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Home News and Update Year 2013 Pen is mightier than the disease

Pen is mightier than the disease

Many Indians are documenting their battle against cancer in books that offer hope to patients and solace to caregivers.

It started off as a routine medical check–up but the news at the end of it left Vijay Bhat shattered. A slow–moving cancer had invaded his colon. The 40–yearold MNC employee, then based in London, went in for surgery to excise the growth. He soon returned to Mumbai but instead of putting the trauma behind him, decided to relive it in a book.

Together with wife Nilima, he wrote My Cancer Is Me, the Journey from Illness to Wholeness. The book did well in the market but more importantly it brought a flood of responses from patients, survivors, caregivers and families. "This response became part of our healing process," says Bhat who, 12 years after his struggle with the disease, heads a leadership consulting firm but also holds talks on surviving cancer. Bhat's book is among several cancer chronicles that have hit Indian bookstores in recent months. At a time when statistics reveal that cancer is the second most life threatening disease in India, "books by survivors help give not just solace but also encouragement to those suffering," says Dr J B Sharma, senior consultant medical oncology, Action Cancer Hospital.

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Yuvraj Singh's The Test Of My Life, inspired by Lance Armstrong's memoir, is one of the most successful. Since it's launch in March, it has sold over 30,000 copies. "Its success is not just because the book is by a star cricketer," says Milee Ashwarya, editorial director, Random House. "It works because it's a true inspirational story, of one who emerged victorious in his battle against a debilitating disease." The other celebrity who shared the story of her recovery from a near–fatal cancer was feminist writer Eve Ensler in the book In the Body of the World. Though not a survivor story, US–based Sidhhartha Mukherjee's The Emperor of Maladies, a biography of cancer, was widely acclaimed.

Yuvraj says he wanted people to read the book to understand that cancer did not mean death. Hence, the decision to relive those days of chemo, pain and depression for others. "The idea is to battle it with positivity," he says.

Hariharan V, head, sales and marketing, Hay House, that has published three books by cancer survivors this year, picks You Can Heal Your Life by Louis L Hay as the trendsetter in the field. The book, which says that positive thinking can help beat cancer, has sold over 40 million copies globally.

Cancer survivors may not always be the best writers – the language is often awkward and clicheridden – but their stories do give other patients hope.

Five years ago, after a growth was first detected in his small intestine , Delhi–based bureaucrat Sudhansu Mohanty decided to use humour to deal with it. "One needs to enslave the disease rather than become a slave to it," says the 56–year–old who put down his story in Anatomy of a Tumour. Released about three months ago, his book has sold 1,100 copies and has gone into reprint.

Anagha Morje Ghosh's Face to Face with Cancer tackles the psychological facet of cancer besides giving useful information on medical facilities and services. Her fight with ovarian cancer began in 2008 and continues even today. "But I refuse to be bogged down by it," says the 62–year–old development expert with a smile. For writer Megha Bajaj, Thank You Cancer turned out to be a cathartic experience. Bajaj's book also keeps it simple, offering answers to FAQs and tips.

Times of India
15 Sep 2013

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