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Conversing with Cancer

How to Ask Questions, Find and Share Information, and Make the Best Decisions


Lisa Sparks and Anna Leahy

With more than 40% of people eventually facing a cancer diagnosis, Conversing with Cancer is a much-needed addition to understanding and improving cancer care through strong communication among providers, patients, and caregivers. Each person whose life is affected by a cancer diagnosis—patient, healthcare provider, caregiver—has information and needs information in order to make the best decisions possible under the circumstances. After studying and writing about the topics of communication and cancer for many years separately, authors Lisa Sparks and Anna Leahy combine their expertise in this new tour de force. Here, they apply principles from the field of health communication to the cancer care experience, drawing from a wide range of scholarship to offer a comprehensive view of cancer care communication and extend existing work into new insights. Engaging chapters cover all phases of the journey through cancer, from prevention to recovery or end-of-life; analyze the roles of the variety of cultural and social identities and relationships; and explore written, verbal, non-verbal, and electronic communication. In addition, this book draws from the real-life stories of cancer patients themselves to enrich the book’s unique discussions and to better understand how theory can be put into practice. Conversing with Cancer is ideal for use in health communication classes, medical and nursing programs, and formal caregiver training. In addition, it is useful for cancer patient and caregiver supports groups and for individual providers, patients, and caregivers.

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We extend sincere thanks and acknowledgement to Howie Giles, a strong mentor in the field of communication. We also acknowledge the many at Peter Lang for making this book and the Language as Social Action series happen. We are truly grateful for this opportunity to contribute to the ongoing conversation about health communication and cancer care and to make a difference in the lives of patients and their families.

Sincere thanks to Chapman University undergraduate students Shoshanna Feld-Sobol and Brooke Grogan. Also, thanks to graduate students Mike Gravagno, Samantha Mountjoy, Mackenzie Bates, Alysia Hendry, and Devin Valasco for the many ways they helped shape this book, especially the penultimate chapter and the glossary. Also, thanks to Mary Cantrell, Brigid Leahy, Paulette Livers, and Patricia Grace King for their editorial acumen and suggestions as we drafted early chapters. Finally, to those many individuals who have written about their experiences in their own books and blogs and, in some cases, in personal exchanges with us, we are grateful to be able to talk about their stories in Conversing with Cancer.

Each chapter begins with an epigraph drawn from a poem. We thank the authors for their permission (with all rights reserved) to include an excerpt or whole poem, as space and topic allowed:←9 | 10→

“at the doctor’s” by Ivy Alvarez, Mortal. Washington, DC: Red Morning Press, 2006. Reprinted by permission of the author.

“Triolet on Beating the Odds” by permission of...

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