Coping With Emotions

5 Books for Cancer Patients That Portray the Experience

Sometimes what you need to decompress is a good book. Here are suggestions for books for cancer patients that depict the experience with emotional accuracy.

The idea of fictional books for cancer patients doesn’t always seem like a good idea. If you or a loved one has cancer, the last thing you might want to do is read a novel depicting someone with the disease. Some people find them too close a reminder of their own daily struggles. Reading stories about other people’s tribulations and triumphs with cancer, however, can teach you something new or help you find hope or levity in your own life. If you want to dive into books where cancer plays a main role, here are five to consider.

“Somebody Up There Hates You”

Being a teen with cancer is not a laughing matter, but somehow “Somebody Up There Hates You” by Hollis Seamon gives some much needed humor while still attacking serious topics. The book focuses on 15-year-old Sylvie and 17-year-old Richard who meet in the hospital’s hospice unit, both having terminal cancer that threatens to take them quickly. As they team up to live life to the fullest, complete with a deep romance, their families are not fully on board. Teens and adults alike will appreciate that the book is authentic and insightful.

“A Monster Calls”

A Monster Calls” is a book for cancer patients aimed at young adults and made into a movie. This hybrid graphic novel features a 13-year-old boy tormented by nightmares while his mother battles cancer. The book tackles anger, grief and loss in a powerful way, even as a relatively short read. People who survived their own cancer or lost a loved one to cancer may find this book brings closure and helps them accept the emotions they felt from the experience, such as forgiveness and learning to let go.

“The Department of Lost & Found”

Allison Winn Scotch’s debut novel, “The Department of Lost & Found,” features a 30-year-old flawed professional woman whose breast cancer diagnosis is just the beginning of short-term difficulties. Her cheating boyfriend leaves her during treatment, and she worries about her job status. For many, fighting cancer is a time to reevaluate life, as is the case for the heroine. This book is hopeful and funny, and she comes out stronger on the other side, learning to take charge of her future.

“Cancer Ward: a Novel”

Reading about cancer patients from a 1950s Russian novel is a like peering into a different world, yet one that’s strikingly similar at the same time. “Cancer Ward: a Novel” by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn addresses universal thoughts about treatment, doctors and whether the patient will make it through treatment. The feelings of isolation some patients experience are shown in this novel, and that element of universality can be helpful to those going through treatment now. Solzhenitsyn had cancer and entered one of these wards for his own diagnosis and recovered from the disease.

“How to Climb the Eiffel Tower”

How to Climb the Eiffel Tower” by Elizabeth Hein is one of the books for cancer patients that leaves a person feeling uplifted and embracing life. The author is a cancer survivor, lending credibility to her fictional story. The main character, Lara, has cervical cancer, and while initially she goes through her cancer treatment alone, she gradually opens up to others, making new friends and gaining a fuller life. It’s a story that shows how cancer can bring about a positive change in someone’s life.

These five stories are just a sample of the great cancer literature in the world. If you’re willing to give it a shot, these books can provide a larger perspective for you, changing what it means to be touched by cancer.

A good book can sometimes feel like a good friend. Find out about the support groups available to patients and caregivers.

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Deborah Abrams Kaplan
Deborah Abrams Kaplan