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4 Books on Cancer

Feb/05/2023 / by Pratika Yashaswi

Commemorate World Cancer Day by learning all about people dealing with their cells gone rogue

Cancer traatment in a linear accelerator
Cancer traatment in a linear accelerator. Shutterstock

Cancer is one of the most enduring and heart-breaking facts of the human condition. It spares no one: not children, not adults, not other animals.

Last year, Brigham and Women’s Hospital cancer researchers showed that early onset cancers of the breast, colon, esophagus, kidney, liver and pancreas, have dramatically increased since 1990.

As of 2021, over 9.8% of all US adults have been diagnosed with cancer. WHO statistics show that an estimated 400,000 children and adolescents develop cancer every year.

On World Cancer Day, we honor those affected by cancer, and those brave individuals who have fought and continue to fight this powerful adversary.

An abiding source of strength in sickness is knowing that you are not alone, and that victory is possible. This World Cancer Day, educate yourself on the disease and what it means for someone to fight it.

Whether a loved one is living with cancer or you’re just looking for some inspiration in your own fight, these four books are essential reading for anyone touched by this disease.

1. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

A New York Times bestseller and Pulitzer Prize finalist, this heart-wrenching memoir recounts the late neurosurgeon Paul Kalanithi’s battle with stage IV lung cancer. At 36, he writes of his journey to discover what it means to live a meaningful life before death. The book is filled with raw emotion and poignancy but also speaks to the power of resilience in hardship. Through limpid prose and vivid descriptions, Kalanithi shares his thoughts on life, loss and fear, as he grapples with inevitable mortality. It is a breathtaking story of resilience in the face of tragedy that will leave readers forever changed. A must-read for anyone struggling with their own mortality — or not.

2. The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee

This Pulitzer Prize-winning tome came out over a decade ago, yet is one of the most expansive books ever on cancer. It might endure for a long time.

“The Emperor of All Maladies” gives readers an inside look into humanity’s arduous struggle against this disease. It goes from its mysterious origins to modern advances in treatment. Mukherjee not only uncovers groundbreaking discoveries from around the world, but also examines our complex relationship with this relentless foe.

3. Close to the Bone by Lisa Ray

Canadian actress, model and travel show host Lisa Ray was diagnosed at 37 with multiple myeloma, an incurable blood cancer.

Her memoir, “Close to the Bone,” is about many things, but it also a compelling and inspiring story of her journey as a cancer survivor. In it, she recounts her experience from diagnosis to remission. She talks about how this life-altering experience changed her view on love and identity. Ray’s courage and resilience shines through her narrative as she shares her struggles and triumphs.

Heartfelt yet full of humor, Ray’s vulnerable reflections on recovery provide comfort while highlighting the importance of self-love.

4. Between Two Kingdoms: A Memoir of a Life Interrupted by Suleika Jaouad

Suleika Jaouad was just about to turn 23 when she got diagnosed with leukemia — with a 35% chance of survival. She spent the next four years fighting this disease from a hospital bed. During that, she diarized her war against cancer in a New York Times’ column, “Life, Interrupted.” After she resurfaced, she set off on a 100-day, 15,000-mile road trip across the country to meet those who had written to her throughout the years. The two kingdoms she refers to in her book are sickness and wellness. The book traverses both realms as she discovers what it means to live after a long battle to just survive.

This book will resonate with more than just those who struggle with chronic and terminal illness. As Jaouad observes, everyone will someday be sick.

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