Tuesday, June 17, 2014

book review: Getting Past the Fear. A Guide to Help You Mentally Prepare for Chemotherapy

Nancy Stordahl is an outspoken breast cancer advocate. She's been through treatment herself and lived through her mother's illness and death from metastatic disease. She started her blog, Nancy's Point, when she was still in treatment and continues to write there today. Nancy is generous with her experience and supportive of others living through breast cancer. Who better, then, to write a guide to conquering the fear of chemotherapy?

Not just another advice manual, Getting Past the Fear: A Guide to Help you Mentally Prepare for Chemotherapy is full of advice and personal observations. It's not a long book, only 60 pages, but to my mind that's a serious advantage. I couldn't concentrate on very much at all when I was first facing treatment. I was given many books that ended up being helpful and interesting but I couldn't read any of them during the weeks leading up to chemotherapy. Nancy understands this and wastes no time getting right to the point (get it? Just like her blog?)

Getting Past the Fear is full of practical tips, many of which I have never read anywhere else. For example, if I had known that you can get a head cap to fit under your wig "to help keep cooler and minimize itching", I might have actually tried to wear one! And it would have been very helpful to know before my first treatment that it's perfectly OK to unplug the IV (from the wall, not your arm!) and wheel everything to the bathroom. Treatment involves a lot of liquid. No one needs a bladder infection added to their list of chemo side effects.

Nancy is very clear that her experience is just that, and that yours might differ and so might your choices. I do think though that most cancer patients will benefit from considering her advice -  to keep a journal, ask for help when you need it, do your research and bring your list of questions to appointments with your oncologist.

Nancy also suggests planning a getaway, to give yourself a break before, during and/or after treatment. In a passage that I especially loved, she writes of her trip to the North Shore of Lake Superior with her husband:
"During that time away, we spent precious moments sitting on our private balcony marveling at the vastness and beauty of the ever-changing water, reveling in leisurely meals...and enjoying each others' company...One afternoon, there was even a brief, lovely wedding ceremony that took place directly below our balcony. The bride and groom and all their guests never once looked up, so they never realized they had two more unannounced wedding guests. Observing an intimate occasion...was a nice reminder of the fact that life was carrying on."
If reading all of Getting Past the Fear seems too daunting right now, you can dip in and out. Read the chapter headings and the conclusions in bold that Nancy has inserted at the end of each chapter. Check out the list of questions for your oncologist. Read the parts that speak to you, then stick the book in your purse for when you next need Nancy's advice. She's even left you a few pages at the end to add your own questions and observations. And if digital media is more your thing, download the ebook for your tablet, phone or ereader.

Nancy ends her book with the following quote: "What lies before us and what lies behind us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us." (author unknown) 

That sums up the book's message rather nicely: You will get through this. You are not alone.

For more information on how to buy Getting Past the Fear: A Guide to Help You Mentally Prepare for Chemotherapy is its various formats, visit Nancy's Point. The blog is also a great resource for anyone facing breast cancer at any stage.

Nancy's offered two copies of her book, one ebook and one physical copy. Let me know in the comments, if you would like either. If more than one person is interested, I'll choose recipients at random.

The author, with some friends.

Update: Would Jo Bucktin and Alene contact me, please? I need to get the info to send you you book!


Jo Bucktin said...

I would Love to read Nancy's book. In physical form. I look forward to reading her blog. I am in the UK though:-(

Nancy's Point said...

Hi Laurie,
Thank you so much for the wonderful review of my book. Your endorsement means a lot to me.

Catherine said...

Good review, Laurie. I've shared it on the Facing Cancer twitter account. I hope more people find their way to Nancy's book.

Alene Gone Bad said...

Nancy's book is one of those invaluable resources you always want to have an extra copy of it on hand just in case...as I found out recently, when by chance I met someone who had just been diagnosed. I'm going to see to it that it makes it's way to all our local support groups and oncologists offices.

Shari said...

I would like a copy of Nancy's book. After reading it, I would donate to my breast cancer support group - to be shared with anyone facing chemotherapy.

Sue Breen said...

compelling and beautiful in strength, courage and sharing HOPE!

laurie said...

I just did used the random generator. Jo, I need your details, so Nancy can mail you her book.

laurie said...

Alene, I need your email so Nancy can send you a pdf for your computer or ereader!
Thanks to everyone.