I get so many cancer-related newsletters via email, and one of them has a regular feature on Fridays called "Our reads for the weekend." Now, every time I see that, I think, "Seriously, you want me to read about cancer all weekend? NO way!"
I don't want to read medical research, statistics, or anything else work related over the weekend. That's not to say I don't take work home with me. I often find I have no choice but to work on a few things here and there on my days off. But to willingly choose to use my leisure reading time that way? Not me.
Then I realized that even my so-called pleasure reading often has a common thread that does relate to my work. Having recently finished reading Death with Interruptions, I realized that there were many things in that book that smacked of the current healthcare crisis, end-of-life decisions, and how people plan for and view death and dying... This was my pleasure reading. Before that, I read The Elegance of the Hedgehog, a novel filled with philosophical musings, and again, issues of life and death.
I am an avid reader who doesn't always have time to read or write as much as I'd like. Cancer is one of those things that keeps me up at night and leaks into my life instead of staying pent up at work. No matter my intention of keeping work confined to work and home confined to home, there is always some overflow in each direction.
I did not realize, though, how easily cancer, specifically, can leak into quiet time. It reframes everything. I cannot imagine how cancer must reframe all things for those who are actually fighting it each day. Even when my book seems completely unrelated to cancer, I find myself making little analogies in my head, or having words from my latest book pop into my head in the middle of a session with a patient.
Even reading Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking (you wouldn't think it, but it's a very entertaining read), I find myself thinking which recipes would be good for patients in various stages of treatment, and appreciating the truth of her statement in the foreword, "Above all, have a good time."
The latest thing I read was a very short book called The Tale of the Unknown Island. It was about a man who asks a king to give him a boat so that he can find an unknown island. The king tells him there are no unknown islands, that they are all on maps already, to which the man replies that only known islands are on maps. The man did not even know how to sail, just figured he'd learn as he went. Was it about cancer? No. But it was about seeking, about a certain kind of determination to find happiness, and this determined man reminded me of so many patients I have had, determined to find their path.
While I read to escape, to relax, and just to expand my horizons, I find that somehow, I keep coming back to common themes. Of course, that doesn't mean that I am now going to give in and read medical stuff on my day off. I have to draw the line somewhere. What it does mean is that a good book doesn't just soothe our souls, but can in fact relate to what is important to us, and add new dimensions to those things that matter most.
So, what are you reading? Do you find that what you read as an oncology professional or patient has been reframed with this life experience?