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Book Review

Book Review

Prernaa by Prernaa Verma

The Joy of Cancer by Anup Kumar

Lean on Me by Lorraine Kember:

Celebration of the Cells, Letters from a Cancer Survivor by R.M. Lala

For specific kinds of cancer, click here.

Prernaa by Prernaa Verma

Through her personal experience, Prerna shares her journey through this big C. Her very positive attitude has helped her in writing the book. Everytime there would be a recurrence she would encourage herself by saying that there is a problem in the machine of the body and lets get it fixed. She is bold, she is fearless, she is a national level basketball player and she is affected by cancer. Prernaa has been struggling with the deadly disease since the past 11 years. But that has not slowed her down or lessened her zest for life.

"Through this book I am sharing the steps and philosophy which helped me fight and manage it so that others don’t have to go through same challenges that I went through. As readers of the book will realise it is very important for the patient and their relatives to be fully aware and knowledge is truly the key. I am excited to be associated with CPAA in this breast cancer awareness and hope my book will help numerous patients manage the disease better.” says Prerna.

She hopes that this book will help raise awareness about cancer to those who are not aware of the facts that need to be faced during the battle of the big c and a guide for those suffering from this deadly disease.

The Joy of Cancer by Anup Kumar

(A book review by Aparna Mehra)

The Joy of Cancer is an inspiring book written in the form of a survival guide for cancer patients, in which the author has drawn upon his own battle with and victory over lung cancer. It comes across as a comprehensive handbook which deals with almost all aspects of the impact of cancer and its treatment upon the individual. Through this book, the author is reaching out to everyone whose life has been touched by cancer, with the objective of informing and helping them to achieve victory over it.

It is a useful handbook, not only for cancer patients, but also for immediate family who will be looking for answers to a variety of questions about cancer, and trying to cope with the changes brought about in the physical and emotional state of the cancer patient. This book will also be of tremendous assistance to counselors, who can use the wisdom contained in it to guide and counsel patients and their families.

The Joy of Cancer outlines a seven point battle plan against cancer that the author used himself to come through 6 months of his treatment for lung cancer. Anup Kumar was a successful senior executive, who was 50 years old when a patch was discovered in his lungs. A battery of tests and doctors opinions later (in Delhi and at the Tata Memorial Hospital in Mumbai) the diagnosis was confirmed as Stage IV lung cancer, with only four months left to live. Having made up his mind to survive, he set about his battle plan systematically, and turned his death sentence around through his determination.

The book has been structured as a step by step guide, in which the author does not dwell for long upon his deep emotional anguish. He draws lessons from all his personal experiences and translates them into a treasury of information about the issues a cancer patient is likely to face, and guides the reader on what he believes is the best way to handle each one. The approach highlights the importance of togetherness of the mind and the body in the war against cancer, and lays stress on holistic healing for regaining the equilibrium of the mind-body continuum.

In the seven point battle plan, the first stage of the treatment is total acceptance of the fact that you are a cancer patient, putting behind you the “Why me”, and gearing up for battle.

The next step in the battle is choosing your doctors and the treatment. The author narrates how he invested a significant amount of time in exploring alternative treatment therapies, ie. Ayurveda, Homeopathy, Tibetan medicine, Naturopathy, Reiki, Faith healing, etc. He also underlines the fact that an important factor in the success of the treatment is the active participation of the patient at all times.

The highest importance has been given to the next step, which is about thinking positive : putting the anger and remorse behind you and bringing the mind and body together to fight the enemy. The author relates how he filled his mind with creative and joyous thoughts, and relived the joyous moments in his life while coping with the debilitating side effects of chemotherapy. He also used yoga, Buddhist chanting, Reiki and meditation to bring him a sense of peace. This book lays great emphasis on using the potential of the mind-body continuum and activating the hidden strengths within us. Another critical step is visualizing the healing taking place in the body, which increases the belief that you can win. Positive mental imagery reduces the fear, anxiety and anger that you may feel towards the cancer, and strengthens the will to live.

The fifth step in the battle is harnessing the support of family and friends, and yet trying to preserve your normal role within the family unit. It is important to be self sufficient as far as possible. Setting goals, both short term and long term, and achieving them, gives the cancer patient a sense of control. The winning habit also uplifts you and builds your inner strength.

An aggressive nutrition program is key to the battle plan against cancer, since it avoids the malnutrition that can result from the cancer and its treatment. A good diet stimulates the immune functions, improves the efficacy of the drugs and helps the body to cope better. In this section the author outlines healthy food practices for cancer patients and also highlights some foods that are known the world over to prevent the onslaught of cancer.

Apart from the seven point battle plan, there are other useful sections in the book : Do’s and Don’ts for family and friends, and myths and misconceptions about cancer. There are also many useful appendices: cancer facts and terminologies, information about cancer types, diagnosis and treatments, side effects of chemotherapy treatment, information and contact details about cancer societies, and useful reading.

I liked this book for a variety of reasons. Firstly, the entire focus of the book is about informing and helping those whose lives have been touched by cancer. The matter of fact tone and structure of the book and the treasury of information it contains makes it invaluable as a survival guide for cancer patients and care givers. The strongly positive approach and the focus on winning the battle makes it a great motivational tool. Advocating a holistic approach towards healing, and use of the positive energy of the mind-body continuum gives a sense of hope for a disease which most people associate with certain death. The wisdom contained in this book must have come from hours of factual research and painstaking documentation of personal experiences. It is highly inspirational and motivates the patient to face cancer and its treatment with fortitude and a sense of hope.

I believe this book will be useful even for an ordinary reader, for all the underlying positive messages, about living each day with a sense of purpose, about not giving up, and about harnessing the unexplored power of the inner self.


Lean on Me, by Lorraine Kember

(A Book Review by Radhika Gupte)

A book, a piece of literature, a poem to be critically acclaimed or appreciated has to be first understood in its depth and entirety. "Lean on Me" is a superbly and beautifully written account of a cancer caregiver that transcends the harsh and hopeless realities of cancer and emerges like the smooth flow of a crystal clear rivulet which may appear insignificant and yet brings joy to every object it touches.

It is an extremely articulate account in the form of diary notes interspersed with simple yet beautiful poems. The book touches each and every human feeling-the finer ones as well as the darkest ones. The emotions described will touch any care givers heart and make them identify with the author. All along the journey that she undertook as a caregiver for her husband afflicted with cancer, the power of positive thinking which may seem to fail sometimes, is given primary importance. As is a very important factor-love for the patient which enhances human capacity. Equipped with these, the fight against the disease, the fight to help your loved one lead a quality life can become a unique experience. It is no exaggeration to say that the book can be a guide to caregivers who often become confused, desolate or depressed and unable to cope with the situation.

Equally amazing is the author's account of highly technical medical protocols. She studied this aspect in detail, discussed the anticipated side effects with the doctor and thus armed herself with a complete knowledge of the treatment. She stresses the importance of palliative care and shares the relief she felt when her husband was under the care of the Palliative Care Unit at the Silver Chain Hospice Care Service. It is clear that the author left no stone unturned to make her beloved husband's life as comfortable, happy and meaningful as possible.

Coping with the realisation that you are sharing the last days of someone dear to you requires immense grit and strength. While describing the total dedication she invested in the care of the patient, the author also emphasises that the caregiver owes it to him/herself not to neglect their own health, feelings and well being.

The book, which set out to be a simple narration of day to day life of a cancer patient ends up being a motivational force for all those faced with the unfortunate situation of witnessing a loved one suffer.

(The reviewer lost her husband of over 40 years to cancer on 5th July 2005. On a personal note she wrote: I am thankful that I got a chance to read "Lean on Me", a wonderful book which I might not have been inclined to read at present. But the book soothed and embalmed my grief stricken mind to a certain extent.)

From the Author:

My husband passed away from pleural mesothelioma in December 2001.  Upon his diagnosis, he was given a prognosis of three to nine months.  He survived for two years, during which I cared for him at home until his death. I have written a book about our journey through his terminal illness  - sharing my knowledge and experience regarding:  Anticipatory Grief, Pain Management and Symptom Control, Chemotherapy, Palliative Care and Dying at home- plus excerpts and poems from my personal diary, in the hope of bringing inspiration and strength to others.

My book which I have called "Lean on Me-Cancer through a Carer's Eyes" is highly recommended by Cancer Councils and Palliative Care Organizations Australia wide and over seas.  As a result of my book I was invited to attend and speak at the Global Asbestos Congress 2004, held in Tokyo Japan.

I invite you to visit my website where you will find: Detailed information, Doctor's recommendations, Book excerpts and Reviews, plus reader's letters.
I am sincere in my wish to bring inspiration and strength to others.  I would like to point out that although my experience has come from caring for my husband with mesothelioma cancer, I have written my book in the hope of bringing inspiration and strength to those who have, and particularly those who care for, loved ones with ALL forms of cancer.  I know the helplessness experienced upon diagnosis and the strength I found when I came to realize that although I could not stop my husband from dying, I could help him to live.  This through my acquired knowledge of pain management and symptom control. My  insight and discussion regarding pain management and symptom control and the emotional journey of caring for a terminally ill loved one, as portrayed by the inclusion of excerpts and poems from my personal diary, applies on a broad scale.
I would also like to mention at this point that although I have written my book with the carer in a home environment in mind; I have been informed that "Lean on Me", is also a valuable resource for those who are undertaking a career in Palliative Care and for those who are already working within it.  I have letters of support in testament to this and will be pleased to supply them to you if you would like.
Readers are encouraged to keep the information and website link on hand to pass on to those who you come in contact with those who are currently on a journey such as the author has travelled.

Lean on Me:

Inspirational True Story of a loving wife's emotional journey as she cares for her terminally ill husband and improves the quality of his life.  Includes Cancer Pain Management, Coping with Grief - Plus Excerpts and Poems from wife's personal diary. Highly recommended by the Cancer Council.


Celebration of the Cells, Letters from a Cancer Survivor by R.M. Lala

(A book review by Shivani Maheshwari)

This is a book that should be read by all, those affected by cancer as well as those untouched by it. For it makes inspirational reading not just for fighting and coping with the Big C but also on living life to the hilt. Russi M. Lala, an editor, publisher and author by profession, himself suffered from malignancy lymphoma, a form of cancer that affects the lymph nodes. He has written a moving account of his own experiences and how he drew upon all his mental and physical resources to combat and recover from it victoriously.

Celebrating the strength of each cell in our human body, Lala has written the book in the form of letters meant to prepare a friend, also diagnosed with cancer, for the rigours ahead of her. Through a simple, non-technical and personal style, he throws light on the nature of the disease and helps lighten the mood through humour, prayers and the vital self within.

The letters read like comforting advice from a patriarch, full of information and guidance, but never overbearing and didactic. The book has been essentially written to ‘help patients with cancer understand, accept and withstand the physical, psychological and emotional problems arising from cancer and its treatment. Emphasis has been placed on faith in doctors and God, family and friends, nature and environmant, food and fruits, work and creativity, yoga and exercise, mind and attitude.’

All 18 chapters of the book are generously woven with his own examples and experiences and those of patients he met during his treatment in India and abroad. Laying emphasis on the invaluable contribution of positive mental attitude, he narrates the case of a patient who had been told by his doctors that he had only five or six months to live. To tha surprise of his friends and realtives, the patient lived for many years after cancer was detected in him. In fact, he even outlived most of the doctors who were treating him.

Lala has divided the book into two parts. The first deals with the history of cancer, its development, its implications, its hard realities. ‘I, for one, did not know that there are a hundred types of cancer, each requiring a different line of treatment. Besides which, factors like the individual’s constitution, physical, emotional and mental, are of prime importance in the treatment. Remember the mind is very important in the conquest of cancer.’

The second part of the book has motivational chapters titled Cultivate Joy, Prayer and Healing, Streams of Silence, the Doctor Within, all of which serve to prevent one from buckling under the pain and pressure. Quoting from a study conducted in America, Lala writes that the positive effect of laughter on the immune system has been clearly established.

Celebration of the Cells has an added advantage over other books because the author himself came fact to face with cancer and faught it valiantly with an upbeat spirit and mind. Secondly, his felicity with words has helped pour his thoughts out vividly and make the experience almost first hand for the reader.

Lala published his first book, ‘A Creation of Wealth: A Tata Story’ to crtical and commercial acclaim in 1981. This was followed by ‘Encounters with the Emminent,’ ‘The Heartbeat of a Trust’, ‘In Search of Leadership’. His books on the Tatas and particularly J.R.D. Tata got him maximum exposure.