Living with Cancer: A Practical Guide

Living with Cancer: A Practical Guide

Living with Cancer: A Practical Guide

Living with Cancer: A Practical Guide


In this essential guide, Dave Visel draws on expertise hard-won during his wife's battle with lymphoma. He provides an overview of the varieties of cancer and all the basic types of treatments available. Chapters dispel common myths associated with these treatments and provide tips on nutrition and physical fitness. Visel also moves beyond the hospital to provide information and strategies to help with the emotional, practical, and financial effects of a diagnosis. Cancer patients will find the tools they need to make well-informed decisions on questions ranging from the right time to tell coworkers to whether to travel for treatment. Because medical bankruptcies affect nearly two million Americans each year, Visel devotes several chapters to financial issues. He also addresses the effects of cancer on relationships, such as how to deal with a difficult parent or whether to reconcile with an estranged spouse. In addition, Living with Cancer provides a comprehensive overview of the most useful corporate, government, and non-profit resources available. Anyone looking for help in understanding the full range of personal, professional, and legal issues associated with cancer will welcome this book. As inspiring as it is informative, it is a survival guide in the truest sense.


Returning home after a wonderful winter holiday, my wife took what she thought was persistent flu to our family doctor. “Karen,” he told her, “I don’t like those swollen lymph glands in your neck. I think you need to be checked for lymphoma.”

When she told me, I presumed that lymphoma was worse than flu. I had no idea how much worse.

The Los Angeles basin in which we live houses the largest metropolitan area in the world, more than a thousand square miles of sprawl. Within it are some of the nation’s best-known cancer-treatment centers. Though we were both frightened by her lymphoma, we figured that the medical establishment would put an orderly process in place for us that would lead to treatment.

That’s exactly what happened. One referral led to another, a trail we followed without understanding— or question.

Our story begins in January 2000. A month later, a friend who had lost his wife to cancer about a year earlier asked us several pointed questions about Karen’s diagnosis, the selection of her medical team, and our general understanding of what was happening and why. I realize now that our answers revealed our poor support of the doctors who were trying to save Karen’s life.

The following Monday, our widowed friend, LJ, piled me into his car for a visit to one of the treatment centers his wife had used. In the car, he began a gentle explanation of what a cancer patient should know and do to optimize the work of an oncology team. He talked about resources such as cancer nonprofits, government agencies, patient-support groups, reference books, survivor hot lines, and Internet sites that might help us. He explained that some medical components of success, such as second opinions and optional testing, were our responsibility as much as the medical team’s. Perhaps most important, he helped me understand why I had to become an effective partner for my cancer-patient wife, and what that entailed.

By then we were pulling into the parking lot of the USC/Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, where he had arranged for me to meet several key members of the staff. This was my first introduction to world-class oncology, its facilities, and its amazing scientist-physicians.

Years have passed. There have been surprising and very fortunate turns— beyond anything we could have predicted. It may interest you to know that, despite the outstanding credentials of thousands of local doctors, despite the presence of some of the world’s most sophisticated cancer-research facilities, the lead oncologist on Karen’s team is 1,500 miles away. A department head . . .

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