Bookworm: ‘Healing’ – the book for dealing with cancer diagnosis

And a selection of Earth Day books for kids

Terri Schlichenmeyer
Columnist

“Healing: When a Nurse Becomes a Patient”

  • By Theresa Brown, RN
  • c. 2022, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
  • $27.95, 272 pages

Flip a coin and watch. No matter how it lands, it’s still the same coin but only half of it’s revealed. Front and back, in and out, there are always two sides to everything, though you may never see them both unless you look. You never experience both unless, as in “Healing” by Theresa Brown, RN, you have no other choice.

“Healing: When a Nurse Becomes a Patient” by Theresa Brown, RN.

She still doesn’t remember what she said to her family, to her children or to her husband. She’d told them that she’d been called back for scanning and another mammogram, but revealing the actual diagnosis, no. Theresa Brown can’t recall it.

One might think she’d be prepared for it. When she was 16, Brown had lumps removed from one breast and it wasn’t all that painful, as she remembered. She had several relatives who’d died from breast cancer years ago; her mother had cancer, too, but it was a different kind. This medical background had spurred Brown to become an oncology nurse, but no – even that’s not enough preparation if you’re a cancer nurse, now cancer patient.

“Healing: When a Nurse Becomes a Patient” author Theresa Brown, RN.

She wanted to take care of cancer patients right from the start, but learning the ropes wasn’t easy; the first ward she worked on was full of bullies and unhelpful colleagues. Later wards became easier places to learn, but she still labored under the problem of care-versus-cost, of patient-versus-profit. This unique point-of-view made her realize that medicine, as a whole, could do better.

That was especially obvious after her diagnosis.

It’s “cruel,” says Brown-the-patient, to make patients wait over a long weekend for their test results, or to make them wait weeks to determine a plan for care. It’s likewise important to maintain dignity during tests; to pay attention to pain; and to soothe fears, even if it’s with a few words and the most basic explanations.

It’s important to help a patient remember that they’re not just their cancer.

“I am grateful that treatment saved my life,” says Brown. “Sometimes I’m also frustrated at what it took away.”

If you’ve ever been in a hospital – and especially if you’ve ever had cancer – author Theresa Brown sings a song here that you’ve heard before. The difference is that “Healing” is actually, calmingly, quite lyrical.

Indeed, Brown’s words are very soothing; even when they’re filled with outrage for what she experienced as a patient, there’s a feeling of comfort, almost relief, to find her “Nurse Voice” here, the voice of authority that her position grants. And yet, the ubiquitous cancer patient swirl of decisions-tests-fear-helplessness is also loud and clear in this book, which lets readers know that this is for real. Pay attention: Brown also sneaks in love, and plenty of storminess into tales of her earliest career and what medical care looks like in America today.

This is the kind of book you want if you’re already on the cancer treatment treadmill, or if you’ve just stepped off. Hand it to your doctor, pass it to a nurse, the happy ending in “Healing” will make you flip.

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Earth Day books for kids from various publishers.

Earth Day books for kids

  • c. 2022, various publishers
  • $17.99-$18.99, various page counts

Mom’s always after you to clean your room. She always wants you to make your home a better place, starting right there. Sometimes, you wonder why and it’s probably because a clean room makes everything better. In a way, you’re safer when you live in clean surroundings, too, and that goes for the biggest home of all: The Earth. It’s true, so why not read about our planet and learn what you can do to keep it clean and healthy?

How would you like to be someone that the Earth can count on, in a pinch? In “Earth Friend Forever” by Molly Bloom, Marc Sanchez, and Sanden Toten, illustrated by Mike Orodan (Little, Brown, $17.99), the creators of the Science Podcast, “Brains On!” will show you how to be the buddy the planet needs most.

Like every good friendship, there’s some give and take when you’re pals with the Earth. You pick up litter, the planet gives you the ingredients for pizza. Nice trade, huh? Yep, but now there’s an emergency and it’s serious business. With this cute book, kids ages 4-to-7 will learn to be good stewards of the Earth, and they’ll be spurred to act in ways that are do-able for even the youngest kid.

Also, from the creators of “Brains On!” there’s “Road Trip Earth” by Molly Bloom, Marc Sanchez & Sanden Totten (Little, Brown $18.99).

Part adventure, part science, this book takes young readers around the planet and inside it, in bite-sized segments that teach them about the environment, but that also touch upon geology and geography, as well as climatology and light chemistry. But you shouldn’t for a minute think that this book is stuffy or unapproachable.

Imagine, for instance, a match-up between two large, famous bodies of water. Who would win? Learn, for example, what lives beneath your feet. Visit a cave, drop in on the desert, check out some “bizarre” creatures that live in weird places, know about snow and rocks, and then take a trip to outer space and see what’s up there. For science-minded kids, ages 9-to-14, or for young environmentalists who crave a bit of literary adventure, this book could be irresistible.

Young environmental warriors can be serious about their work, though, and if your child is one who’s laser-focused on the environment, you’ll want “Be the Change: Rob Greenfield’s Call to Kids – Making a Difference in a Messed-Up World” by Rob Greenfield and Antonia Banyard (Greystone Kids, $18.95).

Filled with jaw-dropping pictures; real statistics; solid, adult-caliber information; and ideas for being green, this book is perfect for kids 10 and up, especially if they’re keen on making their lives and your home as zero-waste as possible. Find it on shelves April 19.

If your child wants more information, or if these books don’t quite fit what you’re looking for, be sure to ask your favorite librarian or bookseller for help. They can instantly put their fingers on books that will help your kid help make this world a better place.

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The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. She has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. Terri lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books. Read past columns at marconews.com.