Getting Cancer Off Your Chest | Breast Cancer Roundup, September 1, 2013

The statistics on breast cancer haven’t changed much in 20 years. Approximately 235,000 cases will be diagnosed this year, with nearly 40,000 attributable deaths. One in eight women are still at lifetime risk of developing the disease. We continue to walk and run for cures and devote a month of the year to breast cancer’s recognition. Despite what people may think of the whole “pink” community, keeping an eye on the disease and those who have survived solidifies its importance, which is something we all need to remember. News on the diagnostic front? Arkansas biotech company Ascendant Diagnostics has received a significant infusion of cash from the Arkansas Science & Technology Authority for the development of MelodyDX, a method of using tears in breast cancer screening. Many tears have been shed over this disease. Maybe some will now serve a higher purpose.

Chapman, Joanna. Divine Secrets of the Ta-Ta Sisterhood: Pledging the Pink Sorority. Cosmic Casserole. 2013. 365p. ISBN 9780989043106. pap. $14.95; ebk. ISBN 9780989043113. Health

A five-year breast cancer survivor, Chapman wittily initiates those newly diagnosed into this unwelcome sisterhood while offering solace in the knowledge that there are many women in the same pink boat. Claiming that cancer has “knocked down my emotional barriers,” Chapman “promises to tell it to you straight, offered up raw and close to the bone.” And funny. With boxed comments labeled “Divine Secrets,” this book provides support and empathy for those in need.

Egan, Christine. The Healthy Girl’s Guide to Breast Cancer. Balboa. 2013. 141p. photos. ISBN 9781452574615. $30.95; pap. ISBN 9781452574592. $12.99; ebk. ISBN 9781452574608. Health

Egan here hopes “to shed some light on how I handled a difficult situation with a healthy twist. I want to let you know how I stayed positive, strong, and somewhat sane during the cancer circus.” She focuses on healthful activity (e.g., yoga), self-care, meditation, and diet. Each section features lists in the form of a toolbox, takeaways, and tips; the book concludes with a selection of recipes. For readers wanting to consider more options.

Hoffman, Alice. Survival Lessons. Algonquin. Oct. 2013. 83p. photos. ISBN 9781616203146. $13.95. HEALTH

Prolific author Hoffman (The Dovekeepers; The Red Garden) took 15 years to write the book she wishes she had had upon her diagnosis. The book is not about her breast cancer per se but about making choices (each chapter is titled “Choose…”) that will improve readers’ lives and relationships and remind them “of the beauty of life.” More than cancer sufferers will be glad they picked up this tiny gem.

Lesh, Margaret. Let Me Get This Off My Chest…: A Breast Cancer Survivor Over-shares. 2013. 201p. ISBN 9780615812519. pap. $8.99. HEALTH

By contrast to Alice Hoffman’s Survival Lessons, Lesh (Finding a Man for Sylvia) took less than a year to write her humorous and tip-filled tale of cancer. Having had a lumpectomy in 1999, at 34, the experience of which she details here, in 2012 Lesh is faced with a recurrence that brings twofold challenges and options. Sometimes all one needs is a chat with someone who has been there and done that—twice! Based on Lesh’s blog posts, this book is a solid fit for patient health ­collections.

Myers, Micki. It’s Probably Nothing…*: *Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love My Implants. S. & S. Oct. 2013. 139p. illus. ISBN 9781476712741. $19.99. Health

Artist and writer Myers “decided early on to see the humor in my situation, to laugh in the face of fear.” Her poetic approach to her cancer journey will buoy those going through the same experience and grant them permission to face cancer in whatever way that works.

redstarSikka, Madhulika. A Breast Cancer Alphabet. Crown. Feb. 2014. 209p. illus. bibliog. ISBN 9780385348515. $26.50; ebk. ISBN 9780385348522. Health

Executive producer of NPR’s Morning Edition, Sikka found colleagues and friends most helpful in guiding her through her cancer experience, from those who had had the disease to science writers who led her to the latest resources. She writes this book “for anyone who has been diagnosed…and needs a companion…. [to] let you know that you have every right to feel the way you do…. It sucks to get cancer.” Her charming alphabetic compilation (“A” Is for Anxiety; “C” Is for Cancerland; “K” Is for Kindness; “X” Is for eXhaustion) is a warm and fuzzy friend to keep close during the cancer journey. “B” is for buying multiple ­copies.

redstarYoung, Melanie. Getting Things Off My Chest: A Survivor’s Guide to Staying Fearless & Fabulous in the Face of Breast Cancer. Plain Sight: Cedar Fort. Sept. 2013. 256p. ISBN 9781462113231. pap. $16.99. Health

Owner of a wine and food marketing and special events business, Young was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009. She employs her skills as a traveler (studying guidebooks), event planner (making lists), businesswoman (noting the bottom line), and a human being (knowing when to be strong and when to ask for help), along with a healthy dose of humor, to cover the steps involved in approaching the disease and creating a plan to get through it. Lots of details and solid advice.

DeShazer, Mary K. Mammographies: The Cultural Discourse of Breast Cancer Narratives. Univ. of Michigan. 2013. 258p. photos. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780472118823. $55; ebk. ISBN 9780472029235. HEALTH

DeShazer (English & women’s studies, Wake Forest Univ.) looks at photographic and written breast cancer narratives from an academic angle, as these essays “constitute an evolving memorial tradition that empowers reader-viewers as empathic witnesses and provides communal spaces for mourning and remembering.” With chapters entitled “Audre Lorde’s Successors” and “Cancer Narratives and an Ethics of Commemoration: Susan Sontag, Annie Leibovitz, and David Rieff,” the author takes these generally comforting aspects of the cancer journey into an area of fresh scholarship.

Epstein, Samuel S. Stop Breast Cancer Before It Starts. Seven Stories. Sept. 2013. 228p. ISBN 9781609804886. pap. $19.95. Health

Epstein (emeritus, Univ. of Illinois Sch. of Public Health; coauthor, Good Clean Food: Shopping Smart To Avoid GMOs, rBGH, and Products That May Cause Cancer and Other Diseases) is convinced that there are environmental causes to breast cancer that must be addressed if the disease is to be eradicated, one being parabens found in many common products and exhibiting estrogen-like properties, as well as radiation such as that found in, yes, mammography. The book references many statistics and articles for its conclusions. Technical material presented in a thought-provoking manner. Not for every reader.

redstarGemignani, Mary with Caren Goldman & others. Prevention® The Ultimate Guide to Breast Cancer. Rodale. Oct. 2013. 320p. ISBN 9781623360962. pap. $17.99; ebk. ISBN 9781623360979. Health

The staff of Prevention magazine present a basic guidebook for those diagnosed with breast cancer, divided into five parts: Dealing with the News, Deciphering the Diagnosis, Finding the Right Treatment, The Nuts and Bolts of Living with Breast Cancer, and Thriving—Not Just Surviving. Subsequent chapters include numerous sections for activities (Personal Practice), further investigation (Points To Ponder), and Survivor Stories. There are even pronunciation cues for breast cancer terminology. Clear and precise text for the newly diagnosed and their families. An excellent buy.

Hobbins, William B. & Wendy Sellens. Breast Cancer Boot Camp: Dr. Hobbins’s Breast Thermography Revolution. Tate. 2013. 282p. illus. bibliog. ISBN 9781625637994. pap. $27.99. Health

Surgeon and thermography researcher and pioneer Hobbins worked with licensed acupuncturist Sellens for five years, explaining his theories behind the causes and prevention of breast cancer. The result is this book by Sellens, which lays most of the blame for the disease on our exposure to estrogen in foodstuffs and products, including bio-identical estrogens, flax, and soy. Sellens acknowledges that this book will anger readers who have bought into the hype but likely as well many within and outside of the medical community. For the open-minded who are looking for unorthodox ­answers.

Mueller, Janet I. A Champion’s Guide to Thriving Beyond Breast Cancer. Morgan James. Oct. 2013. 150p. ISBN 9781614486305. pap. $14.99. Health

Life coach Mueller, founder of the Leadership in Excellence Academy, pre­sents the stories of eight women who have faced life’s challenges, including breast cancer, and how they prevailed. Through faith and what Mueller dubs a Springboard Spirit, people can overcome what life throws at them and learn to feel like champions. Where faith-based materials circulate well.

Outcalt, Todd. Husband’s Guide to Breast Cancer: A Complete & Concise Plan for Every Stage. Blue River, dist. by Cardinal Pub. Group. Nov. 2013. 192p. photos. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781935628323. pap. $14.95. Health

United Methodist church pastor Outcalt (Your Beautiful Wedding on Any Budget) covers a perspective often overlooked in breast cancer narratives and reference works: that of the husband (or partner). Outcalt the pastor has discussed cancer diagnoses with congregants and their families, but Outcalt the husband has also been there for his wife during her treatment. He chronicles the basic time line of treatment similarly to most other books on the subject but makes it clear that husbands are deeply involved as supporters and caregivers and how they feel is equally important. Would pair well with John Anderson’s Stand by Her: A Breast Cancer Guide for Men.

Horner, Christine. Waking the Warrior Goddess: Dr. Christine Horner’s Program To Protect Against & Fight Breast Cancer. 3d ed. Basic Health Pubns. Oct. 2013. 352p. ISBN 9781591203636. pap. $19.95. Health

Horner’s update continues to focus on natural foods and stress-reduction as ways for women to work with their body to keep it healthy. This edition includes an updated resource list and a new chapter, “The Spiritual Journey of Breast Cancer.” For comprehensive health collections. (LJ 9/1/05; LJ 9/1/07)

O’Regan, Ruth & others. Breast Cancer Journey: The Essential Guide to Treatment and Recovery. 3d ed. American Cancer Soc. Nov. 2013. 540p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781604430301. pap. $24.95. Health

Information from the experts at the American Cancer Society, updated once more to help women “explore the experiences and challenges you’re likely to face” following a breast cancer diagnosis. Readers are encouraged to “Bend the pages. Make notes in it.” Excellent information; recommended for personal collections. (2d ed. LJ 9/15/03)

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Bette-Lee Fox About Bette-Lee Fox

Bette-Lee Fox ( is Managing Editor, Library Journal.

Now in her 46th year with Library Journal, Bette-Lee also edits LJ's Video Reviews column, six times a year Romance column, and e-original Romance reviews, which post weekly as LJ Xpress Reviews. She received the Romance Writers of America (RWA) Vivian Stephens Industry Award in 2013 for having "contributed to the genre or to RWA in a significant and/or continuing manner"


  1. Jessie Pate says:

    An excellent list, but what about Marisa Marchetto’s Cancer Vixen? I love this graphic novelist’s unique, straightforward, and sassy perspective on a breast cancer diagnosis.

  2. Bette-Lee Fox says:

    Thanks for the comments, Jessie. I love Marisa’s book. In fact, we now share a surgeon. But the books listed here are mostly forthcoming publications. I wasn’t aware that Marisa’s book was being rereleased. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Canver Vixen, check it out. It’s a terrific graphic memoir.