Saturday, January 26, 2008

Five best books about the challenges of living with illness

Laura Landro, an assistant managing editor at the Wall Street Journal and its Informed Patient columnist, is the author of Survivor: Taking Control of Your Fight Against Cancer (1998). She named a five best list of "books about the challenges of living with illness" for her newspaper.

Number One on the list:
Death Be Not Proud
By John Gunther
Harper & Row, 1949

Journalist and novelist John Gunther's account of his 17-year-old son's battle with a brain tumor that ultimately took his life is as relevant today as it was when Gunther wrote it more than a half-century ago as "a tribute to the power, the wealth, the unconquerable beauty of the human spirit, will and soul." Though the surgeon who delivered the bad news was blunt -- "Your son has a malignant glioma and it will kill him" -- young Johnny's will to survive remained undimmed, as did his parents' determination to save him, trying even experimental treatments that included mustard gas and a macrobiotic-style diet. "Johnny loved life desperately and we loved Johnny desperately, and it was our duty to try everything and keep him alive as long as possible," Gunther writes. Behind Johnny's brave, energetic front, he was all too conscious of how little time he had to ace his high-school classes, to get into Harvard, to pursue a budding romance. His courage touched everyone around him; as one of his doctors wrote in a condolence letter after his death, "for such there must be an immortality which we who tinker at the body may guess at but not understand."

Read about the other books on Landro's list.

--Marshal Zeringue