Help My Dad Read His Way to Cured
April 17, 2009 5:28 PM   Subscribe

Cancer Filter - My dad has leukemia and wants an inspiring non-religious book or two about positive thinking - suggestions?

My beloved Pa has been diagnosed with acute leukemia (M4) and has just started his first round of chemotherapy. He has asked me to find a book for him that will help him navigate his way through this process. He is not looking so much for medical information (we already have that and get updates all the time), but more information for what HE should be doing from a mental/psychological perspective to stay strong, positive, and create the best odds for beating this.

We are not a religious family and are not looking for a book about prayer. Something slightly new-agey is ok, but not overly so if that makes sense (and I have to think it does).

The prognosis at this point is not very great. All of us are aware of that and are doing our best to think positively. What my dad needs are suggestions on how HE can best remained positive and advice on dealing with things like visitors - at this point (very early) in his treatment, he is finding himself already overwhelmed with the number of well-meaning visitors in his room and the repeated questions and answers. At the end of the day he has spent so much time talking to the people who are here to support him that he hasn't spent time focusing on what he's going through - but he's questioning if he SHOULD be focusing on himself.

I have my opinions and thoughts as his daughter, but I am not exactly unbiased OR experienced in dealing with this sort of thing. Any suggestions from those who have been there for a helpful book would be great - and he's only looking for ONE book (or no more than two) - there might not be a lot of time left before the chemo makes him too tired to read much.
posted by DuckGirl to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Perhaps "No such thing as a bad day"
posted by bigmusic at 5:38 PM on April 17, 2009

Response by poster: He is primarily interested in information on the mind/body connection, but again - presented in a not too new-agey way.
posted by DuckGirl at 5:43 PM on April 17, 2009

Anatomy of an Illness-- Norman Cousins
Bernie Siegel is another classic author in this genre, though he throws around the "G" word quite a bit in some places
posted by availablelight at 5:49 PM on April 17, 2009


I haven't read this book yet, so I don't know if it will help, but it's gotten great reviews, and may be good. I only hesitate to recommend it because the title is so harsh given your father's condition, but from what I can tell from the reviews, the content may be what you're looking for.

It's David Shield's latest book, The Thing About Life is that One Day You'll be Dead. Here's an excerpt from a review.

"David Shields's litany of decay and decrepitude might have overwhelmed the age-sensitive reader (like this one), but The Thing About Life Is That One Day You'll Be Dead manages to transcend the maudlin by melding personal history with frank biological data about every stage of life, creating an "autobiography about my body" that seeks meaning in death, but moreover, life. Shields filters his frank--and usually foreboding--data through his own experience as a 51-year-old father with burgeoning back pain, contrasting his own gloomy tendencies with the defiant perspective of his own 97-year-old father, a man who has waged a lifelong, urgent battle against the infirmities of time. (If believed, his love life at age 70 was truly marvelous.) Interwoven with observations of philosophers from Cicero and Sophocles to Lauren Bacall and Woody Allen ("I don't want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve immortality through not dying."), Shields's book is a surprisingly moving and life-affirming embrace of the human condition, where inevitable failures and frailties become "thrilling" and "liberating," rather than dour portents of The End."

Forgive me if I have misjudged; I only want to help.
posted by davidamann at 5:52 PM on April 17, 2009

Maybe a little religious but I don't think of it that way: Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet.
posted by pallen123 at 7:21 PM on April 17, 2009

Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn?
posted by fiery.hogue at 9:16 PM on April 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

Victor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning. Frankl was a Swiss psychiatrist who was imprisoned in a Nazi camp. He recounts his experiences there and discusses how some people fared better than others. He uses this as a basis for a theory of the ways that we can find meaning in our lives. It's short--you could read it in a couple of sittings.
posted by neuron at 10:15 PM on April 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

Robert M. Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
posted by mahoganyslide at 11:31 PM on April 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

Provided that you're not religious persons, I would recommend any book about eastern philosophy. This is the third time that I recommend this book : Narcissus and Goldmund, by Hermann Hesse. It is not related to eastern philosophy in an explicit way, but Buddhism and the whole eastern thought had nurtured Hermann Hesse for years when he wrote this. I think that's an uplifting book which outlines many paths. Good luck.
posted by nicolin at 5:58 AM on April 18, 2009

Off topic for the book part of your question, but I have a few friends that have been going through serious illnesses.

A family member in their cases kept up something called a "CarePage". It's like a secure blog that you can post status updates and information on how the patient is doing.

If he has a large community of people who care about his progress and is being overwhelmed by the same questions over and over, it's a nice option to keep everyone posted in a pretty easy way. You can also update it with "good visiting times" or use it to coordinate visits so everyone doesn't arrive at once.
posted by mazienh at 11:43 AM on April 18, 2009

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