A Selection of Lymphoma Memoirs

As a former English major, I'm a voracious reader who believes in the power of a book to change your life, so below I've collected a handful of cancer memoirs, dealing specifically with people who overcame various forms of lymphoma. Although I haven't personally read any of them, maybe one will appeal to you or one will lead you to other books—cancer-related or otherwise—that might change your life.

Cancer Happens: Coming of Age with Cancer, by Rebecca Gifford

Happens

Author Rebecca Gifford was a young woman, just out of college, when she saw a doctor about back spasms and was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. She spent the next two years undergoing various treatments including chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant, and in straightforward no-nonsense language explores "hair loss to confinement, therapy groups, lack of sex, funerals, morphine, premature menopause, professional humiliation, and much, much more."

Wrestling with the Angel: A Memoir of My Triumph Over Illness, by Max Lerner

Angel

From Library Journal: "Journalist/scholar Lerner writes with uplifting gusto of his battles with a series of life-threatening illnesses. With intelligence, curiosity, and assertiveness, he was able to overcome the dehumanizing experience of hospitalization, retain a sense of self, and demand an active role in his treatment. He was aided by superb medical care, a supportive family, and the determination to live. The journal entries from the periods of travail reveal intimate glimpses of a man struggling with his mortality … A keen, analytic observer, this feisty octogenarian offers many unique perspectives in discussing illness, the healing process, aging, and death."

The Cancer War by Anthony Herrera

War

The author, known as James Stenbeck on "As the World Turns", was diagnosed with mantle cell lymphoma. He was treated with chemotherapy, total body irradiation, and an autologous stem cell transplant at Sloan-Kettering. He relapsed 18 months later. In 1999 he went to MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas and was treated with a non-ablative stem cell transplant using donor cells from his brother (without high-dose chemo). He relapsed in 2000 and was treated with Rituxan. Herrera's story is reported to be a very compelling one.

Stranger in the Village of the Sick: A Memoir of Cancer, Sorcery, and Healing, by Paul Stoller

Stranger

From Booklist: "In March 2001 Stoller learned he had lymphoma. His life changed overnight, and that led him to reflect on his experience 25 years earlier when, a young anthropologist, he apprenticed with a sorcerer of the Songhay people in the Republic of Niger. During illness and treatment, he realized that sorcery was a way of coping; his dreadful disease had opened a way of personal growth … We follow him from diagnosis through chemotherapy and remission as he coincidentally compares the gentle, one-on-one healer-patient relationship in West Africa to the impersonal, usually overtaxed American medical system. He observes how differently Americans and Songhay experience the world: the former like to feel in control, the latter are highly fatalistic. Ultimately, he learns to respect illness as a part of life. His tough-minded, unsentimental memoir reminds us what it means to be fully alive. "

Ordinary Life: A Memoir of Illness, by Kathlyn Conway

Ordinary

From Library Journal: "A psychotherapist with a husband and two children, Conway has been diagnosed with cancer three times in her 47 years. Her first brush, a diagnosis of Hodgkin's disease, occurred when she was in graduate school. In recounting here her breast cancer experience, Conway offers a searing memoir of her terror, isolation, and personal concerns. She documents her fear of dying, the pain of surgery, questions of how clothes would fit after surgery, and concerns for her family. Conway was not a stoic patient, often lashing out at her family in fear and anger. Detailing a different kind of survivor, filled with pain and anguish, worrying over small details, her book is more realistic than most narratives and should thus reassure other women undergoing cancer treatment."

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