Let’s say we lived in an ideal world where there was no cancer. No, that would be a perfect world. But in an ideal world, everyone who got a cancer diagnosis would get a book like this one to read from the very beginning. There are two other books in the series, one dealing with breast cancer and one with colorectal cancers. This
volume is about a cancer generally thought to be invariably fatal, that of the lungs.
The author is not trying to paint a rosy picture. But he strives to help us recognize (both patients and their families) that treatments are available, that the prognosis is not as grim as usually supposed, and that patients always have choices.
The book is well organized, a large color format paperback with many true stories and photographs of real lung cancer patients and their loved ones. The central message of the series and this book is empowerment. No matter what treatments are recommended, what options are selected, the patient can always say no, can opt for different kinds of therapies, can simply refuse to accept the treatment, can make decisions based on quality of life and his or her own pain thresholds or religious sensibilities. Here is a sample passage:
“While it is important to be prepared for possible side effects of chemotherapy, it is equally important not to assume that you will have all, many, or even a few of them. Also keep in mind that most side effects are temporary and go away when treatment ends. And many side effects can be treated or even prevented.”
Lange covers the important issues of advanced care planning, and considerations of how to communicate your needs, hopes and fears to your family. It explains the role of hospice and how to make crucial decisions at the appropriate times. It makes suggestions for how to enjoy life despite a life-threatening illness, and how to assemble a support network.
The personal stories are perhaps the best part of the book. One woman states, “My husband is a glass half-full kind of guy. He was willing to do anything to help me, but he was still sure he would be planning my funeral. So I had to help him. He has grown a lot from this experience.” One woman described her hair loss: “I felt like a dandelion blowing in the wind.” And this from a guy named Ed: “Sometimes I do have to talk about dying. Some people don’t like to hear that. Well, I tell them to get lost. Don’t feel like you have to apologize for having to die.”
Dr. Lange comes to this subject from firsthand experience: when his physician-wife was diagnosed with breast cancer, they decided to tackle the subject of survival in a pragmatic way that would help others. I hope that if you have a friend battling with lung or other cancer, you will pass this book along to him or her. That would make this world just a bit more ideal.