Cancer Book Club & Other Favorite Reads

One of my New Year’s resolutions was to break my technology addiction and my first course of action was banning devices from my bedroom. Instead of watching something on my iPad as I fall asleep, I replaced the activity with reading (real books) and have never felt more well rested, energetic and sharp. It’s made me realized how much I’ve missed reading like I did when I was younger. Plus, I’ve read over 45 books this year!

Naturally, some of these books are about cancer.  They consist of either memoirs or “how-to’s” on surviving. Below you’ll find a random, incomplete list my favorites to-date to serve as suggestions if you’re looking for inspiration.

rufusDie Young With Me by Rob Rufus. Read this if you’re a young adult impacted by cancer, lover of punk music and/or don’t subscribe to the kumbaya-ness that often accompanies illness. Personally, I’m a little partial to this story since Rufus and I both live in Nashville and are cancer surviving writers, who aren’t afraid of a few f-bombs.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanthi. It’s sad, it’s profound, but most of all, it’s beautifully written. Read my complete review here.

Dying to Be Me by Anita Moorjani. Read this book if you believe in miracles or want to believe in miracles by a first hand experience.

radzwillWhat Remains by Carole Radzwill. Another weeper, but the prose is incredible. I found this memoir of loss an example of what our caregivers endure along our side because they are often the forgotten trauma survivors.

Crazy Sexy Cancer by Kris Carr. Read this if you are a newly diagnosed woman and/or interested in means of healing through food, alternative treatments, etc. Better yet, watch the documentary or an episode of Carr on Super Soul Sunday.  

41b5V0a3aFL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_I Have Cancer and Never Felt Better by Tracy Krulik. Check this out if you’re a fellow pNET, especially if you’re about to go into surgery. I devoured this before my distal pancreatomy and it provided me with many important questions I would have not otherwise asked.

Now, this all being said, I have set up some rules for cancer reading, which may not always be a relaxing escape.

  1. Memoirs only before bed. Rule 1a – the person has to be alive. Rule 1b – it can’t be a section where the subject is talking about a similar trauma (chemo, nausea, etc.) Bringing those feelings and memories to the surface have no place in my bedroom.
  2. No cancer reads on vacation. Time away is officially a cancer-free zone in my family.

Don’t want to read about cancer? Yeah, me neither. Here are a few of my favorites:

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri. This is my all-time favorite book, ever. The prose is out of this world and tells the story of an immigrant family’s struggle of retaining their culture versus assimilating to America. If you like this book, Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies is also worth the time. It was Lahiri’s first book and won the Pulitzer Prize if you needed any further nudging. There’s also a movie based on The Namesake, which, for the first time ever, does justice to the book.

The Moth Presents all These Wonders: True Stories About Facing the Unknown. Read my complete review here. Okay, so there are a few stories about cancer, but they are happy ones.

patchettCommonwealth by Ann Patchett. God, I love Ann Patchett. She lives in Nashville and owns a bookstore I frequent. Between you and I, I sometimes hang out there just to catch a glimpse of her. I wouldn’t be surprised if she thinks I’m a stalker. I just kind of want to soak up some of her genius by breathing the same air.

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance. An interesting memoir of escaping and growing up in poor Appalachia.

Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue. A novel an African immigrant family trying to make it in New York City. While this story is fiction, I think it portrays the sacrifices and lengths that foreigners will go to to achieve the American Dream.

If you’re looking for more suggestions, check out my Goodread’s list, which has the last few years of books with ratings.

Also, my “to-read” list is primarily comprised of recommendations from others, so if you have a book that’s touched your life, please share by commenting below.

Up next in the cancer category is Radical Remission by Kelly Turner, Everyday I Fight by Stewart Scott, A Walk with Purpose by Michael Becker and The Art of Not Giving a Fuck by Sarah Knight.

Happy Reading!

So Many Activities

One of my goals this year was to post weekly blogs. Like many people, by mid-February, my New Year’s resolutions began to lag. While my good intentions were there, the mental space and energy was not.

So, if I haven’t been posting, what the heck have I been doing?

The answer – so many activities!

First and most important – I’ve devoted countless hours to an essay I started nine months ago. I’m happy to share it has (finally) been submitted for consideration to the New York Times, Modern Love column. I put a lot of time and energy into the piece.  I’ve never been more proud and more sick of something. The column has a one percent acceptance rate. Yeah, the chances are slim.  However, the Editor reads every single essay and I think it’s pretty darn cool a New York Times Editor will be reading my work within the next 2-3 months. Yes, it takes a long time.  Please say a little prayer on my behalf to the Editor Gods. Accepted or not, I will share it on my blog as soon as the Times gives me the green or red light.

If you haven’t heard of the column, it’s guaranteed to warm even the coldest of hearts. Here are the most popular essays and a few of my favorite podcasts:

I’ve also continued my quest toward minimalism. The Minimalists even shared my post about Cancer and Minimalism on their Facebook page, which was pretty sweet. Otherwise, our entire house has been cleaned out and organized. We made over six trips to Goodwill where we donated fifteen boxes and bags. I’ve since moved on to tackling digital clutter. The biggest achievement has been reducing 25,000 photos down to 2,500. My goal was also to do “Internet Free Sundays”. It failed miserably and Fabien is grateful. In April, I’m looking for someone to play the Minimalist Game with me. If you’re interested, send me a message.

What’s next?

I’m currently working on a few more cancer related blogs, which I’ll share here in the coming weeks.  And the biggest news of all – next week, I’m starting research on a subject which I hope will turn into my first book. I am excited and terrified. Stay tuned for more.

Otherwise, I want to share a few things that are rocking my world:

  • Podcast: Missing Richard Simmons. Filmmaker, Dan Taberski, is on a quest to find out what happened to Richard Simmons and why he all a sudden fell of the face of the earth. It’s fascinating and strange.
  • Podcast: The Forward. Much to my suprise, Lance Armstrong is actually a pretty great interviewer and interesting subject himself.  In The Forward Podcast he talks with everyone from Malcolm Gladwell to Rahm Emmanuel to Neil deGrasse Tyson to Bo Jackson. It’s quite entertaining.  Love him or hate him – you have to tip your hat to a guy who raised millions for cancer research.
  • Podcast: The Minimalists. Are you seeing a theme? The podcast is almost better than the Netflix documentary.
  • On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King. I’m late to this party since the book was published in 2000. If you ever write anything (ever), you should check out this book. It’s a master’s degree in itself. Plus, King is an impressive guy and the stories behind his stories are captivating.
  • Die Young With Me. I’ve read a lot of cancer memoirs, but this one is by far the best because of it’s raw honesty. By pure coincidence, the author, Rob Rufus, lives in Nashville.

Lastly, someone, somewhere shared my blog and my readership has gone through the roof. Whoever you are – THANK YOU FOR SHARING AND READING!  I’m also on Twitter at @staciechevrier.

I hope everyone is off to a great 2017, living large and doing so many fun activities:

Bonus cool points if you knew “so many activities” came from the movie ‘Step Brothers’: