Book compiles advice from cancer survivors

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Today’s Los Angeles Times Health section is devoted to the topic of battling cancer. You won’t have to look too far to read some inspirational stories of men and women fighting the disease. Getting through cancer, it seems, is a task best handled by a group: the patient, the healthcare team, the family and friends and the thousands of other people who have been there, done that.

A new book from the American Cancer Society, ‘What Helped Get Me Through,’ taps into the deep wisdom of cancer survivors. Editor Julie K. Silver, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and a cancer survivor, conducted surveys of hundreds of cancer survivors to compile a down-to-earth guide for people who are newly diagnosed. With chapters such as ‘What helped my children cope’ and ‘What I wish I had known at diagnosis,’ the book is full of practical, straight-forward and honest advice. Here’s a sample:

-- How I nurtured myself: ‘I got a dog. The dog made me smile even when I was feeling really bad.’ Kristen, diagnosed with colon cancer at age 49

-- How friends made a difference: ‘I sent the word out with my Christmas card to virtually everyone I had known over the years. I heard back in some form or another from almost all of them. That was very uplifting.’ Linda, diagnosed with breast cancer at age 55


-- Balancing work and family: ‘I was my own worst enemy, and I found myself living on the computer, looking for the worst news possible. I cured that by going to work ... it really helped the depression and getting back into a normal life.’ Kathie, diagnosed with kidney cancer at age 53

-- What I wish I had known at diagnosis: ‘I wish I had known that chemo treatments were cumulative in the body and that recovery from each successive treatment would be more difficult.’ David, diagnosed with breast cancer at age 63

-- How cancer changed my life: ‘I go to the doctor sooner, rather than self-diagnose.’ Mark, diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia at age 59

Silver has included advice for friends and family, as well, and summarizes much of the advice with lists such as ‘5 things you should tell your partner who has cancer’ and ‘5 things to tell your children about your cancer.’ It’s a terrific book. You can purchase it ($17.95) through the American Cancer Society website or wherever books are sold.

-- Shari Roan

* Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the name of the book as ‘What Helped Me Get Through.’ The correct title is ‘What Helped Get Me Through.’