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4 books that will help you fight cancer head-on

Published: 02 Aug 2017

When you’re going through cancer treatment, it’s natural to seek support from your family, your friends, and your physician. However, as helpful as they can be, it is difficult for them to put their feet in your shoes and understand how you’re truly feeling.

As an alternative coping mechanism, cancer patients often find themselves looking for words of comfort and strength in literature. Many sufferers and survivors of cancer have put pen to paper to document their experiences, in the hope it will help others to feel less fearful or isolated on their cancer journey. 

If you’re looking for some good reading material to get you through your cancer treatment, here are four of the best books we’ve found that capture what the fight is like from those that have been through it, and provide the strength to tackle this disease head-on:

1. Cancer Vixen: A True Story by Marisa Acocella Marchetto

Marisa was a fun-loving, wine-drinking cartoonist when breast cancer stopped her in her tracks. However, she used her artistic talents to aid her recovery, creating a comic-strip style account of how to kick cancer to the kerb.

This vivid and colorful account of Marisa’s 11-month battle with breast cancer has been praised by readers for being both funny and perceptive. One reviewer said “It is colourful, interesting, witty and an honest account of what happens to your world when you are diagnosed with cancer. It has helped my friend realise she is not alone!

2. The Patient’s Playbook by Leslie Michelson

Unfortunately life doesn’t come with a ready-made ‘how to deal with cancer’ guide, but if you’re looking for something along these lines, The Patient’s Playbook is probably as close as it gets.

Michelson’s book is packed with tips and resources to explain and deal with almost every aspect of fighting cancer, including words of support on everything from dealing with your diagnosis to staying fit and well during treatment.

Reviewer comments include “simply the best and indispensible” and “a very useful book”.

3. Chicken Soup for the Cancer Survivor’s Soul by Various Contributors

Chicken Soup for the Soul was a best-seller in the 1990s, and this edition focuses purely on positive stories from cancer survivors.

In your darkest hour, it’s beneficial to draw inspiration from people who have been in that same place and won the battle. And with 101 stories to choose from, there are lots of different experiences and emotions to identify with. 

Readers have reacted well to the balance of empathy without over-the-top drama, with one reviewer commenting that the stories “are all engineered to encourage and be insightful and helpful - but not overly sappy, sickly sentimental, or impossible to believe.” 

4. How to be a Friend to a Friend Who’s Sick by Cottin Pogrebin

Technically, this is a book to give to a loved one. However, it might help for you to read it as well, so you can understand some of the concerns and fears experienced by your friends and family.

In addition to advising friends how they should behave when someone close is diagnosed with a serious illness, the book contains some great ideas for acts of kindness your nearest and dearest can carry out to help you out. Even if you don’t pass the book on, you could suggest one of these acts when somebody close wants to help you out. 

How to be a Friend to a Friend Who’s Sick has been unanimously praised for its honest, helpful approach to illness, with one reader exclaiming “I appreciated the author's direct, conversational writing style” and another saying “I found this book easy to read, not at all depressing, and VERY helpful.” 

Have you come across another book that’s helped you through your cancer treatment? Share your favourite reading material on our Penguin Cold Caps Facebook page