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The Cancer Survivor’s Companion – Practical ways to cope with your feelings after cancer

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Title: The Cancer Survivor’s Companion – Practical ways to cope with your feelings after cancer

Authors: Dr Frances Goodhart & Lucy Atkins

Publisher: Piatkus 2011

Reviewer: Candy Cooley, national genetics awareness campaign lead, NHS National Genetics Education and Development Centre


What was it like?

This book starts by describing what it isn’t. It isn’t a guide to dealing with the physical impact of cancer and cancer treatment. It also isn’t a book that pontificates about how fortunate the individual is to have survived their cancer, as one individual states’ at the beginning of the book “if one more person tells me how lucky I am…., I think I’m going to explode”. What this book offers is practical ways to deal with the emotions and feelings that come from having cancer and having survived cancer.


What were the highlights? 

One of the highlights within the book is the comments from patients, which bring home the realities of being told you are cured, “But worst of all I worried that it (a holiday) was almost asking for trouble to celebrate.” Dr Goodhart, a clinical psychologist, uses the concerns of her patients and the techniques they used to deal with these issues to make sense of these emotions. And while these techniques are focused on cancer survivors, many of them would be relevant for any individual with worries, fatigue, anger, depression and low mood.

Strengths & weaknesses

Each chapter focuses on an area of concern and uses the theories around why these emotions might occur, interspersed with personal experiences. This makes the book extremely readable and great for dipping into for particular issues. The chapters also include case studies, tips, exercises and examples, with a final section with advice for friends, families and carers. The exercises will be helpful for individuals to try out for themselves or for carers to work through with the patient. There are lots of really practical comments and suggestions thatclearly reflect the experiences of cancer survivors. I really didn’t feel there were any weaknesses.It was a thoroughly readable and useful book.

Who should read it?

While this book, by the title, is directed at cancer survivors, it is in fact a bookthat is insightful for health professionals, both in understanding what may be happening “when the clinic door closes” but also to enable the health professional to offer some practical suggestions and advice.

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