The Best Books I Read During Cancer Treatment

The Best Books I Read During Cancer Treatment

I have been an avid reader since a young age and during treatment I turned to books for guidance, humor, and transportive comfort. A few of my favorites are below.

Almost Everything: Notes on Hope (Anne Lamott)

I arrived a little late to the Anne Lamott party (this is the first of her I've read!), but I loved this quietly beautiful book filled with nuggets of wisdom on life and loss. (Link)

“There were moments when I understood that there was nothing much I was going to understand or figure out. There was simply the present moment, awareness, impermanence, birdsong, love. There is no fixing this setup here. It seems broken and ruined at times, but it isn’t: it’s simply the nature of human life.”
“We have all we need to come through. Against all odds, no matter what we’ve lost, no matter what messes we’ve made over time, no matter how dark the night, we offer and are offered kindness, soul, light, and food, which create breath and spaciousness, which create hope, sufficient unto the day.”

Cancer Vixen (Marisa Acochella Marchetto)

Marissa Acochella Marchetto chronicles her breast cancer diagnosis and treatment in a poignant graphic memoir. She brings humor, wit, and moxie to her cancer journey in a refreshing and inspiring way. (Link)

Image by Marisa Marchetto on Cup of Jo

Cancer and I Journal (Ronnell Grobler)

My therapist recommended this cancer specific journal to me and I appreciated the small prompts for guided writing. I found this less intimidating than a blank page. Examples: “Keeping my spirits high involves...:”, “The ramifications of my cancer are…”, “The most recent event on my mind is…”. It’s also nicely sectioned into stages by days (Shock & Denial, My Process, My Body & My Treatments, Emotional Pain & Guilt, etc). (Link)

Option B (Sheryl Sandberg)

I found this moving memoir from Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg much more genuine and relatable than Lean In. Sheryl tells the story of the death of her husband and navigating her grief while weaving in studies on resilience from Adam Grant. (Link)

“I am more vulnerable than I thought, but much stronger than I ever imagined.”

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone (Lori Gottlieb)*

An excellent non fiction read about a therapist & writer journeying to find her own therapist. This inspired me to actively pursue finding a therapist which was incredibly important for my mental health during cancer treatment. (Link)

“The more you welcome your vulnerability, Wendell had said, 'the less afraid you’ll feel.' This isn’t how we tend view life when we’re younger. Our younger selves think in terms of a beginning, middle, and some kind of resolution. But somewhere along the way - perhaps in that middle - we realize that everyone lives with things that may not get worked out. That the middle has to be the resolution, and how we make meaning of it becomes our task. Although time feels like its slipping away and I just can’t hold on to it, something else is true too: My illness has sharpened my focus. It’s why I couldn’t write the wrong book. It’s why I’m dating again. It’s why I'm soaking in my mother and looking at her with a generosity I have for so long been unable to access.”

*Trigger warning: There is a young breast cancer patient described in the book who passes away. This can be difficult and heartbreaking to read about, but I found the story ultimately very meaningful.

Anti Cancer Living and the Mix of Six (Lorenzo Cohen, Alison Jeffries)

I read this book shortly after finishing treatment and it tremendously changed my perspective on what I could focus on moving forward to help prevent cancer recurrence (and to live a healthy, happy life!). The authors are researchers at MD Anderson and go through the studies that have been done to date on six lifestyle factors that can prevent cancer - community, diet, exercise, stress, sleep, and environment (pesticides and plastics). I’m planning to do a post of each of these six in more detail. (Link)

Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix, #5 (JK Rowling)

Really any Harry Potter will do, but Order of Phoenix particularly resonated as I went through chemo. This is the stage in the series where Harry is very angsty and feels like no one understands his plight (I feel you, Harry!). (Link)


A few other non cancer related reads that I really enjoyed and took my mind off of my current state of affairs:

I had a little bit of time on my hands ;)

Cover Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash

You May Also Like