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Books to Cope with Breast Cancer

The current cover of People magazine is, as usual, a head shot of a celebrity. But this time the celebrity is a bald woman—a tell-tale sign of someone undergoing chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer.

Joan Lunden, a former anchor of ABC’s Good Morning America, chose to take off her wig for the People cover photo to raise awareness about her own experiences with breast cancer and the disease’s effects on women. She’s not alone. More and more women are going public about their experiences as breast cancer patients and survivors, and some have written deeply personal books about being diagnosed with and treated for the disease.

As part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a national campaign every October, we’re delighted to recommend several titles that provide thoughtful and compassionate guides to those experiencing this all-too-prevalent affliction.

At the top of our list is A Breast Cancer Alphabet by Madhulika Sikka, executive editor of NPR News and herself a breast cancer survivor. Sikka explains that she wrote the book “for anyone who has been diagnosed with breast cancer and needs a companion.” It’s a slim and digestible volume that provides an alphabetized list of subjects of interest to women at all phases of breast cancer, from finding a lump to navigating life post-treatment. For example: A is for anxiety; F is for fashion accessories (tip: don’t use silk if you’re wearing a scarf on a bald head during chemotherapy because it tends to slip off); U is for un- (as in understanding, unpredictable, unfair, uncertain). With a mix of candor, humor, and personal insight, Sikka covers some important if obvious terrain (D is for drugs) as well as some usually taboo areas (S is for sex). The result is a brave, witty, and highly practical guide, not only for women but also for their spouses, partners, and loved ones. (Sikka will be signing books at the National Press Club’s annual book fair on November 18. We also have a limited number of signed copies of her book at Politics & Prose.)

Also worth noting are several other memoirs by women who have undergone treatment for breast cancer. Last year, best-selling novelist Alice Hoffman published Survival Lessons, a slender book (83 pages) that tells her own tale of being diagnosed and offers tips for coping (eat chocolate; make the perfect hard-boiled egg; choose your friends). Highly personal, the book is a quick and uplifting read for patients, survivors, and those around them. We also recommend Kelly Corrigan’s story of her diagnosis with cancer at age 36 and her father’s parallel battle with late-stage cancer, which she writes about with humor and bravery in The Middle Place, a New York Times bestseller after its publication in 2008. And for an inspirational life story, turn to Everybody’s Got Something by Robin Roberts, co-anchor of ABC’s Good Morning America. Roberts overcame the challenge of being treated not only for breast cancer but also for a rare blood disorder that required her to undergo a bone marrow transplant.

Given that an estimated one million teenagers in America have a parent with cancer, we’re also pleased to offer an array of books geared toward youngsters. One especially useful resource for teenagers is My Parent Has Cancer and It Really Sucks: Real-Life Advice From Real-Life Teens by father-daughter duo Marc and Maya Silver. Marc’s wife and Maya’s mom, Marsha, was diagnosed with cancer when Maya was 15 (she’s now an adult living in Colorado). Marc and Maya decided to write a book to help families through the process.

All these titles will be on display in the store during October.

--Brad and Lissa