Human Side of Cancer: Living with Hope, Coping with Uncertainty

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For more than twenty years, Dr. Holland has pioneered the study of psychological problems of cancer patients and their families — whom she calls "the real experts." In The Human Side of Cancer, she shares what she has learned from all of them about facing this life-threatening illness and what truly helps along the cancer journey. This book is the next best thing to sitting in Dr. Holland's office and talking with her about the uncertainty and anxiety elicited by this disease. And it is a book that inspires hope ...

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For more than twenty years, Dr. Holland has pioneered the study of psychological problems of cancer patients and their families — whom she calls "the real experts." In The Human Side of Cancer, she shares what she has learned from all of them about facing this life-threatening illness and what truly helps along the cancer journey. This book is the next best thing to sitting in Dr. Holland's office and talking with her about the uncertainty and anxiety elicited by this disease. And it is a book that inspires hope — through stories of the simple courage of ordinary people confronting cancer.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Chief of psychiatry at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, Holland is one of the founders of psycho-oncology. In this well-rounded guide, she and Lewis (an editor at Healthy Living) provide sensible and clear advice for people living with cancer. What makes this manual different is Holland and Lewis's belief that there's no one style of coping that's right for everyone--instead, they survey a range of available strategies, both physical (e.g., medications) and psychological (e.g., support groups). Antidepressant and antianxiety medications get a lot of attention here--the authors consider them important tools in the fight against not only severe depression, but also fear of surgery and sleeplessness; they are also important in aiding the terminally ill. Though they emphasize traditional Western treatments, Holland and Lewis don't dismiss potentially complementary alternative therapies, like meditation, yoga, acupuncture and aromatherapy. These techniques, they contend, while not proven cures, may enhance quality of life and are particularly useful to those patients who want an active role in maintaining their health. In addition, they recommend lifestyle changes such as giving up smoking, eating a nutritious diet and exercising regularly. Likewise, their discussion of the physical problems that may occur after cancer treatment (including impotence and changes in appearance) is honest and practical. Illus. (Sept.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Psycho-oncologist Holland, chief of the psychiatry service at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, feels that the psychological effects of cancer have long been overlooked. Most people assume that once therapy has begun, they just sit back and wait to be cured--or not. But Holland sees that much more is involved in patients' ability to cope with cancer. She includes anecdotes concerning her own patients and quotes liberally from other authors/experts in the cancer canon--which can make for a choppy text. Holland encourages patients to seek psychological counseling, take appropriate drugs for depression and other related conditions, and seek support in any way possible. She doesn't mince words, either. Her text covers the worst-case scenarios of a cancer diagnosis, all aspects of treatment (including alternative/complementary protocols), survivorship, recurrence, and death and dying. Holland's concerns for patients' psychological needs are genuine, though her approach may be a bit more clinical than humane. For comprehensive patient health collections.--Bette-Lee Fox, "Library Journal" Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
Explores the range of emotions people with cancer and their loved ones experience from the moment of diagnosis through treatment and its aftermath. Offers the latest scientific information about the mind- body connection and cancer, dispels the myth that the patient is somehow to blame, and stresses that everyone has a unique way of coping which should be respected. Holland is chairman of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Memorial Sloan- Kettering Cancer Center and professor of psychiatry at Weill Medical College of Cornell University. Lewis is a journalist. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060930424
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/28/2001
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 623,464
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.82 (d)

Meet the Author

Jimmie C. Holland, M.D., is chairman of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City and professor of psychiatry at Weill Medical College of Cornell University. Dr. Holland received the American Cancer Society's highest award, the Medal of Honor, in 1994. She lives in Scarsdale, New York, with her husband, James F. Holland, M.D.

Sheldon Lewis is a journalist with a special interest in the human side of health. He lives in New York City with his wife and two sons.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

What Is the Human Side of Cancer?

I assume that you've picked up this book for the same reasons people come to see me. You may have just found out you have cancer, or you may already be undergoing treatment and feel you've hit a snag. Perhaps you are a survivor wondering whether you're cured or not. Or you are coping with cancer as a chronic disease and feel the need for more support. Maybe you are a fellow traveler on the path, supporting and assisting a loved one with cancer, but feeling the need for help yourself.

Whatever your situation, I wish I could sit with you and talk about what's been going on for you and how you've been coping, and help you find the kind of support that's right for you. That's the way I would like to do it. But since that's impossible, I've tried through the chapters of this book to talk with you as I would if you were in my office and we were talking face-to-face about your illness or that of your loved one and about the problems you've had to deal with along the way.

When I see someone for the first time at our counseling center at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, I usually ask a question like this: “How have things been going for you since you got sick?”

Often the response is: “I don't even know where to start.”And I usually say: “Well, let's start with your illness. Tell me about what's happened to you.”

Then I hear about a “cancer journey,” starting with finding a lump or having a pain that took the person to the doctor, who diagnosed cancer. Or, for others, it's how they were completely surprised by the resultsof a routine mammogram or colonoscopy or chest X ray that showed cancer. Somewhere along the line, each has heard a version of the words “It's cancer.”

Some people come to see me at that moment, right after hearing the news, when they are scared, mixed up, and overwhelmed to the point that they can't take the next step. Others come later, after starting their treatment. They hit a “bump in the road” as they cope with radiation or chemotherapy. A psychological “bump” might be feeling “wired” or scared, not being able to sleep or to concentrate on anything, feeling tired and down in the dumps, or being uncertain about the future.

These feelings lead to questions like these: Can I get through this? Is there a light at the end of the tunnel? Will I have done it all for nothing?

Ironically, some people don't come to see me until their treatment is over. They handled treatment fine because they were in a crisis mode and were doing something to fight the cancer. Now that the treatment is completed, they begin to reflect on what they've been through. The reality sets in, and the nagging question arises that I hear so often: Did I have cancer, or do I have cancer?

Sometimes it's not the person with cancer who comes to see me at all, but a family member or other loved one who finds it painful to watch as the person encounters the curves, valleys, and hills of the cancer journey.

With each of these people, whatever their situation, we talk about how difficult it's been for them to get to where they are now. They often have looked only at their personal shortcomings in meeting the day-to-day crises, seeing only the trees and not the forest. I help them focus on the bigger picture, which so many times reveals how remarkably strong and courageous they have been in the face of one of life's gravest challenges: the threat to life itself.

Together, we look for their inner sources of strength and try to identify their well-honed ways of dealing with adversity that have worked in the past and will likely work again. We review what they know about their cancer and what treatments are out there, and I help them get more information when they need it. We go over their reactions to the diagnosis, their problems with treatment, and their stress as they see family, friends, and coworkers adjusting to the illness of someone close.

Every person brings unique characteristics to dealing with illness: a particular personality, a way of coping, a set of beliefs and values, a way of looking at the world. The goal is to take these qualities into consideration and make sure that they work in favor of the person at each point along the cancer journey. I hope that my suggestions, impartial information, and sharing of what I have learned over many years of clinical work can make your own journey a little easier and keep you from losing hope.

When I first arrived at Memorial Sloan-Kettering in 1977, very little was known about the human side of cancer. Psychosocial research related to cancer was so new it was hardly viewed as a scientific endeavor. But we began to learn about it from the real experts: the patients and their families who were going through the experience. Those of us who shared in this exciting beginning at Memorial Sloan-Kettering felt the joy of “discovery” — of being pioneers — as we identified common threads in what we heard, while recognizing that the experience for each individual was unique.

Our work has spanned two decades during which cancer came “out of the closet,” allowing the word cancer finally to be spoken aloud and the diagnosis honestly given in the United States, as compared with many other countries where the diagnosis is still not revealed. Survival from certain cancers has become much more common, and concern for the psychological dimension of patient care has taken on greater importance...

The Human Side of Cancer. Copyright © by Jimmie Holland. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Table of Contents

Ch. 1 What Is the Human Side of Cancer? 1
Ch. 2 The Tyranny of Positive Thinking 13
Ch. 3 The Mind-Body Connection and Cancer 26
Ch. 4 The Diagnosis: "I Could Die of This" 39
Ch. 5 Working Together 50
Ch. 6 Coping 68
Ch. 7 The Human Side of Cancer Treatments 92
Ch. 8 The Human Side of Specific Cancers 116
Ch. 9 All Medicine Doesn't Come in a Bottle: Psychological Treatment 135
Ch. 10 Alternative and Complementary Therapies 179
Ch. 11 "I'm a Survivor - Now What?" 190
Ch. 12 Staying Healthy 221
Ch. 13 The Goal Is Control 239
Ch. 14 The Last Taboo 250
Ch. 15 The Family and Cancer 276
Ch. 16 How Do I Go On? 294
Epilogue 315
Resources 317
Index 333
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 8, 2013

    Great Book!

    This is a very good bok to read, if you want to know about cancer you shoud read it

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 2, 2000

    Free at Last!

    In addition to providing a practical, realistic guide to surviving cancer, Holland and Lewis shatter the mind-body mythology that's been plaguing cancer survivors long after treatment ends. Fourteen years ago I was told flat-out that my Stage IIIB Hodgkins was 'a stress-related attitude problem.' I don't think so. Cancer treatment is challenging enough without adding the burden of guilt to the patient's already heavy load. I found Holland and Lewis's book very helpful, even after all this time!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 12, 2012

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    Posted May 8, 2010

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