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Lessons from Joan: Living and Loving with Cancer, a Husband’s Story
by Eric Kingson
(2005, Syracuse University)

Lessons from Joan is a compassionate and loving account of a woman’s struggle with colon cancer that is beautifully written by her husband, Eric. It is a poignant example of how spouses and caregivers of cancer patients can receive from their ill partners as much as they give—at times even more. Perhaps Eric states it best when he writes that the book is about “living and dying with dignity, hope, and humor. And how doing so enriches many lives and helps with the healing of those left behind.”

For 32 months, Eric and his wife, Joan, rode the emotional roller coaster of cancer—a ride of despair and hope. Through the ordeal they tried to put the cancer into perspective. They communicated openly about it but at the same time did not let it dominate their lives nor the lives of their teenage daughter and son. Humor was often used to help smooth the ride and examples are interspersed throughout the book. For example, during a visit to the specialty shop for cancer patients at the hospital, they decided to rename the store “The Shop ‘Til You Drop Store.” Loving and supportive family members, friends, and co-workers also lessened the stress of the trip.

While it is not a “how to” book, Kingson’s extensive notes on things they did to advocate for Joan’s treatment provide practical advice for cancer patients and their partners. “Negotiating Cancer” and “Tools for Making the System Work” are two appendices that contain this valuable information.

Although Joan’s cancer was colon and not breast, this book is relevant and valuable to any couple coping with the cancer experience. More information about the book can be found on the Syracuse University Website - --

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