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home : readerswrite : yourstory March 26, 2017

The healing power of stories
by Camille Scheel


For nine full years breast cancer has been at the center of my story. At first it was curable, so I took all recommended measures, including surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Few breast cancer survivors understand that 30 percent will eventually experience metastasis - spread of the cancer beyond the breast to other organs, typically lung, liver, bone and brain.

When my breast cancer metastasized to my bones I was shocked. I thought my life was over. Metastatic Breast Cancer, also known as stage IV breast cancer, is incurable and requires constantly changing treatment to extend life.

Living with serious illness can make it difficult to move forward with the life I still have. Often it's the words of wise women who understand living with uncertainty that provide the comfort I seek. Here are a few of my favorite books for anyone experiencing a serious diagnosis.

"When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times," by Pema Chodron. One of the first books I read after my metastatic diagnosis, Chodron, a Buddhist nun, delivers insights that help me live in the present moment regardless of uncertainty that cancer continues to dish out.

"Close to the Bone: Life-Threatening Illness As a Soul Journey," by Jean Shinoda Bolen. This book helped me better understand why my body and spirit seemed disconnected from each other. Bolen's use of mythology from many cultures provides some surprising perspectives.

"Kitchen Table Wisdom: Stories That Heal," by Rachel Naomi Remen. These short, thoughtful, true stories are easily digested. Even when I had little energy or ability to concentrate, it held my interest, helping me gain insight one story at a time.

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My own book, "Camp Chemo: Postcards Home From Metastatic Breast Cancer," a first-person, real-time narrative, shares my experience from newly diagnosed with stage III curable breast cancer to stage IV incurable breast cancer, and all of the adventures in between.

Since publishing my book, many women have told me that my words have made them feel less alone. That made the lengthy process of writing a book well worth it.

Books are still my favorite way to experience stories, but given the constantly changing nature of cancer treatment, I've found some trusted online sources for stories and information on early stage and metastatic breast cancer, including Living Beyond Breast Cancer online at LBBC.org.

Camille Scheel is a breast cancer advocate, speaker and author. She lives in St. Paul.

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