Book review: Anti-cancer, a New Way of Life…

I was reflecting on the fact that recently I have been recommending one book repeatedly to people I work with who have cancer. It is ‘Anti-Cancer, a New Way of Life’ by Dr David Servan-Schreiber. Thank you, Andrew Tressider for reminding me about it.

David Servan-Schreiber was a medical student when he found that he had brain cancer. He had an aggressive tumour, with the suggestion that survivability was 6 weeks without treatment; 6 months with treatment. He had surgery, changed his life, and lived for almost 20 years after diagnosis. This book arose out of his journey to survive that cancer.

The book has a rare mix of being very readable; accessible; scientific and compassionate. It is part autobiographical, with case histories; and part a digest of his research and conclusions about how cancer develops, and how to survive.

It covers environment, diet, the significance of the immune system, the mind-body connection, and the psychological aspects of cancer. It is full of helpful suggestions, and it is well researched and referenced.

His belief is that good health arises out of a healthy ‘terrain’, or personal environment. When we sicken, that points to the need for changes in lifestyle to facilitate our natural healing capacity to return us to good health. He is very careful to explain that he is not saying that cancer is caused solely by mental attitudes; but equally he is persuasive that mental, emotional, physical and environmental factors have a role to play in promoting health.

The book is empowering and full of hope; and emphasises the importance of diffusing fear, negativity, and passivity. By taking care of oneself in the ways he suggests, the quality of life improves. That in turn can lead to an increase in well-being, and that is an important part in recovering from cancer.

I’ve had very good feedback from my clients about this book. Many books about cancer can inadvertently spread fear; or can be bullying or bossy in tone. In effect they are saying ‘You MUST do it my way’. Apart from the fact that many books have their own hobbyhorse, it is unhelpful to disempower or spread fear. Servan-Schreiber’s Anti-Cancer is not like this; and it is helpful, readable, informative, and empowering.

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