Relevant books and other resources I’ve read and found helpful – or otherwise…
Low grade gliomas
Sally-Ann Price and Stephen Price (Advances in Clinical Neuroscience and Rehabilitation, March/April 2011)
The most up-to-date medical journal article surveying the field of low grade gliomas. Dispassionate, medical, informative, with a stirling references section, it covers history, diagnosis, treatment, prognosis and the future of research. If you can get into the medical terminology, this is all you need to know. Download for free here.
100 Questions and Answers about Brain Tumours
Virginia Stark-Vance and Mary Louise Dubay (Jones and Bartlett, 1993)
Despite the ‘dummy guide’ title, this was actually very comprehensive and informative. It’s an American book, but I got a copy from my local library. The medical answers from the surgeon were far more useful to me than the sometimes twee (and religious inspired) contributions from the brain tumour survivor.
Living with a brain tumour: A guide to taking control of your treatment
Peter McLaren Black (Owl Books, 2006)
Medical focussed but down to earth canter through different brain tumours, their treatment options, prognosis and more. Again, US focussed. Not a particular page turner, but useful never the less – with a decent index for searching your own particular diagnosis.
It’s not about the bike: My journey back to life
Lance Armstrong (Yellow Jersey, 2001)
The US cyclist’s tale of his fight back to life and elite cycling after testicular cancer which spread to his lungs and brain. An amazing read, inspirational, moving and with lots of cycling in it. Only problem being that Lance turned out to be a doper, so his amazing story doesn’t quite ring true anymore. Definitely worth a read, along with the follow up book, Every Second Counts, as long as you bear that in mind. For more critical books on Lance, look up David Millar’s excellent Racing in the Dark and Jeremy Whittle’s incredible Bad Blood.
C: Because Cowards Get Cancer Too
John Diamond (Vermilion, 1999)
You mean you haven’t read this yet? Funny, provocative, moving and a great piece of journalism all at the same time. It’s the autobiographical story of columnist and broadcaster John Diamond’s diagnosis, treatment and eventual death from throat cancer. So easy to read, it is a warts-and-all account, clear of sentimentality or new-age nonsense. If you get the chance, also read Snake Oil and Other Preoccupations, Diamond’s demolition of the alternative medicine industry. He didn’t survive to complete the book, so it is padded out with some of Diamond’s most interesting cancer related columns.
The Emperor of All Maladies: A biography of cancer
Siddhartha Mukherjee (Fourth Estate, 2011)
Winner of the Guardian first book award, this is an intricately detailed, beautifully written and extremely authoritative history of the disease. If you’re seeking to really understand cancer, exactly what it is, how it works and how it goes about its business, as well as how treatments work, and why they sometimes don’t, then you could not do better than to read this incredible book. Dispassionate, yet moving nonetheless. This book will change how you feel about cancer, for the better, by giving you knowledge pure and simple.
Like a hole in the head: living with a brain tumour
Ivan Noble (BBC books, 2005)
The writer was a BBC technology journalist who quickly found himself writing about nothing but his ultimately fatal brain cancer. He wrote a regular blog on his condition, feelings and progress for the BBC website. The result is this book, heartfelt, honest and scary. I read it in one sitting, but felt inclined to skip the email replies from readers that seemed to be included to pad out an otherwise very moving book. Noble wrote passionately and with unending positivity about his plan to beat the tumour, right up until he knew he couldn’t, when the book becomes far more reflexive and deep, rather than purely descriptive. This should pretty much be the standard text for anyone given a brain tumour diagnosis.
On a Wing and a Prayer: Surviving a Brain Tumour
Cameron Alan Fulljames (Janus, 2004)
Another brain tumour book in the diary genre, but this time much more like a book of diary entries. We learn from Fulljames as he struggles to regain his pilot’s license, and as he travels around the world soaking up the best of life, while moving too from treatment to treatment. It is a shame the book doesn’t contain some deeper reflections. How he told his partner, his family, and what their responses were, for example, didn’t feature in his diary. Not particularly well written, but you get the feeling this wasn’t really intended for wider publication.
Not the Last Goodbye: Reflections on life, death, healing and cancer
David Servan-Schreiber (Macmillan, 2011)
The brain tumour treatment and battle story from the bestselling author of Anticancer: A new way of life, a self-help book on cancer and diet which claimed cancer could be beaten by eating right. While containing some insights, this book feels like an extended excuse for why Servan-Schreiber’s own groundbreaking diet didn’t turn out to work for the very guy who invented it. In short, he didn’t follow his own advice because he spent so much time travelling around the world promoting his book and lecturing on it’s content. Not my cup of tea at all, but those of a holistic medicine persuasion might find it useful.
Christopher Hitchens (Atlantic Books, 2012)
Five or six neat and to the point essays by the old sage of the left, written after his terminal diagnosis of oesophageal cancer. Beautifully and powerfully written points on religion, the language of cancer, and friends’ and colleagues’ reactions to his illness. Don’t read if you’re religious. Required reading if you’re not.
Suckers: How alternative medicine makes fools of us all
Rose Shapiro (Vintage, 2009)
Slightly dated, but very readable demolition of the alternative/complimentary medicine industry. Full of real science and facts, many of the major CAM therapies are taken on and dismissed. Particularly strong on homeopathy. Only fringes around cancer, but well worth a look.