Cancer reading is hard. It is not the most uplifting thing, and like other self-help books, it is hard to sort through what is authentic with what is not. Does the author want to help you, or are they starting a cult or looking to make a fortune? The amazon reviews don’t really help sort that. So in the spirit of limiting other’s exposure to douchebaggery, I thought I’d start pitching books I find authentic and helpful to me.
The first book is David Goggins’s Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy The Odds. It is not a cancer book but can definitely help patients build their mindsets during the storm. This is most definitely marketed as a tough-guy tome, but there is so much more going on under the hood.
Let’s back up a little for context. I was terrified, felt fragile, chemo-brained, and mentally tired when I left the hospital. I had eight more months of treatment ahead of me if things went well. The hospital stay had given me a bed-sore that quickly became an infection. This would develop into something requiring a painful surgery that would take a long time to heal due to Leukemia. It would be a long haul, and I had no trust in my health or body. Things were a little grim. A relative who has cancer reached out to help and sent this book.
I started reading it and got hooked as the best thing to distract you from your issues is somebody else’s issues, and good lord did David have them. He also was a Navy Seal. He overcame many issues and a challenging career with a highly developed mind-over-matter mental toughness, but what is most valuable is his thought process in looking at each challenge. It helped me reframe my stuff in a way that was tangible and accessible to me. Things stopped being how I’d like them to be, but how they are. It helps solve problems, push through them, or in some cases, don’t cause them. This didn’t fix anything and I was by no means entering the next Iron-Man contest or becoming CEO, but it helped me mentally navigate some real humps and bumps. It still helps me today, and I think it could help you too.
The second book is Suleika Joaouad’s Between Two Kingdoms: A Memoir Of A Life Interrupted. I picked up this during remission after hearing her speak on a podcast. She struck me as authentic, and when I dug deeper, I saw that she had been writing about her cancer experiences for some time. A few articles and blog posts in, I definitely wanted to read the book.
The book is skillfully written and covers Suleika’s journey from illness to recovery and its impact on her friends and family. It doesn’t pull any punches, and you will feel some of her pain reading it if your heart isn’t made of rock. It also travels a bit to her life before and after, giving context and a destination. It is honest, authentic, and well regarded.
The book is priceless to me because her experiences and thoughts resonate enough to feel like a sanctuary. I see hope through example because of her ability to communicate it so well. Her exploration of her own and other’s life-changing events helped me consider my own. This book will be important to me for many years to come. If you’re out of the storm and a little lost about what is next, read this book. It will help.
Ultimately the events of the last few years have been a terrible lesson in being present-and not just present in my own life but in the lives of the people that I love. Tomorrow may happen or tomorrow may not.