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Ordinary Miracles: Learning from Breast Cancer Survivors

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Overview

After nearly three decades of providing medical care for women and men facing breast cancer, surgeon S. David Nathanson calls the survival rates today an ordinary miracle. Ordinary because the vast majority of patients now do live at least 20 years after diagnosis due to enormous progress that has been made in medicine; and a miracle too because of the intangible qualities such as faith and hope that seem key to success in battling the disease. In this book, survivors describe their experiences, emotions, and means to overcome the disease.

S. David Nathanson is an esteemed, longtime surgeon who calls the survival rates today for women and men facing breast cancer nothing short of an ordinary miracle. Ordinary because the vast majority of patients live at least two decades after diagnosis, due to great advances that have been made in early detection, surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. But also a miracle because we know that key elements for a woman or man succeeding in a personal battle against breast cancer include completely intangible qualities of courage, fortitude, trust, persistence, faith, and hope. Although science cannot completely explain it, a supportive network of family and friends with those qualities also empower patient survival and recovery. In these pages, Nathanson shares stories from his patients, teaching us about the experience of breast cancer and explaining how they found and fueled the will and power to defeat the disease.

Even surgeon Nathanson himself cannot fully describe what goes through the hearts and minds of breast cancer patients as they discover, deal with, and finally triumph over the diagnosis. So in this book he acts as a narrator, letting his ordinary yet miraculous cancer survivors tell their stories, certainly filled with fear of the known and unknown, and with pain, but opening up to courage, love, sometimes humor, and finally hope. It is hope that firms up their resilience; hope that initiates their fortitude. Hope is an important component of healing, says the surgeon. Seventy-one survivors, including one man, tell their stories to ilustrate every step of the experience.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"According to the American Cancer Society, one in eight women will have invasive breast cancer, but many will live at least 20 years after their diagnoses. Surgical breast oncologist Nathanson here celebrates that survival rate with 71 stories of breast cancer patients who beat the disease. These narratives describe the shock of diagnosis and the physical toll of treatment as well as the support of family and friends and spirituality. Some are written as the breast cancer cycle-detection, diagnosis, surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation-with the patients' words interwoven with Nathanson's empathetic commentary. Six chapters are case studies of six different patients, including one man. Readers will also find coverage of the negative aspects of breast cancer, e.g., difficult interactions with healthcare professionals and the struggle to maintain one's everyday life while undergoing treatment. Encouraging readers not to see breast cancer as a death sentence, this book will comfort those diagnosed with breast cancer and their families and friends. Recommended for consumer health and public libraries."

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Library Journal

"As I began this read I immediately knew this book would show the courage and fortitude of numerous women and men who looked death in the face, in the form of breast cancer, and won the battle….Doctor Nathanson, a surgeon who treats these women medically, saw the potential to help others as he often saw the miraculous happen as many of his patients rose up and triumphed over this enemy. Their stories, told in their words, reveal their fears, victories, defeats and hopes for the future. To me, it was an emotional read, one that caused me to stop and the be thankful I am not fighting this battle and one that will certainly strengthen those who are and give them the courage to press on. Very well written, thought provoking and tender read from the hearts of those in the know."

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MBR Bookwatch

"Nathanson uses the narratives of male and female breast cancer survivors to help practitioners understand the qualitative end of their patients' experiences. He steps through the various phases we now associate with the cycle of care for breast cancer, including detection, diagnosis, surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and, hopefully, the long road ahead after treatment. He also uses a number of case studies in which survivors recount their physical experiences and the means by which they gathered courage, strength, and a sense of self-healing, whether found in crisis and maintenance spirituality, the support of family and friends, or in alternate means such as positive self-feedback. The narratives are overwhelmingly in support of trust in the medical system, and the patients are keenly aware they will be survivors for the rest of their lives."

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SciTech Book News

Library Journal

According to the American Cancer Society, one in eight women will have invasive breast cancer, but many will live at least 20 years after their diagnoses. Surgical breast oncologist Nathanson here celebrates that survival rate with 71 stories of breast cancer patients who beat the disease. These narratives describe the shock of diagnosis and the physical toll of treatment as well as the support of family and friends and spirituality. Some are written as the breast cancer cycle-detection, diagnosis, surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation-with the patients' words interwoven with Nathanson's empathetic commentary. Six chapters are case studies of six different patients, including one man. Readers will also find coverage of the negative aspects of breast cancer, e.g., difficult interactions with healthcare professionals and the struggle to maintain one's everyday life while undergoing treatment. Encouraging readers not to see breast cancer as a death sentence, this book will comfort those diagnosed with breast cancer and their families and friends. Recommended for consumer health and public libraries.
—Rebecca Raszewski

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Product Details

Meet the Author

S. DAVID NATHANSON, M.D., is a Breast Surgical Oncologist and current Director of Breast Care Services in the Department of Surgery at Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, Michigan. He is the author of some 200 journal articles and book chapters.

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Table of Contents


Series Foreword   Julie Silver     vii
Acknowledgments     ix
Introduction: Why and How We Wrote This Book     xi
Case Study-Pamela Brady: "A Bump in the Road of Life"     1
Detection: "It Was a Nice Spring Day..."     15
Diagnosis: "This Can't Be Happening to Me"     23
Case Study-Sally Sawyer: "A Life Beyond Cancer"     37
Surgery: "This Wasn't Bad"     45
Chemotherapy: "Fear Is Diminished When You're Aware"     57
Radiation: "Your Personal Battery Runs Way Low"     67
Support Systems: "An Extremely Emotional Time for My Family and Friends"     75
The Spiritual Connection: "Make Me Feel Like a Whole Person"     87
Case Study-Wendy Goldberg: "I Am Here"     95
Afterward: "An Abundance of Resilience"     123
Case Study-Linda D'Antonio: "A Thief in the Night"     131
Advice: "Trust in the Lord. See Your Doctor"     143
Case Study-Arlene Kalley: "Hope-Again"     149
Case Study-William C. Rands, III: "You Had a Mastectomy?"     155
Epilogue: What I Learned from My Patients     167
Index     181
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