A heartfelt, well-crafted handbook about the effects of cancer treatments.
Numerous books address the subject of living with cancer, and some discuss the side effects of cancer treatments. Few, however, tackle the challenge of living with the long-term effects of cancer treatments. Wheeler, a philosophy teacher who survived both breast and ovarian cancers, has undergone surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. She was led to believe that the symptoms she sustained years after her treatment were possibly age-related, but her research suggested otherwise. Wheeler’s book is the result of her personal quest to learn about life after cancer treatment; it demonstrates both her determination to discover the truth and her desire to help other cancer survivors. Describing her writing effort as “this ‘Alphabet Soup’ of my own experience,” Wheeler wants readers to take that line literally: She organizes the bulk of the book into 26 chapters, each related to a letter of the alphabet and each covering a specific area she wants to discuss. For example, in “A is for Anxiety,” Wheeler writes that “[a]nxiety may well be the most overwhelming problem post treatment cancer patients endure.” In “K is for Kin,” she observes that “many of us may never be the same as we were before cancer….We are left to find our own way, each of us, as best we can.” Wheeler pinpoints a particular challenge, symptom or issue in each short chapter and writes about it with insight and compassion. Her revealing perspective as someone who has lived through many cancer treatments combines with her research-based advice and her philosophical bent to create a personal, moving and instructive book. On occasion, the author uses storytelling, references to mythological characters and excerpts from poems to add a literary flavor to her writing, lifting this manual above the ordinary. Readers who have gone through cancer treatments are sure to find solace in Wheeler’s words.
Neither sugarcoated nor overly raw, a cathartic, spiritually uplifting book to help cancer survivors overcome the lasting effects of treatment and get on with their lives.