cancer. Stand up, do your research, ask questions, say NO to doctors, become an active participant in your health!
3. Following your intuition: There is much to be learned about your body and mind's needs when you spend a lot more time sitting in silence and listening. 'The body knows what it needs to heal' For me this was 3 months of silence, a retreat at home, limited TV and social media time, sitting in nature, reading books...This is a very important step for healing.
4. Using herbs and supplements: This topic should be discussed with an herbalist or a Traditional Chinese Medicine doctor!
5. Releasing suppressed emotions: There is just no way you should go through cancer treatment carrying hate and pain from your traumatic past. This is heavy work, but necessary to allow the body to heal in all the ways necessary. My biggest emotional block to overcome was FEAR. I spent 3 months sitting with it and watching it change as I changed and healed. Powerful stuff.
6. Increasing positive emotions: If you know me personally or professionally, you know positivity is kind of my JAM! Thinking and being positive does not come natural, it is something that I have cultivated with meditation, surrounding my self with positive people and avoiding comparing my self to anyone on social media, NO JOKE! It is scientifically proven that happy hormones in your body allows you to not just feel happier, but breathe deeper, relax more, digest your food and fight off infection!! It may not be easy to cultivate positivity during cancer, but there are hundreds or thousands of ways you can try. I mean it when I say, fake until you make it.
7. Embracing social support: Now I did this in my own way. I told my immediate family and a few friends and created a circle of people around me who would know how to provide the help I needed. Funny videos, meals dropped off, and other little goodies that would keep me a float. I was not interested in hearing from 100s of people a day and explaining how I was doing. Retreating at home with my support group of 20 people was perfect for me! You do you!
8. Deepening your spiritual connection: It has been very valuable to have a purposeful moment of prayer or meditation EVERYDAY. This diagnosis, and 3 months in retreat have allowed me to feel more aware of a higher source than ever before, more connected to my loved ones who have passed. This was my crazy and cool revelation. This chapter brought me so much peace and inner knowing that I have never have been alone in my journey, spirit is always with me. This is a deep chapter to read!
9. Having strong reasons for living: This statement is obvious but oh so true. I have never stopped thinking and visualizing my life as a woman in her 90s, I see myself being at ALL of my nieces, nephews and god sons' weddings, I have SO MANY backpacking trips to go on all over the world. I have BIG reasons for living, for making healthy lifestyle choices, what are yours?
Anatomy of the Spirit: The Seven Stages of Power and Healing by Caroline Myss, PH.D. was a book swap gem from my dear friend and life coach Sharna Fabiano. This book was a big part of healing emotions of my past as recommended by the Radical Remission book. This is a highly metaphysical read, that is almost spooky in the way it was able to guide me on breaking down false stories of my past and shining new light on all the good that came out of life's traumas. I was familiar with doing work like this before with Sharna (and it may be helpful to seek out therapy or a life coach of your own to be guided in this process), it is helpful to have an open mind, a journal to write out all the thoughts and feelings and have a box of tissues with you too!!
The Breast Cancer Survival Manual by John Link MD was a very evidence based read to empower you with the latest statistics and facts on current day breast cancer treatment. It walked me through how to understand my pathology report, how to ask intelligent questions to my doctor, understanding the vast differences between types of breast cancer, treatment options and even encouraged getting a second opinion. I am grateful to my OBGYN Dr. Brenda Jacobs for madly suggesting I get this book. I read it cover to cover on my plane ride to and from Italy. Adam suggested maybe next time I consider reading fiction. It's a sit with a pencil, take notes kind of read that will terrify you and empower you at the same time. So intelligent, at times it feels it is written for the medical staff.
The Ultimate Guide to Breast Cancer: Your Essential Resource from Diagnosis to Treatment and Beyond by Mary L. Gemignani, MD, MPH was a much more user friendly book for those folks who know much less about medical jargon. This is a VERY easy to read and digest book. It has many great sections on nutrition, exercise, mental health tips and of course the basics on breast cancer from biopsy to surgery, and everything in between. I was very happy with how much information was given on trying alternative medicines such as acupuncture, massage, supplements, healthy food choices, yoga, meditation, visualization and cited research to back these up!
Please leave your BIG REASONS for LIVING below!
Also, if you have a great book or resource for navigating breast cancer, let me know in the comments section!