On World Book Day (2 March) what better way of highlighting the benefits of reading for people living with and beyond cancer, than sharing the recommendations of Cancer Support UK’s Cancer Coach participants, volunteers and team members.
Reading books can provide a much needed respite from the trauma of facing a cancer diagnosis and coping with treatment. A book can be many things – from creating a safe place to escape to providing information, comfort, insight and positive distraction.
Some cancer patients find spiritual healing as well as emotional pleasure in the pages of a book. The earliest authenticated library, built by Pharaoh Ramses II, bore the inscription “The house of healing for the soul” above its entrance.
Bibliotherapy is the use of books in therapy, with benefits such as: self-awareness, empathy, hopefulness and reduced negativity. Reading books can raise levels of hope and help achieve positive feelings and thoughts.
Many types of reading, whether it be classic novels, science fiction or spiritual reading, can inspire new thoughts and ideas, setting the mind free from cancer worries.
We asked our Cancer Coach participants/volunteers/team for their book recommendations and why reading is so important to them.
“I love true stories and during treatment I read “My mother, Munchausens and Me” by Helen Naylor. I could not put this down. It was totally absorbing. I also like to write and am a member of a local writing group. During my treatments we had two anthologies published and I have pieces in them both, one a poem and one a ghost story. I also started my own novel, covering my own cancer journey and hope to publish that when finished. I find it very cathartic, writing about what I am going through.” Julia, Cancer Coach participant.
“I recommend “The Choice” by Edith Eger. It’s the most incredibly uplifting and thought provoking book I’ve ever read. Even though the context is so horrendous, her style of writing and perspective on life are a joy to read.” Anna Dunn, Cancer Coach volunteer.
“One of my favorite books that I’ve read recently is Wild by Cheryl Strayed. It’s a memoir of a woman who did a long distance hike to help her on a journey of emotional recovery after her mum died of cancer (among other emotional struggles). I really resonated with the themes of connecting with nature and exercise as a way to be mindful and work through emotional pain.” Charlotte Poulter, Cancer Coach Head of Service.
“I really enjoyed The Best Seat in the Universe by Grahame Anderson. It’s a book about navigating life. I also read The Cornish Cream Tea Bus by Cressida McLaughlin, which is a very uplifting romantic book.” Karen, Cancer Coach participant.
“I have really, really, enjoyed a series of books by L J Ross, based on a detective called DCI Ryan and his team, based in Northumberland. The first in the series of 19 books is called Holy Island and I was absolutely hooked. It has lots of twists and turns, mysteries and revelations, and is written in beautifully descriptive text. In fact, it inspired us to visit Alnwick, Bamburgh and Lindisfarne ourselves in-between finishing chemotherapy and having surgery. It’s just as stunning as she describes.” Jill, Cancer Coach participant.”
“Reading did help enormously while I was going through treatment( I am currently in remission). My reading habits changed totally during that time as:
- My concentration span was short
- Sitting comfortably for any length of time was challenging
- I couldn’t physically hold hardback books or thick paperbacks
“So I read mostly on my iPad.
“I read short stories set in other countries, so I could spirit myself away for a short while. I also read poetry books, such as those written by Carol Anne Duffy and sometimes Pam Ayers, when I needed a laugh. I read detective novels, particularly those by Anne Cleeves, on my iPad, as they are chunky. I’m not back yet to reading the likes of War and Peace, but I’m getting there. Good luck to fellow bookworms out there.” Elma, Cancer Coach participant.
Cancer Support UK’s Cancer Coach programme is available to anyone previously diagnosed with a stage 3 or below cancer and who has now completed their physical cancer treatment. The course takes participants through a series of weekly facilitated group sessions, run for a six-week period over the telephone or online video. Participants benefit from the peer support of the sessions, as well as learning tools and techniques for improving emotional wellbeing, which can help them on their recovery journey. The course is free, completely confidential and accessible from the comfort and privacy of home.
If you’ve completed cancer treatment, but are experiencing low mood, anxiety, worry, and don’t know how to move forward in your recovery, then please apply to join the course. Simply complete the application form online. If you have any questions, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call: 020 3983 7616.