Emotional Support Through Breast Cancer

The Alternative Handbook
Author: Dr Cordelia Galgut
* Highly Commended in the Popular Medicine category BMA Books Awards 2014 *
Reviews of my Handbook

Joy Ogden - Medical journalist and author of Understanding Breast Cancer (Wiley 2004), diagnosed 2002
"Hearing the diagnosis of 'breast cancer' is shocking and the emotional impact is often devastating. Dr Galgut is a practising counselling psychologist and knows this at first hand. In 2004, aged 49, she was diagnosed twice — once in each breast. Her book offers a different perspective from many others about the emotional effects. She gives practical tips on how to cope, with strategies to improve communications with families and friends and with health care professionals. She gives you permission to feel angry and fed up. She advises nearest and dearest not to say 'it's time to move on'. Eleven years ago I, too, was diagnosed with breast cancer and the book's enlightened comments and suggestions are very helpful and relevant to me still. I wish I'd had it by me then."

Rosa Lopez, diagnosed 2012
The truth on every page of this book is unlike any other book or material I had read about cancer. For the first time I realised that the way breast cancer had affected me was not unique. I was not crazy or even abnormal to feel the way I did… It should be available to every woman, to every friend, to everyone who cares. And it should be compulsory reading for every health professional who come in contact with cancer patients.

Lindsay Nicholson – Editor, Good Housekeeping
Tells the unspoken truth about what having breast cancer is really like.


Sarah Cordery – Healthcare professional, diagnosed 2010
Being both a woman who has experienced the trauma of living with breast cancer and also being a healthcare professional, I feel this book reflects both sides of the coin with great truthfulness and clarity. It was helpful to me to finally read a no holds barred account of what women really feel, especially once their treatment is over and life is often expected to ‘get back to normal’ when this is definitely not the case.  


Anne Dean – Healthcare professional, diagnosed 2001
This book reflects the reality that living with cancer is crap and it’s okay to feel that way. It’s a refreshing change from the nauseating positivity of all those sky-diving, marathon-running cancer survivors we usually hear about.


Louise Davies, diagnosed in 2011
I thoroughly recommend this book for breast cancer patients. It is easy to read, and can be read at any stage of a patient’s cancer journey. I would like to thank Dr Galgut for writing this unique and wonderful book and for helping so many people. ‘Cordelia brings a very special perspective to the experience of breast cancer –
both professional and personal. Without frightening women, she is honest about the challenge of treatment and, for me, more importantly, the mental battle to
face life post cancer.’


Johanna Coady
'This manual won't provide all the answers, but it will make sense of your feelings,
thoughts and emotions. Whatever stage you’re at dealing with breast cancer, this
manual offers support and understanding covering not only you but those close
around you. Written by Dr Cordelia Galgut, a professional and someone who has
personal experience, this manual is an honest account of the realism of dealing
with breast cancer. Having been diagnosed five years ago, reading this manual
helped me to realise that I'm not on my own.'


Mabel Robin, diagnosed 2011
I like the look of the book the cover is attractive plus it's not a large heavy book. The page layout is great and easy to read. It's good that you can go straight to just diagnosed section of the book. It's a very useful book for patients, carers, family and friends to read. It's a polite way of letting others know how you may feel especially the sections on myths and truths and the please don't on pages 58-59 It's a very honest and informative book written and complied by a doctor who has had breast cancer herself. I have reviewed many books on cancer and this book is the best one so far. I would recommend this book to be available to all breast cancer patients after they have been diagnosed. Sometimes it's difficult to know when/ what information should be given to patients I would have loved to have be given this book in my pack from my Specialist nurse after my surgery and before my radio therapy.


Jacqueline Haskell, breast cancer survivor
My own experience is that once my life was no longer directly threatened (for which I continue to be grateful) there was very little help in dealing with how to continue, how to get back into the 'real world' and family and friends expected me to pick up where I left off - which I didn't and couldn't and still can't four years on. This book recognises that and works on it. It helps people to know they are not alone in finding these issues perhaps more difficult than the immediate physical challenges. Two years on seems to be the bubbling point for many crises to throw up problems and this is no exception. I would like to see much more help for survivors on-going - after the 5 year mark even, when the ripple effects of cancer are still there. If I could only buy one book to help me out of all those I have reviewed, this would be it.


Lis Blyth – Health professional, diagnosed with breast cancer
Some health care professionals overlook the emotional aspects of breast cancer and patients in turn may not feel comfortable raising issues. Dr Galgut puts a lot of emphasis on ‘what is a normal feeling’ which is a lifeline for the reader. I have read lots of books on breast cancer but none have captured my attention as much as this one. It is written in such a sensitive, caring, compassionate manner and has certainly been ‘a comfort blanket’. I felt supported (something I lacked from hospital staff) and Dr Galgut covers every aspect of ‘emotion’. At long last, I have found someone who truly understands how I have been feeling. I thoroughly recommend this book for breast cancer patients. It is easy to read, and can be read at any stage of a patient’s cancer journey. I would like to thank Dr Galgut for writing this unique and wonderful book and for helping so many people.


Catherine Stubbs, Healthcare professional
 ‘A unique perspective of the psychological effects of breast cancer.’


Dr Iain Esslemont, Retired GP
In a chapter of the book Sick Doctors, published in 1973, written by an anonymous doctor, herself a breast cancer patient, the author said, “it is important that someone with sufficient psychological insight and ability to handle the patient’s depression and anger should be available in times of crisis.” Cordelia Galgut, a doctor of psychology, in this support manual, provides such an insight as well as sympathy and empathy, which is also necessary as part of understanding. As a retired general medical practitioner whose wife developed breast cancer, I now know better than most how terrifying breast cancer is. Still today, in 2013, the psychological impact of breast cancer is worse than the disease itself, which can be effectively treated today, in most cases. 

I therefore recommend this manual and consider that it would be useful reading for doctors, nurses, patients and, for that matter, anyone who meets and cares for breast cancer patients.


Frost Magazine, December 2013
Emotional Support through Breast Cancer has had glowing reviews and it is easy to see why. It has the tone of a good friend and the wisdom of a healthcare professional. 


Jane Saunders, Counselling and Bereavement Manager, Macmillan Midhurst
"Survivorship is a sadly neglected area of the cancer journey, and Cordelia addresses the subject in a forthright, honest and insightful way. Many patients feel cast adrift by the system following treatment without the support and skills to help them navigate the emotional impact that their illness has had on their lives. Cordelia puts into words what many women feel but are unable or discouraged from expressing, and I hope this will not only help them but also their families and friends who struggle to know how to help. The physical and emotional effects of cancer treatment can be long lasting and this needs to be more widely acknowledged and provided for than it is at present to enable women to begin to rebuild their lives"


Karen Wingfield, lead lymphoedema specialist, Dewi Sant Hospital, Pontypridd
Patients Diagnosed with primary breast cancer looking for perspectives on the emotional effect of the disease will find this handbook concise and easy to read. The author, a psychologist, provides advice from two viewpoints: healthcare professional and patient.

The myth-busting sections are informative and there are practical ideas to support patients. Some sections may also be useful for those with secondary disease. This book is a reminder for healthcare professionals working in breast cancer of the long-term emotional effects of the disease. From Cancer Nursing Practice Magazine


Private Practice, Autumn 2014


Susan Long - Cancer Support Specialist, Online Centre, Maggie’s
What I like about the book is that it gives an informed perspective into the emotional world of the woman with breast cancer..and some practical ideas to support her through the various stages of her cancer experience. Written by a psychologist, who has had breast cancer herself... it gives first­hand accounts and personal testimonies to help the reader identify with the emotions described.


It's an inexpensive book, which is good...but my only slight criticism are the blurry, somewhat repetitive photos used to illustrate it...however, the content is what people buying the book will be interested in, and that does not disappoint.


If you, a family member or a friend have recently been diagnosed with breast cancer, I can recommend this book. It also covers all stages of the breast cancer journey, and the immense emotional impact this may be having. Reading through the book should help acknowledge that the intensity of emotions felt are normal, and understandable. (I think women could also pass the book to their partners for an insight into the 'feelings' aspect of a breast cancer diagnosis).


As a former breast cancer nurse specialist, I would have liked to have this book on hand in our clinics, to help everyone have an understanding breast cancer's psychological impact...including my professional colleagues.


The following reviews are shared through Macmillan Cancer Support and are the personal views of people affected by cancer.


Breast cancer survivor (46-55) (November 2013)
I definitely recommend this book to others affected by breast cancer and it should be compulsory reading for all professionals involved with breast cancer. The author handles the topic very well; you can tell that she has personal experience by the language she uses. I like the fact that she has been there personally.


Living with breast cancer (46-55) (November 2013)
This book has really helpful explanations of how those with cancer and those around them are affected emotionally by the trauma of breast cancer. It will be useful from coping with the initial shock of diagnosis, through the emotional impact of treatment and side effects, to the longer-term implications of how your life is affected forever.


The "chapters" describe the range of normal thoughts and feelings that may arise at different stages, and the myths that perpetuate a sense of guilt and self-blame that we should be coping better and "getting back to normal" once treatment is finished. They also highlight how the reactions of those around us may make it harder to deal with our own internal struggle. The author acknowledges the huge impact of "unspoken agendas" on relationships, the difficulty in openly discussing how surgery and treatment can affect self-esteem, confidence, and sexuality. The concept of "multiple psychological shocks" with each new diagnosis and subsequent side effect or complication is also explored. Finally, the book discusses the enormous importance of dealing with health care professionals at a time when you may be in a state of shock and struggling to communicate. The need to be allowed to have a say as a joint partner over crucial treatment decisions is encouraged.


It is very easy to understand and follow; there is no difficult technical language and a glossary is not necessary. I did find the book slightly muddling, as there is no particular order to the topics. There are no chapters as such, but the contents page lists the main section headings and so it is possible to dip in and out of different topics without necessarily reading from cover to cover. The cover illustration is eye catching and the layout is attractive, with frequent speech bubbles containing personal testimonies and experiences. I like the very honest and affirming recommendations of the book by others in the opening pages.


This is a very helpful discussion of the emotional impact of breast cancer. I frequently found myself recounting in my mind my own similar experiences and then jotting down thoughts about why I had coped as I had, in my private life and in my professional life as a GP. The struggle to cope with others’ expectations, especially when returning to work, came flooding back to me; the impact on confidence, self-esteem and relationships; the shock and depersonalisation experienced at the point of diagnosis – I had forgotten how I was physically shivering when being told by the consultant that I had cancer. The wonderful, wonderful poem "Please don't..." beautifully captures what we may wish we could say to others but don't.


In many ways, this book was cathartic and a chance to reflect on what I have been through and am still experiencing; it was helpful to realise that I am not alone.


Breast cancer survivor (36-45) (December 2013)
This book could have been about me. It mentions every emotion that I felt from diagnosis to the end of treatment and describes them very well. It’s nice to know that I am not alone and it made me feel a bit more positive about my future.


Living with breast cancer (36-45) (November 2013)
This is a wonderful book and addresses everything that I felt – and continue to feel – since diagnosis. I wish it had been available when I was first diagnosed or just after completing intensive treatment!


It gives a brief insight into the minds of people going through breast cancer and will be useful for patients, carers, family, and health professionals. It is perfect for just after diagnosis but also at any point on the breast cancer journey (even years on, because the need for emotional support never fades). The author is not only a psychiatrist but has also had treatment for breast cancer and this lends additional weight to the content.


The topics flow well and the book is written to appeal to everyone – brief, succinct and easy to follow and understand. It is the perfect length for patients who have just been diagnosed (and carers, friends and family); it is all too easy to be overwhelmed when you are trying to get your head around such life-changing news. The design is very attractive – although very feminine in terms of style, so I am not sure how male breast cancer patients and survivors would feel about it. The font and graphics are visually pleasing and easy on the eye. The book is printed on good quality paper and is of the perfect size and weight to pop into a small handbag or large pocket for easy reference or as a pick-me-up. The illustrations are well placed and I appreciated the use of quote boxes and speech bubbles when referring to myths and truths.


Every breast cancer patient would benefit from this brilliant book at, or soon after, diagnosis. It is a gem and offers golden nuggets of information for those needing emotional support (patients, carers, families and friends) after a diagnosis of breast cancer. I read it a few days after my aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer and the first thing I did was order her a copy; she also found it very helpful and informative.


Breast cancer survivor (66-75) (November 2013)
I recommend this very useful book. It approaches how people react to their emotions and anyone who reads it will have seen their own reactions at some point. I like the practical tip (p.54) that ends the section "Am I to blame?" and also the short section "It’s not your fault" (p. 63). I am fed up with people saying that healthy living will prevent breast cancer or any cancer. Many people who live healthily and exercise still get cancer, and those who abuse their bodies do not. There is also good advice on taking someone with you to appointments; many professionals don't realise how helpful this is, they say "I'd manage" and don't realise the impact that a diagnosis of cancer has. Last, but not least, I like the poem (p.58); I have read this out at training sessions with effect, adding a few lines of my own.


Breast cancer patient (66-75) (June 2014)
This is a great book and a useful read for anyone who would like to know more about breast cancer. It is easy to understand with detailed explanations that are easy to follow. The format (slim paperback) means it is not too heavy to hold.


Breast cancer patient (66-75) (October 2013)
This book will be of great benefit to those newly diagnosed, those who have undergone treatment and those in remission. Relatives and carers will also find it helpful in understanding why a patient needs emotional support throughout their journey. The author covers every aspect of emotional support and the need fo it.


The book generally flows well (although the chapter "Just diagnosed" would be more beneficial at the beginning) and it is very easy to understand. The author writes with great sensitivity and understanding, as a professional and as a breast cancer patient. She writes in a very reassuring manner that should help readers immensely. The book is an ideal size to carry around and can be picked up and read easily. The paper is a good quality and the layout is excellent.


I especially liked the quotes from cancer patients and the photographs are good. The author genuinely allows readers to understand that their feelings are normal and not to feel guilty or ashamed of expressing them. She is aware of the need to take time to feel the fear, grief and loneliness and that recovery from cancer is not just about the body but about healing the mind as well.


A book on "emotional support" is necessary for all cancer patients. Although some hospital staff offer such support, sadly, due to pressure of work and a lack of training, it is often lacking. I whole-heartedly recommend this book. I will certainly be recommending it to friends with breast cancer and I like to think that hospital staff and GPs will read it. The author should be congratulated on writing this book and for raising awareness of the need for emotional support.


Living with breast cancer (56-65) (November 2013)
This is the best book that I have read so far. It is most useful for those who have just been diagnosed but also very useful for carers or relatives to understand just how the patient may be feeling after treatment has finished, and that there may be long-term side effects. Just because treatment has finished does not mean that the patient will not have emotional and physical problems. It is a good book to leave on your coffee table for others to read; it will perhaps get across the message about how the patient may be feeling and change the views of those supporting the patient.


The content is set out in a logical order (the author advises newly diagnosed patients to read the ‘Just diagnosed’ section at the end first) and is very easy to read. The information is very helpful and informative and not too technical. It is a slim book and not too heavy. I read it in one day – it’s one of those that you can't put down until you finish. The general layout is good and the content is written well in layman’s language and is very easy to understand.


I hope that this book may help people to understand just how long the breast cancer journey can be. The effects can go on for years after treatment. I am keen to pass it on to as many people as possible and I have already given it to someone who has just been diagnosed. It is very useful and I definitely recommend it.


Breast cancer survivor (46-55) (December 2013)
The quotation on the front ("Tells the unspoken truth about what having breast cancer is really like") sums up this book. One of the most difficult and unexpected aspects of breast cancer is its emotional impact. When you are diagnosed and have treatment, you have all sorts of emotions that you may not have anticipated, and that are perhaps more extreme than you have experienced to date. This book makes you feel normal for having this emotional upheaval and for having had worries about your feelings and reactions. It is very reassuring and helpful and will be useful from diagnosis onwards for both patient and carer.


The key message is strong: there is no right or wrong way to get through breast cancer, it is hard but everyone finds his or her own way through, it's OK to feel depressed or scared. This is supportive and the book acknowledges that health professionals can often appear unsympathetic, and how not to worry about this. It also touches upon more difficult aspects, such as worries about death and how to deal with people who you find are not helpful to you – again not usually covered by medical teams. It could talk more about the use of humour as a way that some of us deal with emotions, rather than the more negative emotional reactions.


It is very easy to understand – the author writes in an easy style, as if she is talking directly to you. However, the section called "Just diagnosed" would be better at the beginning. The design (feminine graphic motifs, photos and speech bubbles) underplays or belies the excellent content. It looks a bit homemade and the photos don't add much. This lets down the excellent advice.


The emotional impact of breast cancer can be unexpected; this book will help carers or partners to understand what the patient is going through and give them a better understanding of how they might help. I like the fact that it is written by someone who has had breast cancer, who knows what it's like. She has used her professional training and expertise to help others deal with some of the issues that are not covered in any depth in literature given to you by healthcare professionals.


The excellent content gets five stars, but I would like the book redesigned and slightly reordered! I am not sure why it's called "the alternative handbook", this is "core text".


Breast cancer survivor (46-55) (December 2013)
This book would be suitable for patients from diagnosis, through treatment, to beyond. It gives the patient permission to feel all the feelings they do and this is why it is also perfect for family or carers, who sometimes see these feelings as negative and not fighting the disease. Patients need reassurance that they are allowed to feel negative and have the "why me" feelings when they are being told by those around them to be brave and fight. This book will show people that the patient’s feelings are normal and that once treatment is over the fight continues; you don’t want to be told "you are over it and are fine so move on”!


This book should be offered to everyone so that they can understand the process and help the patient to feel less anxious and in control of their feelings.


Living with breast cancer, 18 months post surgery (46-55) (January 2014)
I was apprehensive about reviewing this book; I was worried it would be another “pull yourself together and get on with it” speech. It isn't. It's brilliant, refreshing, inspirational, as if someone has turned on a torch to guide you through the woods. It’s about emotional support and particularly the longer-term aspects of diagnosis and treatment; just because treatment has finished doesn’t mean you can forget it all.


The author, a psychologist, gives great insight into the emotions and feelings that accompany diagnosis, treatment and afterwards. But better than that, she has been on that journey herself, so, as well as the theory, she writes from experience and quotes others too. She is clear that this isn't an advice manual but suggestions and ideas, and stresses "only you can decide how to think and feel about breast cancer".


I like the author’s style; she creates empathy and understanding straight away, and you almost feel like she is there talking to you. Once I started reading, I couldn't put it down; it is so informative and enlightening. It is small and light enough to hold easily, on quality paper with a really clear typeface. It is well thought out and the sections are logical and flow well; it's also easy to locate a particular topic. Bold and italics are used for different sections, and pictures and speech bubbles to highlight comments.


I wish I had seen this brilliant book before I started my cancer journey, it would have been a huge help. I definitely recommend it to anyone touched by breast cancer, and to family, friends, colleagues, support workers, journalists – anyone who thinks they know what it’s like and makes unhelpful comments. It is hugely valuable now – some "friends" think it's finished with now. If I'm having a bad day, I will read a bit to calm me down and make me focus on the positive. I would love everyone to have a copy.


Living after breast cancer (56-65) (February 2014)
I read this book two years after treatment but one year after reconstruction. It would have been useful at any stage but this was a good time to read it. I had been feeling so much of what is described, the realisation that cancer is with you for the rest of your life, not physically but emotionally. Life is back to a sort of normal and those close to me, who had given such good support, assume everything is ok, but it will never be. I am irrevocably changed but don't want to bore people by talking about it.


It is a very easy read, relevant, concise, and supportive, and a book that you can dip in and out of. I like the cover, the paragraph spacing is good and other women’s' experiences are well signposted. The picture of an older man next to some of the myths is rather stereotypical and unnecessary. I didn't agree with the oft repeated fear of dying; I'm sure people do fear this but it was not my experience. I was quite certain that the health professionals would do their best and the treatment would be successful. It has been, but of course I have to accept the cancer may return.


I'm sure anyone affected by breast cancer, or indeed any cancer, will find something for them here. It gives permission to feel emotional when one's instinctive reaction is bottle it up and get on with life as best one can. A book to re-read especially if feeling down and alone.


Living with breast cancer (46-55) (October 2013)
This book is particularly useful for people who have had breast cancer themselves or who have experience of a loved one being diagnosed. I found it very helpful to read that many of my feelings were experienced by other women in my position. It would be good for family and friends as it would give an insight into the emotional impact of this disease. I've felt quite anxious and emotional since I finished treatment and, although I try hard not to be negative, it is difficult not to think about my mortality. This often upsets others who want me to think positively, but it is a bit like telling a depressed person to cheer up – if they could, they would. It is reassuring that others felt the same way.


It is a small book and fitted in my handbag, which is really useful. You can dip in and out of it if that suits better than reading all the way through. It is very easy to read and understand. There is nothing technical or difficult to take in. However, I can't say I fully understood some of the mental exercises described by the psychologist. I also don't really understand why the 'diagnosis' section is at the end of the book – the logical place to me is the beginning because that is where the breast cancer journey begins. I'm sure the author has her reasons but I just didn't get it. The photos of people are a bit pointless; I wasn't sure who they were.


The main value of the book is the shared experiences and I like the sections with other people's stories and their feelings. It is reassuring to know you are not alone in how you feel about having breast cancer. To know that others have reacted in the same way has helped – maybe I’m not going mad after all. It is very useful in offering emotional support. It reassures the reader that it is ok to feel the way they do about having experienced cancer. I think it would give a good insight to their loved ones. It isn't always easy to talk to loved ones about how you feel because you have to be sensitive to their feelings.


 I found this book very helpful. I was diagnosed a year ago and finished my treatment in the summer. I am now back at work and trying to get back to 'normal', but I now don't know what that is. I have been feeling that my life has changed forever, but that I should just be grateful that the cancer was caught early enough and has been dealt with. People expect you to move on and I do want to but you never quite know that it has gone for sure, or that it isn't coming back – it feels like something is hanging over you all the time. It might seem morose or self indulgent, but this book showed me that I am not the only one feeling this way after treatment. I should give myself more time to get over the shock of having breast cancer. I didn't really think of it in these terms before reading this book and I found that comforting.


Family and friends could benefit from reading this book to understand how it feels to have a breast cancer diagnosis. After all the focus on supporting me through the treatment, there is a tendency to think it is now over– but it is isn't over for me.


Breast cancer survivor (66-75) (October 2013)
This book is a 'keeper'. Anyone dealing with, or who knows anyone dealing with, the emotional impact of breast cancer, either newly diagnosed or post treatment, will find it useful. It is easy to read and understand, written with insight and clarity but without relying on psychobabble. I like the choppy, bitty style of the book, which makes it easy to dip in and out. When concentration is proving difficult, it is sometimes easier to take on board bite-sized chunks of information presented in this format. I especially liked the 'Myth Bubbles' and the 'Truth Bubbles' that are scattered throughout and which had particular resonance for me.


I like the practical and common sense approach and the emphasis on the fact that there is no 'normal', no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to deal with breast cancer. There are some useful exercises, (life affirming sentences to use, body scan exercise, and offloading exercise), which some may find useful.


I recommend this book for anyone at any stage after a cancer diagnosis.


Living with breast cancer survivor (56-65) (November 2013)
Anyone affected by breast cancer will find this book useful. Medical professionals can read it to feel what it is like to live with breast cancer. I hope it will help people to understand just how long a journey breast cancer can be – the effects can go on for years after initial surgery and treatment. Reading the ‘myths’ made me feel angry.


It isn’t too big or heavy and is laid out well. I like the short sections, brief explanations and the headings that allow you to find something on a topic that interests you most. I also like the stories from other people and the tips to help in difficult situations.


This book makes you feel that what you are experiencing is normal and helps you feel that you are not alone. It is good to read about and share emotions and feel that you are understood. I enjoyed it and think that it will help many people. Well done.


Breast cancer survivor (46-55) (November 2013)
This book is like a support group for people going through breast cancer. It is like a friend reassuring you that you are normal with normal emotions – very comforting. It offers much good advice for patients and those involved with them. It highlights many ongoing issues and how to address them and it will be useful in helping to have the discussion on the emotional aspects of the disease.


It is unique. Most of what we read is about treatment and how to deal with the issues that arise. This addresses the personal side of breast cancer, something that all people with breast cancer need help with. It lets you know that you are not alone and certainly not crazy. I like the way that the author discusses emotions post treatment as well. This is where I am now in my journey with breast cancer. I am often surprised at the emotions that crop up now and this book is a reassuring voice.


Breast cancer in remission (Over 75) (February 2014)
This lovely helpful book is full of affirming sentences. Diagnosis is a really horrible shock; for some much of this shock may linger on and it is most comforting to be told that the feelings are normal for many.


It is easy to understand, the language is appropriate and, though reasonably simple is in no way content free. There's no glossary but any slightly technical words are explained in the text. The cover deign is interesting and cheerful, the paper is good quality, and the book is generally well presented.


I like the permissive, upbeat tone, without any falsity. Two years into my journey, I was very upset for several months and thought I might be going mad. Here I find that there was no need for that. For those surprised and troubled by their emotional reaction to diagnosis, the emphasis on the normality of these feelings is very comforting and the (fairly few) exercises might be helpful. I definitely recommend it, possibly not immediately after diagnosis but say six to eight weeks after surgery.


This book is just the thing but it is a pity about the subtitle. 'Alternative' has a meaning not intended here, and it is never commented on in the book; this is a substantial mistake and but for this I would have given it five stars.


Living with the consequences of breast cancer (46-55) (October 2013)
This book gives an insight into various emotional experiences of breast cancer patients and those working in that environment. We constantly talk about individuality in terms of clinical disease but we don't always link that to the emotional impact. It covers all aspects of having breast cancer, allowing the reader to tap in to areas most relevant at a particular time and revisit as required.


Delayed shock is real, can be experienced at any stage, and should be taken seriously. Voicing thoughts and feelings of despair/shame/frustration/isolation as a normal and shared experience of the same kind strengthens that message. Everyone is different – there is no set pattern of moving forward and setbacks at various stages are normal and should not be confused as weakness. It does focus largely on primary breast cancer and mostly women. The author, being a psychologist/ counsellor tends to prefer that as the option of support; support groups can provide an equally good source of support but are not mentioned as an alternative option.


The capturing of core messages from individual experiences makes it an interesting read and I really like the format of topic followed by experiences, explanations, and practical hints. A decent sized font and layout makes the book easy to follow and understand. I like the cover image of a dark head representing the emotional impact; part of the cover illustration is used throughout the book giving it added interest.


This book can help patients come to terms with the diagnosis of breast cancer and also gives permission for some to seek help/support in a professional capacity and view that as normal. I would probably recommend it, but it will depend on the individual; in the wrong hands it could make the reader even more paranoid.


Breast cancer survivor (46-55) (January 2014)
This is groundbreaking in terms of addressing the aftermath of breast cancer. Once my life was no longer directly threatened (for which I continue to be grateful) there was very little help in dealing with how to continue, how to get back into the 'real world'; family and friends expected me to pick up where I left off, which I couldn't. This book recognises this. It helps people to know they are not alone in finding these issues perhaps more difficult than the immediate physical challenges. Two years on seems to be the bubbling point for many problems and this is no exception. If I could only buy one book to help me, out of those I have reviewed, this would be it.


Breast cancer survivor (36-45) (October 2013)
This book covers a broad number of emotions that may be felt by anyone touched by cancer in any way, so everyone could benefit in some way from different parts. It is useful for understanding that you're not alone in feeling the way that you do and that whatever you're feeling is normal; normal is something that you don't feel when you're fighting cancer, so to be able to grab hold of a little 'normality' is heart warming. The author is a patient and psychologist and it is very interesting to read about how reality shaped theory in her world.


It is a very easy read; I finished it in just two evenings. It is an attractive book; the paper and print are fine as are the font size and layout. My initial thought when I saw it was 'why is Medusa on the front cover?' then I realised it was flowers! I like the use of speech bubbles and the quick hits on common truths and falsehoods. I didn't notice any factual inaccuracies, this is far more about feelings and psychology and finding strategies to cope with them, strategies that work for you.


I like that it is real. The stories shared are all real people’s feelings and experiences, which is far more beneficial than theory. I also appreciated that the experiences shared are not focussed just on the person with cancer but also took into account how family, friends and health professionals feel and act and why they feel the way they do too. It is all about communicating honestly and openly with those around you and what a difference this can make. Some of the experiences resonated with mine but many did not. Your experience is personal; people shouldn't expect to find an accord with every piece of information and set their expectations appropriately.


The only thing I don’t like is the assumption that chemo follows surgery, not always the case. I had chemo then surgery. This can affect people differently – you are living with the knowledge that you have cancer inside you for six months or so. I actually took a positive from this – I could feel my lump shrinking, so I felt I was winning.


I have already shared this book with a colleague who is one year ahead of me in her treatment and I am certain it will help her too.


Dr Carmel Coulter - Consultant Clinical Oncologist
‘As an oncologist, I know that the emotional impact of breast cancer is often
devastating and Cordelia does not shy away from this. This book will help you to
understand your emotions and cope with them.’

  Site by Sue Medley at SynTax