Beyond Survival: A Patient's Guide to Managing Complication of Colorectal Cancer

Reviewed By: Lori Harmer, RN, MSN, CRNP
The Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania
Last Modified: December 20, 2011

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Beyond SurvivalAuthor: Robert Sieben, MD
Publisher: Bay Tree Publishing, 2011
Price: $19.95 US
ISBN: 0983617929
OncoLink Rating: 1 Star

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This book is basically organized into three major sections. The first being a narrative from the author, the second section being a breakdown for the layman of colorectal cancer and potential side effects, and the third a list of helpful resources.

The first section of the book, which accounts for more than half of the book, was a very raw description of the author's experience from diagnosis to surviving colorectal cancer. At times it was difficult to read, as many of the potential side effects from colorectal cancer and treatment are often not pleasant. As his colleague Dr. Eli Eli Glatstein states in the forward, "His story is frequently painful to read because he pulls no punches." Although sometimes not easy to read, it bring light to a difficult topic; some of the unpleasant side effects of colorectal cancer and long-term side effects after treatment. Despite some of the terrible side effects that Sieben experienced, he continues to talk about his determination to survive. I think that this is the take away message from his narrative.

The second section of this book breaks down colorectal cancer and potential side effects of treatment for the layman. Dr. Sieben is very thoughtful in breaking this section down into important topics:

  • Telling your family and friends about diagnosis
  • Breaking down the definition of colorectal cancer
  • Importance of early screening
  • Treatment options
  • Common Side effects such as fecal incontinence, urinary incontinence and offers some solutions to help live with these conditions.

Lastly the book ends with a resource guide of other publications and resources that exist for survivors of colorectal cancer.

I recommend this book to both patients and healthcare providers. I think this book has value for patients. Despite some very debilitating side effects, Dr. Sieben shows by example that you can survive and that there are solutions to the difficult problems he faced. While I don't always agree with every technique he used to solve problems, his take home message was clear. He was not going to let the diagnosis or residual side effects after cancer treatment take away living his life.

As a heath care provider, it reminds me of some of the issues a patient with a diagnosis of colorectal cancer may encounter. It also reminds me to ask some difficult questions. It is not easy for patients to bring up certain subjects, such as fecal incontinence, urinary incontinence or sexual dysfunction. By opening the dialogue, we can help solve these problems together.


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