Trigger Warning: This article contains mentions of cancer, grief, and death. Please take care when reading.
There are few things scarier in this life than a cancer diagnosis. From the unknowns of treatment to worrying about what will become of one’s loved ones throughout this internal battle, it can be quite easy for a person to close themselves off out of fear or sadness.
However, one should not abandon hope in the wake of their diagnosis. Thanks to advancements in modern medicine, many types of cancer are treatable, especially when caught early. According to the National Cancer Institute, there were 16.9 million cancer survivors in the United States as of January 2019, and that number is estimated to rise to 22.2 million by the year 2030.
Despite this encouraging news, while those currently fighting cancer are spending long hours in chemotherapy or recovering from surgeries and biopsies, it might be helpful to put names and faces to the anonymous statistics. Therefore, in honor of Cancer Survivors Month, here are five memoirs written by cancer survivors for those affected by cancer.
Both Sides of the Bedside: From Oncology Nurse to Patient, an RN’s Journey with Cancer by Christine Magnus Moore
This honest and inspiring 2015 memoir centers on Christine Magnus Moore, an oncology nurse who has spent many years caring for patients with cancer, celebrating their successes and mourning their losses like a fellow soldier in battle. However, it isn’t until Moore is diagnosed with cancer herself that she discovers the full extent of one’s struggle against the disease. As she deals with everything from physically and emotionally draining treatments to a challenging love life, Moore learns a variety of lessons that allow her to become a better nurse and a more empathetic human.
Both Sides of the Bedside is a great read for those who have been affected by cancer in some way, have an interest in nursing, or are eager to learn more about helping others through their pain.
Finding My Invincible Summer by Muriel Vasconcellos
In this deeply moving 2012 memoir, translator Muriel Vasconcellos has finally found happiness after a tumultuous childhood when she is diagnosed with breast cancer. After beating her cancer, her life once again turns upside down when she loses her soul mate and is handed another cancer diagnosis, this time leaving her with six months left to live. Despite the immense despair she feels, Vasconcellos beats cancer again to embark on a journey of health and healing. So, by the time cancer strikes a third time, she is prepared to seek wellness using unconventional methods and finds solace in the “Invincible Summer” of her soul.
This book is great for anyone interested in alternative medicine or mindfulness to accompany conventional cancer treatments or who wishes to find peace within themselves.
Die Young With Me: A Memoir by Rob Rufus
The 2016 memoir by Blacklist Royals bandmate and cancer survivor Rob Rufus is a great read for punk rockers and classical musicians alike. Teenage Rufus and his twin brother Nat are quite possibly the only punk enthusiasts in their rural West Virginia town, but that doesn’t stop them from forming a band and pursuing their musical dreams. However, their plans are put on hold when Rufus is diagnosed with a rare stage four cancer. Since Nat continues with the band while Rob endures treatment for his disease, the brothers’ paths diverge, but Rob is able to find strength in himself through his music.
An excellent depiction of what cancer looks like for a young person, Die Young With Me is sure to engage any reader with its honesty and love letter to music.
In this 2018 memoir, British academic and author Janet Todd details a month’s worth of journal entries of her thoughts during radiation therapy, often featuring the works of the literary greats Todd spent a lifetime studying. Equally witty and scholarly, Todd reflects on her interesting upbringing in Wales, Bermuda, and Ceylon while her father, a centenarian also staying in “hospital-land,” tells stories as they both learn “the selfishness of sickness” and the value of literature.
Radiation Diaries is a short yet insightful read for anyone with an interest in British literature or the works of Todd herself.
The Cancer Survivors Club by Chris Geiger
This final selection is a short story collection published in 2012 and features tales from UK survivors of every type of cancer. These stories range from inspiring to evocative to humorous as each person shares their life, including newspaper articles from the award-winning columnist Geiger about his own cancer experience.
This book is guaranteed to make readers laugh, cry, and come away with a brighter outlook on life.
Whether you have cancer, are a survivor, or love someone with cancer, remember that you are not alone. May these books, filled with other people’s stories, help you figure out what a diagnosis means for you and how you can find joy, peace, and community throughout your cancer journey.
For more book recommendations for cancer patients, click here!
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