Inspirational stories for women fighting cancer

Most of us are familiar with "Chicken Soup for the Soul" books — in the last few years, it seems as if there is one of these books for every profession, age group and hobby —from nurses to teens to dog lovers.

What makes "Hope and Healing for Your Breast Cancer Journey" even more special and useful for women and their loved ones dealing with this disease is that this "Chicken Soup" book contains inspirational stories and medical advice.

Dr. Julie Silver of Harvard Medical School writes the "medical advice" sections, and writers all over the country share their personal stories of breast cancer, either their own or a loved one's. These personal stories are the type you've come to expect in these anthologies: A moment in someone's life that they are willing to share with you where something special happened or they learned a lesson. The reader can cry, laugh and learn right along with the author.

The way this book is set up is like a journey, which makes the title even that much more meaningful. It's divided into nine chapters that progress through a woman's battle with cancer, including titles such as, "First, You Cry," "Building Your Healthcare Team," "Think Positive During and After Treatment" and "Reflections on Living."

Each chapter begins with three or four true, personal stories written by various authors, and then Silver presents an introduction to this part of the breast cancer journey as well as her own tips, stories and advice on dealing with this stage.

For example, in the chapter titled, "Managing Your Support Team," there's an essay that starts the chapter called, "The Healing Pen." In this essay, author Cara Holman writes about her sister being diagnosed with breast cancer and then also herself and her middle sister joining the "Cancer Club."

She decided to join a writing group for women who had been treated for cancer after her treatment was successful, and she stayed with the group for three years. She became known as the math major who morphed into a poet.

Silver begins her part of this section with this statement: "Medically speaking, love and support help you to heal."

She goes on to discuss how if you are diagnosed with cancer, there will be many supportive and unsupportive people in your life for all sorts of reasons.

"Being diagnosed with cancer often leads to remarkable clarity about who will really step up and be supportive when you need it most," she writes.

In this same section, the doctor includes a sidebar on whether or not a cancer support group is for you and also about "furry friends" helping cancer patients with their healing.

Each chapter is set up the same way, including the last chapter, "Reflections on Living," where Silver suggests cancer patients create a "worry box," and she gives instructions on how to complete this.

"Hope and Healing for Your Breast Cancer Journey" is the perfect book for someone scared and dealing with a new diagnosis of breast cancer, someone who has successfully fought and won the battle, and everyone in between. It's for mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts and friends; it's for patients, doctors and nurses.

One of the things that makes this book so down to earth and useful is that Silver is not only knowledgeable about the medical aspect of cancer and dealing with patients, but she also is a breast cancer survivor herself. The advice she gives is heartfelt.

Margo L. Dill is the author of "Finding My Place: One Girl's Strength at Vicksburg," a middle grade historical fiction novel. She often reviews books as a columnist for "WOW! Women On Writing" e-zine and her blog, "Margo Dill's Read These Books and Use Them" (http://margodill.com/blog/). A former resident of East Central Illinois, she lives in St. Louis with her family.

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