By Pankhuri Kumar
Dealing with a terminal illness is very difficult for the person suffering from it, and their friends, family and other loved ones. Being aware of the fact that your life is going to come to an end, is not a knowledge that everyone can cope with. It is when we witness the challenges and hard times that people go through, that we realize the blessings of our own health and circumstances. And when we see the ones who are suffering, living out their lives with grace, strength and love – we indeed take inspiration from their powerful energy in the face of all odds. Reading books about illness and suffering may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Some of us are indeed more sensitive.
However, I believe reading such books is a worthy and a worthwhile exercise. Stories of struggle and courage lend us a different pair of glasses to see the world. We get immersed into the shoes of someone else, and sometimes, we get powerfully inspired. Below is a curated list of ten books, in which the main character is suffering from a terminal illness. This list contains a mixture of non-fiction and fiction books. We hope they give you a new perspective to look at the precious life.
1.) When Breath Becomes Air
This book is written by Paul Kalanithi who teaches us a whole new way of looking at life by giving us an insight on his first hand experience with a terminal illness. He was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer when he was just thirty-six years old. A neurosurgeon, his life turned upside down when he was transformed into a patient from a doctor at Stanford. He makes us wonder how coming face to face with one’s mortality changes nothing but then again everything. This book is a true reflection of how facing death can be very challenging and how from being a successful doctor you can be a patient struggling to live. It also talks about how a new father plans on nurturing a new life as his own life fades away.
2.) A Year to Live: How to Live This Year as If It Were Your Last
This book is unique in it’s own way and the writer Stephen Levine enlightens us on the importance of living each moment, each hour, each day to the fullest. He puts great emphasis on the fact that even though many of us like to either deny or laugh off the fact that we are all going to die someday, time is running out and there is a lot that we need to achieve in so little time. After conducting a year long experiment of thinking that he had only one year to live, he shares with us that preparing for death is the most rational thing to do. It helps you deal with unfinished business and cherish life so that later you don’t feel that the ultimate moment came too soon.
3.) The Fault in our Stars
This is one of the most heart touching books and the writer John Green will surely make you cry. It is about a girl, Hazel Grace who is just 16 years old but fights cancer really bravely. Her life completely changes when she meets Augustus Waters in her cancer support group. She is glad to discover how well Gus understands her and how they have similar tastes when it comes to their love for books. It describes how even after knowing in advance about their illnesses, nothing stops them from believing and living their lives passionately. The book portrays the grief of the parents and also how nothing comes in the way of true love.
4.) The Memory Book
The author, Lara Avery has written a book about a girl Sammie who always has a plan. It is about how magnificently she is able to keep her life in control after getting to know about her rare genetic disorder. Due to this disorder, she will start forgetting things and therefore, she decides to write a book for her future self. She jots down all the memories from the minutest detail of her first date to how she blames herself for the fight she had with her childhood best friend. It is commendable how nothing stands in her way and she is able to love life amidst all the turmoil.
5.) Man’s Search for Meaning
This book is written by Viktor Frankl and it describes how one cannot avoid suffering but can still keep life going by choosing to cope with it and finding something meaningful in it. His lessons about survival are based on his personal experiences, and the experiences of his fellow sufferers at Nazi death camps. He explains how the primary drive in life is discovering what it is that one finds meaningful. Victor Frankl survived all the four camps but lost his parents, brother and pregnant wife.
6.) Napkin Notes: Make Lunch Meaningful, Life Will Follow
This is a book written by Garth Callaghan to inspire parents to have stronger bonds with their children and connect with them. He was diagnosed with kidney cancer when his daughter, Emma was just 12 years old. Inspite of knowing how much time was left for him to live he took a determined decision to write down a napkin note for her daughter to find inside her lunchbox till the last day of her graduation. The notes conveyed love and words of wisdom.
7.) Until I Say Goodbye: A Book about Living
When the author, Susan Spencer Wendel turned forty-four she learned that she has (ALS)- Lou Gehrig’s disease and had only year left to live. The book tells us about how she decided to quit her job to take seven trips with the seven people that mattered to her the most. She spends an adventure filled year with her family visiting the Arctic circle, wearing her wedding dress for the last time, discovering her heritage, swimming with dolphins and many more pleasant activities. She finished the book on her iPhone typing each letter with her right thumb as the disease gradually destroyed the rest of the body.
8.) The End of Your Life Book Club
This book written by Will Schwalbe is a heart warming story of a son and his mother who is dying of cancer. It is inspiring to see their bond get stronger when they decide to form a book club. The mother has to spend most of her time waiting for her chemotherapy treatment and it is this time that they decide on utilizing by reading the same books and then have intimate discussions on the same. The books ranged anything from classic to spiritual and their passion for reading helps their relationship grow beautifully.
9.) The Art of Dying: The Only Book for Persons Facing their Own Death
This book is one of it’s kind and Patricia Weenolsen, the author has carefully taken all aspects of dealing with death into consideration. In her own encouraging way, she teaches you to resolve conflicts due to the early physical changes in appearance and also gives you the strength to bear the pain. Then she gives you practical solutions on how to tackle issues like loss of identity, loss of control and how to comfort your family. She has all the answers to the seldom discussed but universal troubles and knows exactly how to highlight the unimaginable positivity behind death and dying.
10.) Every Day I Fight
“When you die, it does not mean that you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and the manner in which you live.” – Stuart Scott, the author of this book.
In this book, he shares his story in which he battled with appendicular cancer, a rare disease. It is commendable to read about how the ESPN anchor never gave up his workout routines even when he had to spend most of his time in chemotherapies and countless surgeries. His narration is all about defying fate and becoming the epitome of courage and determination.
The most important thing to remember is that it doesn’t matter how long one lives but how one is able to make use of the time one has. It is unfortunate that people have to face such severe health conditions but it will be wonderful if they have the courage to overcome the fear and accomplish all that they ever desired. The options are just two, either waste the time thinking that you have less time to live or live as if there won’t be a tomorrow and become inspirations for your family and the world.
About the Author
Pankhuri Kumar is a student of Economics (Honours) at Hindu College, University of Delhi. She is a big believer in the power of positivity and plans to do her MBA in the future. In her free time, Pankhuri can be found checking out new places to eat and shop at.