Note: I recently wrote a post about trying not to worry as I faced a brain MRI and waited for the results. Thanks to all of you who wrote such kind comments in response. I got the results back, and the M.R.I. â€śshowed nothing.â€ť OK, no jokes! Sometimes, with chemo brain, I wonder myself exactly whatâ€™s left in thereâ€¦
Unfortunately, â€śEveryoneâ€™s Guide to Cancer Survivorship â€“ A Road Map for Better Healthâ€ť implies a lot more in its title than it actually delivers. This newly published book (October 2007, Andrews, McMeel Publishing, LLC), a promising 350 pages covering everything from urinary incontinence to the role of poetry in health, unfortunately falls victim to â€śtoo many cooks spoil the brothâ€ť syndrome: in this case, its 41 different contributors have created something thatâ€™s an awfully bumpy read, despite being filled with good information (and intentions).
The four lead authors include two doctors, a social worker, and a registered nurse. In addition to Ernest H. Rosenbaum, M.D.; David Spiegel, M.D.; Patricia Fobair, L.C.S.W., and Holly Gautier, R.N. and a number of other health professionals, various sections of the book were written by professors, artists â€“ and the wig master for the San Francisco Opera. Speaking as an editor, this project must have been a nightmare; the term â€śherding catsâ€ť comes to mind.
There are as many different voices and writing styles in this book as there are contributors, and they range from next-door-neighbor friendly to pure â€śdoctoreseâ€ť â€“ the words â€ścomorbidities,â€ť â€śpsychosocial,â€ť â€śalkylating,â€ť and â€śsequelaeâ€ť are not ones we laypeople use in casual conversation. Theyâ€™re bound to send most of us scurrying for a dictionary â€“ or a different book.
The authors say right up front that the book is written â€śfor both survivors and health professionals.â€ť So, reader beware: if youâ€™re an average survivor, rather than a health professional, youâ€™ll struggle through much of the material. That said, I believe Rosenbaum et. al. made a valiant effort to examine an issue thatâ€™s becoming more and more critical: survivorship, which describes the upwards of 11 million Americans who are now cancer survivors, with the number growing daily.
The book is dedicated to â€śthe survivors of cancer who have struggled with great difficulty to achieve a satisfying and productive quality of life after their diagnosis and treatment, and whose courage and perseverance have inspired others to live their lives to the fullest.â€ť In addition, royalties from the book are being donated to the Stanford Cancer Survivorship Program.
IF youâ€™re good at understanding medicalese; and IF youâ€™re willing to spend some time in the wonderfully comprehensive, 46-page index looking for exactly the information you want; and IF you donâ€™t mind that this is â€śEveryoneâ€™sâ€ť guide to cancer survivorship, and youâ€™ll spend a fair amount of time skipping over information about prostate and colon and lung and other cancers; then you should go to your local bookstore or library and check this book out. Again, I applaud the authors for tackling this critical subject; but I believe that ultimately, their reach exceeded their grasp, and theyâ€™ve created a textbook for health professionals rather than a cover-to-cover read for cancer survivors.