Book Review: “The Cancer Survivors Club” Chris Geiger


The Cancer Survivors Club by Chris Geiger
The Cancer Survivors Club by Chris Geiger

Reading “The Cancer Survivors Club: A collection of inspirational and uplifting survival stories” by Chris Geiger, is like finding someone’s diary – opening it to the most devastating day of that person’s life – and reading on and on because you can’t stop.  Only, this is a collection of stories from twenty-three people, who have had cancer dumped in their laps, right out of the blue. One of your greatest fears, right?

However scary this all seems, the title of the book gives its premise away: you see, these are the stories of cancer Survivors. These brave souls have weathered their various storms and have come out the other side on a wave of positive energy. The Cancer Survivors Club has offered up its stories for the greater good. What’s so great about that?

Well, when it comes to the “Big Bad C” there is a lot of fear and negativity swirling around. Magnify it by a million, when all that crazy happens to you. Hearing about someone else’s sh*tstorm – which has been conquered – is bloody marvellous. These folk (and little folk) have endured hellish chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and the full gamut of surgeries. Best of all: Cancer has been in their rear view mirrors for a good 5, 10, 15 years and more. Good News indeed.

If you want to know how any of these stories might relate directly to you – I can report that the cancers discussed in the book are: Lymphoma (Non-Hodgkin & Hodgkin), Pancreatic, Breast, Bowel, Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL), Testicular, Spinal / Brain & Stomach tumours and the very rare Pseudomyxoma Peritonei (PMP) – with its equally rare course of treatment:  MOAS (Mother of all Surgeries) – look it up – or better still – get the book. If your friend tells you they have cancer and you don’t know what to say – get the book and give it to them. I can guarantee they will appreciate it.

The stories which particularly resonated for me were not – as I had presumed – in my own area of expertise. They were Kate Beynon’s “Animal Therapy” (Kate used to have Non Hodgkin Lymphoma) and Mark Davies’ “How Do You Solve a Problem Like My Rear?” (Mark used to have Bowel Cancer) – Gotta love a Sound of Music reference!

A few of these stories told the heartbreak of babes lost, babes born prematurely due to competing with a tumour in utero – and – as was the case in “Animal Therapy” – babes born against all the odds. After completing her treatment, and being told she wouldn’t be able to have children, Kate proved the experts wrong and went on to have three healthy children. With the aforementioned Bowel cancer story, I felt the direct hit of Mark’s built-up tension and one of those “delayed reactions” you have when something is too big to deal with at the time. It made me cry. Then I pulled myself together. Ultimately, Mark’s story is one of seeing life through new lenses, as he found he was able to live a more centred life, up north, post-cancer.

I found myself open-mouthed at times to see just how busy these folk were whilst recovering from chemo/radio/surgery: there were house moves, charity walks, marathons and riding a new horse home after a painful bone marrow harvest! OMG! All I could manage was a lot of sleeping in bed on an extremely large amount of codeine!

Two of the stories are from the perspective of parents. The father of a young woman who very sadly lost her baby due to emergency surgery and the mother of an 11 year old boy. Sometimes it is so much harder to watch another go through a dreadful illness (and the subsequent treatment) than it is to go through it yourself. There were silver linings here too as the young boy discovered his passion for music, during the lonely and boring months of recovery in a foreign country.

A couple of the people in this book also question their course of treatment: Mark Davies refused the standard “cut you open and whip it ALL out” approach to his bowel cancer. Instead, he used a technique his mum found out about from talking with a neighbour who turned out to be a cutting-edge colorectal surgeon! How lucky was that?! The new technique used Papillon radiotherapy and TEM microsurgery which spares the patient incontinence and impotence and the loss of the large intestine. Another lady, who knew her limits due to her allergies, declined to go further with her chemotherapy. Instead, she used an alternative approach in conjunction with the Penny Brohn Cancer Care organisation – with great results for her.

I love hearing about good news + cancer. The “Survivors” all wanted to share their stories so they could offer hope and inspiration to other people experiencing a cancer diagnosis. Here’s to their continuing good health and yours too. I hope this book reaches the many, many, many people who need to read it.

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3 thoughts on “Book Review: “The Cancer Survivors Club” Chris Geiger

  1. I wonder if a cancer diagnosis is a fast track to really living in the present? You say here ‘It’s your greatest fear, right?’ And for many people it most surely is.

    When something really scary happens, you are forced to exist in the moment – it’s an instant end to the type of inner monologue where you are ruminating on the past, or dreaming of the future. Does the book say anything about that? Or anything about their perception of time changing? Or any type of reckoning the subjects have about their own lives and how they’re spending them?

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    • Hi Sza, thanks for dropping by. I can’t really recall any of the “time” specific elements you mention (interesting point however). I’ll have a quick re-read and keep an eye out and let you know. Or maybe someone else has view and can share it with us. As for the “reckoning” – yes, reckonings a-plenty. Each Survivor chapter has a title, and I’ll run through a few to give you an idea of where the book is pointing: “Dear Tumour”, “In Sickness and in Health” “I’m a Statistic of One”, “The Cancer Card” – (this reference is funny, actually, I used this term with my family too. It’s the get out of doing the washing up card!) ….”Things Happen for a Reason”, “Live Life to the Full” and so on. The one “temporal” effect I can remember from my own experience is when you are being told you have cancer – everything goes in slo-mo. I think a few people mentioned this in the book too. Your hearing goes fuzzy because you’ve had a big shock. And yes, I guess the ‘inner monologue’ is rudely interrupted and you’re trying to understand WTF is going on! The story which really struck a chord with me was the one: “How do You Solve a Problem Like My Rear” – this guy Mark had a complete re-think about himself and others and mentioned a wellspring of empathy for others, which he didn’t perceive before the diagnosis. He had to get out of the big smoke because people are rude and pushy (quite right!) Quite a few Survivors mentioned working for Cancer Charities and on campaigns to raise awareness of the particular cancer they had. They all express a gratitude to be alive and really appreciating their lives and families a lot more, post-C.

      Back to me! Personally, I can only exist in a state of “now” for so long. So yes, I did feel at the time of diagnosis that only one thing mattered, to see my kids grow up. Nothing else mattered, now nearly 2 years on and I’m back worrying about the same ol’ sh*t! Funny! It’s a sign that I’m not worried about the cancer returning. Anyway, the kids have always been at the epicentre of our family and always will be – so it’s not as if I’m ignoring them or anything …. ha!

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