In 2015, Gayle Leslie Henderson was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. Aiming to share her experience with other survivors, she has collected 14 of her essays on the spiritual, emotional, and practical aspects of this new reality in Living with Cancer.
Henderson gets it. She understands the confusion, loss of control, and exhaustion that comes from being tossed into an unfamiliar world of innumerable medical professionals, unpleasant treatments, and their lingering effects. These essays are meant to be read as the need arises.
In “Where Do You Find Your Courage?” she recounts how a lifelong phobia about needles disappeared when “I made an instant choice to make this process as easy as possible for everyone involved.” She details the ways “a certified oncological nutritionist is critical for us to have as a partner on our health team.” She explains how she uses the Ignatian “examen,” a form of meditation, “to create an ongoing conversation with God at any time of day or night.”
She also shares how she dove into a formal Bible study of 60 night classes, urging readers to consider if “there’s something you want to pursue that you can now focus on—something that will bring new life and energy to your world during treatment and recovery.” Fear, hope, music, pets, decluttering… she’s been there to provide coping strategies on every level.
Although her writing sometimes feels stiff, Henderson’s voice is a warm, confident, inspiring, and reassuring one to have on the terrifying journey of cancer treatment. While she converted to Catholicism after her diagnosis, she encourages strengthening one’s faith in whatever spiritual tradition is familiar and comfortable. She includes mandalas to encourage relaxation and creativity, as well as appendices of journaling prompts, checklists, and invaluable resources.
While the level of medical expertise and support she recounts may be unaffordable to many, her coping mechanisms of faith, gratitude, and active participation in treatment are available to anyone who opens this useful book.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.