Two patients wrote books about their cancer experiences

Author David Lankes, PhD, center, with his oncology nurses, from left to right, Carolyn Stafford, Heidi See, Cyndy Carr and Kevin O'Keefe.

Author David Lankes, PhD, center, with his oncology nurses, from left to right, Carolyn Stafford, Heidi See, Cyndy Carr and Kevin O’Keefe.

Professor sought to be boring

 Excerpt “Here is the hardest lesson I learned in chemotherapy. I was not battling cancer. The chemo was battling cancer. Battling is the wrong metaphor. I didn’t feel like I was on the front line of some war. No, I was the home front. Once the battle was endorsed, I was the one at home sacrificing to support the war effort: taking the rations and reductions as part of my duty in the fight. The chemo was storming the barricades.   “The key, I came to see, in beating cancer through chemo is not fighting, but acceptance. You must accept the drugs, and you must accept that the drugs are going to progressively take from you as much, or so it seems, as the cancer. You must accept that your legs will ache and weaken; that your breathing will constrict; that your bowels will constipate; that you will lose energy. You must accept that for the drugs to do their work – the true battle – you must accept a lack of control.”   --from “The Boring Patient,” by R. David Lankes


Excerpt
“Here is the hardest lesson I learned in chemotherapy. I was not battling cancer. The chemo was battling cancer. Battling is the wrong metaphor. I didn’t feel like I was on the front line of some war. No, I was the home front. Once the battle was endorsed, I was the one at home sacrificing to support the war effort: taking the rations and reductions as part of my duty in the fight. The chemo was storming the barricades.”

Publishing a book called “The Boring Patient” was Syracuse University professor R. David Lankes’ way of summing up his experience with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer that starts in the white blood cells.

He was diagnosed in 2010 after doctors first thought he had bronchitis, then trans ischemic attacks and then a seizure disorder. Lankes, a professor in SU’s School of Information Studies, underwent chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant and writes candidly about the ordeal in 17 chapters. Doctors and nurses go unnamed as Lankes tells it like it was.

He chronicles his thoughts and feelings (often wryly) as well as his treatment details. Lankes said he decided not to wallow in negative thoughts and to instead adopt a cheery outlook, even on days when he had to fake it. That helped. He also aimed to be the boring patient. He did not want to be interesting because that meant complications that would draw more attention and demand more treatment. He just wanted to quickly and quietly go through his treatment and have it be successful.

So far, the cancer has not recurred.

Hear an interview with Lankes about his book

She chronicled her year with breast cancer

Excerpt "Somewhere between smores over the pit and campfire breakfast, I noticed a hard lump on the side of my right breast. I'm a side sleeper and it became an obvious pain when I would roll a certain way."

Excerpt
“Somewhere between smores over the pit and campfire breakfast, I noticed a hard lump on the side of my right breast. I’m a side sleeper and it became an obvious pain when I would roll a certain way.”

Shelly Straub of Cicero shares the story, and photos, of her diagnosis and treatment for breast cancer in a book she calls, “A Tale of Two Boobies: One Year with Cancer.”

Her diagnosis came in October 2013, followed by a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. “It was one year of hell,” she said. “It was difficult. It was very hard to get through. Everything in my life changed.”

Because the experience seemed so surreal, Straub wanted to write a book in order to remember her story. She included graphic photos – and a parental advisory on the book cover – in order to be instructional. Also included are her monthly calendars, which show the activities of everyday life (Thanksgiving, the start of winter) mixed with medical appointments (biopsy results, surgery for port installation.)

Hear an interview with Straub about her book

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