Similar to my “Latest Info” permalink page, I also wanted to permalink a page for some of my favorite books I have read as a patient. I recommend these to every new patient I meet, as well as to caregivers and family members! I found them very helpful in dealing with the disease, on multiple pragmatic & emotional levels.
1.) “Anticancer: A New Way of Life” by Dr. David Servan-Schreiber. Written by a MD diagnosed with brain cancer, I find this an empowering book of practical advice for patients to LIVE LIFE with cancer and things you can do to maximize your health as a patient. An especially important message he emphasizes is to use prognosis statistics to compare treatment options but aside from that, ignore them. In every prognosis bell curve, there are patients who survive significantly longer than the “median” – some of the survival curves have very long right tails indeed! Someone will end up on that side of the survival curve, why assume it won’t be you?
2.) “From Incurable to Incredible; Cancer Survivors Who Beat the Odds” by Stage IV “Incurable” cancer patient Tami Boehmer. Written by an “incurable” stage IV cancer patient (written by her so long ago, there is now a new sequel out!) I love that this book not only writes about multiple patients who significantly beat their odds/prognosis but unlike most anecdotes on the web, it includes names, photos, contact info etc. I find it incredibly empowering & comforting to see fellow patients who (correctly!) did not assume that the prognosis odds they heard upon their diagnosis were automatically a giant expiration date stamped on their forehead. They continued to live life in the fullest way possible and strove to do whatever they could to increase their odds. Great stories of personal strength, determination and achievement. I also recommend her recent sequel: “Miracle Survivors: Beating the Odds of Incurable Cancer”
3.) “The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer” by Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee
The best general book about cancer ever written. Period. Incredible amounts of information written in an easily accessible, engrossing way. Well deserving of its Pulitzer Prize! I believe it is empowering to cancer patients, their family & friends to more deeply understand the foe they are seeking to control and ideally conquer. As the famous Francis Bacon said in Novum Organum (1620): “Knowledge and human power are synonymous, since the ignorance of the cause frustrates the effect”. I can’t describe this book any better than Amazon, so I’ll just quote them below:
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, and now a documentary from Ken Burns on PBS, The Emperor of All Maladies is a magnificent, profoundly humane “biography” of cancer—from its first documented appearances thousands of years ago through the epic battles in the twentieth century to cure, control, and conquer it to a radical new understanding of its essence.
Physician, researcher, and award-winning science writer, Siddhartha Mukherjee examines cancer with a cellular biologist’s precision, a historian’s perspective, and a biographer’s passion. The result is an astonishingly lucid and eloquent chronicle of a disease humans have lived with—and perished from—for more than five thousand years.
The story of cancer is a story of human ingenuity, resilience, and perseverance, but also of hubris, paternalism, and misperception. Mukherjee recounts centuries of discoveries, setbacks, victories, and deaths, told through the eyes of his predecessors and peers, training their wits against an infinitely resourceful adversary that, just three decades ago, was thought to be easily vanquished in an all-out “war against cancer.” The book reads like a literary thriller with cancer as the protagonist.
Riveting, urgent, and surprising, The Emperor of All Maladies provides a fascinating glimpse into the future of cancer treatments. It is an illuminating book that provides hope and clarity to those seeking to demystify cancer.
4.) The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted And the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, And Long-term Health by Prof. T. Colin Campbell (Jacob Gould Schurman Professor Emeritus of nutritional biochemistry at Cornell University). Of the numerous food science & healthy diet books I have read, this is hands-down the one I have been most impressed by. Although it presents its results via rigorous science, it is written in an accessible way for the layperson. A New York Times bestseller and deservedly so! I have used this book as a guiding light for my own dietary changes as a cancer patient as I attempt to attack the cancer from every angle possible. In a nutshell it advocates a whole-foods vegetable-based diet with a minimal amount of vegetable-based protein, as well as minimal glycemic index whole-food choices for carbohydrates. Although that sounds extreme, the scientific & epidemiology research he presents is very compelling. People may ask – how do you live on such a diet? I can only attest for myself: I followed this diet as a cancer patient while running ~20 miles a week – and after an initial couple pound loss, my weight was completely stable. I personally believe following its whole-foods eating conclusions could significantly improve the health of all people, reduce the incidences of multiple diseases including cancer & help cancer patients as they are in the battle of their lives.