When 28-year-old Selma Schimmel, a medical sociologist, was diagnosed with breast cancer not long after losing her mother to ovarian cancer, she found precious few resources to help her cope. Before the diagnosis, when she could feel a mass in her breast but her doctors weren't at all concerned about it, she demanded further testing. Her doctors mocked her, called her neurotic, said that "statistically, young women don't get breast cancer," but agreed to biopsy "for the hell of it" to prove her wrong. When the biopsy returned positive, she says, "from that point on, I understood the difference between being a passive patient and a proactive medical consumer."
A lumpectomy, radiation therapy, and nine months of chemotherapy followed. She lamented that she had no role models for survival: in addition to losing her mother, her grandmother had died of uterine cancer, and an uncle from a brain tumor. She joined her hospital's cancer support group, but as its youngest member, found "my issues as a young adult with cancer did not resonate in that room." So, while still undergoing treatment, she founded Vital Options, a support group for cancer patients ages 17 to 40.
That was in 1983. During that time, she also started "The Group Room," a call-in radio show that's grown into the world's largest cancer support group. Cancer Talk is an invaluable collection of the voices from the show: cancer survivors, nurses, doctors (much more sensitive than those who biopsied Schimmel, and some who've survived cancer themselves), social workers, and family and friends of cancer patients. They discuss the emotional issues that follow a cancer diagnosis (including difficulties facing one's mortality), how to handle side effects from treatment, and ways to manage the flood of medical bills and problems with insurance companies. Cancer Talk isn't meant just for younger people, but does include hard-to-find support for such patients, including ways to help children tell their classmates about their disease and changes in their appearance. Other discussions cover sensitive topics such as relationship and intimacy problems; how to handle fertility issues following chemotherapy and radiation, including what to do when cancer strikes during pregnancy; and how to handle health questions during a job interview when you have or have had cancer. More than 100 resources are included for more information, and most of them include Web-site addresses. This is an essential book for anyone affected by cancer.
From Publishers Weekly
Schimmel, a 16-year cancer survivor and host of "The Group Room," an ongoing cancer support group on National Public Radio, addresses the concerns of cancer survivors, their family members, friends, physicians, nurses and other health-care professionals about a variety of cancer-related topics. Schimmel, who was 28 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, presents a well-needed, sensitive approach to cancer treatments and health policies that effect everyone in one way or another. Issues such as talking with one's oncologist, living with a young child who has cancer, coping with the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation, bone marrow transplants, drug trials, as well as survivor guilt and caring for the caregiver are discussed initially by an expert and then followed by comments from forum participants. The hopes, fears and challenges faced by these individuals is testament to the strength of the human spirit. More important, however, are the voices of the people affected by cancer who provide hope instead of hopelessness. Also provided is an extensive listing of cancer support and advocacy organizations. This is must reading for survivors, family, friends and the people who care for them.
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Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.