Cancer: It's Not a Death Sentence is about reaching for happiness and recovery in the face of sudden life-threatening situations like cancer, and reviews the caregiving, life, and health challenges of survivors and members of Ross Suozzi's family
Suozzi faced his own cancer; then that of his wife and eldest son. The first thing to note about his story is that it combines a memoir format with health advocacy and insights on combating huge challenges with bigger pictures in mind, both about the role of health professionals during this battle and the ultimate goal of families challenged by health developments: "The doctors and nurses weren't there to give us special attention, coach us, or teach us everything we needed to know to survive each day, and they were most definitely not there to help us think about becoming and staying happy. They were working to keep our bodies alive, but it was up to each of us to keep our lives going. After diagnosis and during treatments, different aspects of each of our lives fell apart in ways that we had not anticipated. And we needed to learn quickly about things that we had never before thought we'd need to know."
Because Suozzi lived thorough not just his own role as a cancer patient in recovery, but as a caregiver helping other family members with their own struggles, his book includes a great deal of insights on the special concerns of the cancer caregiver: "There may be a point in your caregiving task where it becomes extremely clear that recovery is not attainable. But that does not change the need for you to be supportive. I encourage you and, should you have them, your team of family and friends to find a way to take a positive approach to the precious time your loved one may have. My family's experience has shown us that difficult times are made easier if they are filled with what is most meaningful to us."
One of cancer's side effects is that it isolates sufferers and their families in insidious ways. Suozzi attacks this sense of distance in the introduction to his story ("The purpose of this book is to help you navigate and cope with that feeling, believe in yourself, and keep your friendships, your family, and your life intact while you work on kicking cancer's ass."), creating a road map of positive goals that moves beyond the usual focus on recovery and into the arena of building a better life not just despite, but because of a cancer diagnosis.
Where other cancer memoirs often become singular focuses blending personal experience with recovery and medical insights, Suozzi's ability to cover both sides of the cancer coin creates an atmosphere that is as specific about emotional hurdles as it is about treatments, what works and what doesn't, and how to handle not just physical but psychological and social challenges surrounding cancer.
This cancer survivor's ability to incorporate all these facets under one cover represents a unique approach to his subject that will educate and enlighten not just fellow sufferers, but caregivers, families, friends, and anyone whose lives have been touched by a cancer diagnosis.
Cancer: It's Not a Death Sentence is an unexpectedly inspirational ray of light in the literature of cancer survivors. It should be on the bookshelves and reading lists of anyone touched by a cancer diagnosis.
Diane Donovan, Author
Editor, California Bookwatch