February 26, 2023

Cancer Makes Me Feel Like A Twit


Superficial Twit

There have been times throughout cancer where I have the intellectual capacity of a three-year-old and my attention span is nil.  I’ve tired of reading mind numbing glossy mags, yet could not surmount a thick biography or engaging book of history if my life depended on it.  Is there hope for a young adult cancer patient beyond feeling like a superficial twit, glued to television and waiting room copies of People Magazine?  Yes.

Dixie Cups, AIDS, and Georgia O’keeffe

Letters of The Century 1900-1999 is the perfect book for tired, weak cancer patients who are devoid of short-term memory, but still yearn to get their intellect up.  Broken down by decades, the first few pages of each chapter runs a bulleted list of the major cultural, political, and economic events: “The Dixie Cup and electric toaster appear.”  “Vermont widow Ida May Fuller receives the first Social Security Check – for $22.54.”  “The space shuttle Challenger explodes 73 seconds after lift off, killing seven astronauts aboard.”  The meat of the chapters are comprised of letters that speak to the times of that decade:  Profound letters, love letter, irate letters, letters to the editor, apologies, friendships, governmental exchanges. Voices are as wide ranging as Booker T. Washington, Georgia O’Keeffe, Richard Nixon, and the mother of an AIDS patient.

Letters of The Century is a chunky book to tote to chemo, yet in paperback, well worth it. Keep it by your bedside to read slices of history while you are waiting for a wave of nausea to subside or for your Ativan to kick in.  It’s the kind of book you can read from beginning to end, or pick pages randomly.  Best of all, each letter is only about one-quarter of a page to two pages long. This is history made convenient.

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Do your cancer, chemo, or treatment side effects ever make you feel dumb as a stump?  Has cancer or other illness interrupted your reading habits?  What do you tend to read when you are sick?

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  1. Aftercancer Says:
    February 27th, 2009 at 3:58 PM

    Chemo kicked my brain to the curb for a while. I’ve been doing sudoku to try and keep the synapses firing. I recommend trashy chick lit for chemo even though I don’t think I stayed awake for one full treatment.

  2. anonymous Says:
    March 4th, 2009 at 10:55 PM

    i’d also suggest “the travel book”, printed by (i think) lonely planet. it has one page for each country on earth, filled with gorgeous pictures and facts. it’s engaging but not demanding. i’ll have to check out “letters of the century”- sounds like a good recommendation!

  3. Anita Says:
    March 7th, 2009 at 5:16 PM

    It may sound a little strange with all the fatigue, anemia, and nausea I’m experiencing now, but loosing my ability to concentrate, read, hold a thought for more than 2 seconds is probably the aspect that tends to depress me the most. As a PhD student, there is often that voice in the back of my head asking if I’ll ever be smart again. Thanks for the book recommendation; I’ll have to check it out.

    I just also wanted you to know who much I loved your book. I reviewed it on my blog here: http://akellogg.blogspot.com/2009/03/book-review-everything-changes-insiders.html
    It really inspired me to want to become active in helping make sure undergrads and graduates students are able to keep their insurance. If you have any suggestion where would be a good place to start on this, I would be very appreciative.

    Thanks for you amazing talent and making a difference in my life.

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