The best books about chemotherapy

Many authors have picked their favorite books about chemotherapy and why they recommend each book.

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Ani's Light

By Tanu Shree Singh, Sandhya Prabhat (illustrator),

Book cover of Ani's Light

Ani’s Light by Tanu Shree Singh with art by Sandhya Prabhat is about the depression and sadness when Mom is gone to the hospital for chemotherapy. This gentle picture book shows the reader that often fear makes us want to “hide” and find someplace safe.  But little by little the reader sees the importance of reaching out to others and slowly facing and talking about the fears that hurt one’s heart. 

Who am I?

I believe stories help heal our hearts and give us “new eyes” to see ourselves and others. I write to celebrate the courage shown by children as they meet challenges, perhaps the loss of a parent or a friend, the sting of rejection because of being “different.” Stories show us how others face fear or failure. Stories help us celebrate who we are. As a child psychologist, I worked with families and educators on the Pacific island of Saipan to develop programs for students with disabilities so all children could continue their education. My books have been given a variety of awards but the best reward is when a child reading one of my books, smiles, and says, “I am in this book.”

I wrote...

I Will Dance

By Nancy Bo Flood, Julianna Swaney (illustrator),

Book cover of I Will Dance

What is my book about?

Eva longs to dance. But unlike many young people, Eva is in a wheelchair. She has Cerebral Palsy (CP). She doesn’t know what dance looks like for someone who uses a wheelchair but Eva is determined to dance, not alone, not pretend, not imagine. In this picture book we follow Eva’s journey from her first tentative decision to try to audition for an all-abilities dance company to the scary moment of actually “rolling into” the studio, and eventually to becoming a true part of a dance community, a dancer! 

Red, White, and Whole

By Rajani LaRocca,

Book cover of Red, White, and Whole

What would you do if your mother was dying of cancer and you thought if you could just be the perfect daughter, she’d live? Red, White, and Whole addresses this through a tender-sweet tale of a daughter caught in the crossroads of her Indian family culture, American neighborhood culture, and the fight to save her mother’s life. It is written completely in verse and filled with vivid imagery, poignant contemplations, and bits of Indian myths. All of which combine to create a tapestry of love, loss, and finding peace. It is a family finding a way to be whole, even after tragedy.

Who am I?

I am the mother of six and a voracious journaler. I am also a novelist. Though I’ve found that the facts of family adventures are often more fascinating than fiction. I bring in-the-moment observations as well as decade-seasoned insights to the world of family life. I also love reading about other families with all their quirks and joys. 

I wrote...

When I Was a Pie: And Other Slices of Family Life

By M.L. Farb,

Book cover of When I Was a Pie: And Other Slices of Family Life

What is my book about?

Most stories end with Happily Ever After. This one starts with it.

These are slices of life in the form of short stories, musings, comics, and poetry—showing bright moments, soul pondering, frustrations, and side-aching laughter. Join our family as we play compliment tag, create piano calls, and cut a crawl hole in the bathroom door to rescue a toddler. It is life, lived in the moment and observed. Welcome to the eclectic joy we call our family.

Dr. Susan Love's Breast Book

By Susan M. Love, Karen Lindsey, Elizabeth Love

Book cover of Dr. Susan Love's Breast Book

After being diagnosed with breast cancer I sampled outside information about breast cancer sparingly and this was the only book that made the cut. I dipped into it when I had a question and otherwise left it alone, but afterward I was usually glad I checked to see what Susan Love had to say and appreciated the big picture context that the book offers. If you can afford it, get the most recent edition since it will be the most accurate about treatment plans and ongoing research. 

Who am I?

I am an expert on being a cancer patient because I was diagnosed with breast cancer in the fall of 2017. I am also a former oncology and hospice nurse. A cancer diagnosis always feels like a calamity and my work with very sick cancer patients showed me how serious the disease can be. I also thought that our health care system would react to cancer with compassion, but I was wrong. I felt on my own as a patient, and that experience led me to reflect on my nursing work. Healing alternates between me being a nurse and a patient. The alteration shows the failings of our health care system, and how to make it more caring.

I wrote...

Healing: When a Nurse Becomes a Patient

By Theresa Brown,

Book cover of Healing: When a Nurse Becomes a Patient

What is my book about?

When an oncology nurse is diagnosed with cancer, she has to confront the most critical, terrified, and angry patient she’s ever encountered: herself.

New York Times bestselling author Theresa Brown tells a poignant, powerful, and intensely personal story about breast cancer in Healing. She brings us along with her from the mammogram that would change her life through her diagnosis, treatment, and recovery. Despite her training and years of experience as an oncology and hospice nurse, she finds herself continually surprised by the lack of compassion in the medical maze—just as so many of us have. 

Strength Renewed

By Shirley Corder,

Book cover of Strength Renewed: Meditations for Your Journey Through Breast Cancer

As a registered nurse, South African writer Shirley Corder knew cancer from a medical standpoint, but she didn’t really know the disease until she heard the words “you have cancer.” In her book, she walks readers from diagnosis through surgery and cancer treatments to recovery, shedding God’s light along the path. Her subtle humor and genuine faith lighten a heavy subject. Though she never sugarcoats reality or implies that we should “just trust God and everything will turn out all right,” her book provides a shot of needed encouragement at a critical time.

Who am I?

Having practically grown up at the hospital where my dad worked as a medical photographer, I wanted to be a nurse from the age of ten. I worked in ICU for five years and then retired to become a stay-at-home mom and later a homeschool mother. But once a nurse, always a nurse. I continued to care for friends and family, including my one-hundred-year-old mother-in-law, through health crises and long-term illnesses. My book and the others listed here tell stories of God’s healing—physically, mentally, and spiritually—a theme I’m passionate about and hope you are, too!

I wrote...

Health, Healing, and Wholeness: Devotions of Hope in the Midst of Illness

By Tracy Crump,

Book cover of Health, Healing, and Wholeness: Devotions of Hope in the Midst of Illness

What is my book about?

Are you facing a health crisis or battling chronic illness? Do you need a dose of hope? Through her work as an intensive care nurse, Tracy Crump witnessed lifesaving miracles when everyone involved had given up—everyone except God.

Crafted with unique examples of God's miraculous power and saving grace, Health, Healing, and Wholeness blends Scripture-rich meditations with biblical principles highlighting God's mercy in times of medical need. Moving stories of a mother's sacrifice, children overcoming catastrophic accidents, and joy despite traumatic brain injury instill hope. Whether you are experiencing a medical crisis, walking alongside someone who is, or caring for a loved one, these thirty devotions will bring comfort and peace.

Truth & Beauty

By Ann Patchett,

Book cover of Truth & Beauty: A Friendship

Patchett is a sublime novelist, but this work of memoir is unbeatable, one of those books you find yourself gifting to friends and family as soon as you’ve finished it. Written soon after her dear friend, the poet Lucy Grealy, died too young, this is an account of their deep friendship over two decades. Though they had much in common, the story as it unfolds demonstrates how it is possible for two people to grapple with creative struggles and trauma very differently. We also felt Patchett captured some essential qualities of female friendship, so that we see Lucy through Ann’s eyes, and makes us also Lucy’s friends.

Who are we?

We are a writing team of doctor and dramatist, two long-time friends who have made our life’s work over the last 30 years the exploration of empathy, with her forensic patients in Gwen’s case, and for Eileen, through the invention of characters in dramas. Our shared passion, as our five book choices reveal, is to offer hope through the healing power of narrative; as Carl Jung said, "the reason for evil in the world is that people are unable to tell their stories."

We wrote...

The Devil You Know: Encounters in Forensic Psychiatry

By Gwen Adshead and Eileen Horne,

Book cover of The Devil You Know: Encounters in Forensic Psychiatry

What is our book about?

Dr. Gwen Adshead is one of Britain's leading forensic psychiatrists. She treats serial killers, arsonists, stalkers, gang members, and other individuals who are usually labelled 'monsters.' Whatever their crime, she listens to their stories and helps them to better understand their terrible acts of violence. Here Adshead invites the reader to step with her into the room to meet twelve patients and discover how minds can change. These men and women are revealed in all their complexity and shared humanity. Their stories make a powerful case for rehabilitation over revenge, compassion over condemnation. The Devil You Know will challenge everything you thought you knew about human nature.

Four Funerals, No Marriage

By Mike Keren,

Book cover of Four Funerals, No Marriage: A Memoir

Four Funerals, No Marriage by Mike Keren is a poignant, funny, deep dive into elderly caretaking, and the toll and lessons learned from it. The author is a psychologist and is somehow able to analyze his feelings/actions while immersed in the daily responsibilities of taking care of several ailing relatives. His writing is smooth, easy to read, and packed with incredible insight. I found myself simultaneously laughing and crying, and always entertained.

Who am I?

Before becoming an opera singer, I received my Masters in Healthcare Administration and worked in various healthcare settings, from a community health center to a large teaching hospital. I learned first-hand how the best-intentioned clinicians can make mistakes, and how those mistakes can lead to unintended consequences that can harm patients. Although it’s terrifying to think about, the best defense is to self-advocate as much as possible. It’s your body and your decision. Don’t give away your power.

I wrote...

Devil's Grace

By Elizabeth B. Splaine,

Book cover of Devil's Grace

What is my book about?

0.63 seconds.That's the amount of time cardiac surgeon Dr. Angela Brennan has to process the oncoming truck that destroys half of her family and irrevocably alters her life. Not long after the accident, death intervenes once more and snatches her remaining family member.

Angela confronts the healthcare power brokers at the hospital where she works and discovers lies, complicity, and corruption at the highest levels. As she uncovers the truth about her daughter's death, barriers are thrown in her way that threaten to destroy her career and reputation. Spirits start communicating with Angela, causing her to question her sanity. But as her science-based world continues to disintegrate, she accepts her new reality, and her mission to transform her pain into purpose becomes clear.

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