Scoop Review of Books

Five Books that Helped Heal My Cancer

At the very basic level, cancer is your own cells attacking themselves. When I learned this after my own breast cancer diagnosis – early on – I felt like I’d been given a kind of power. I had a total belief that if my own body had created cancer, then surely I could reverse it. So I started reading…

Getting Well Again: The Bestselling Classic About The Simonton’s Revolutionary Lifesaving Self-Awareness Techniques
by Carl Simonton, Stephanie Matthews-Simonton and James L Creighton.

One of the books that most helped me to heal myself was Getting Well Again. The book is based on the Simonton’s experience with hundreds of patients at their Cancer Counselling and Research Centre, and introduces the scientific basis for the ‘will to live’.

The key idea in the book is the link between stress and illness, that emotions can cause illness. In this book the authors profile the typical ‘cancer personality’ – how an individual’s reaction to stress and other emotional factors can contribute to the onset and progress of cancer, and how positive expectations, self-awareness and self-care can contribute to survival.

Getting Well Again taught me how to recognise the gifts in my serious illness and offered techniques that (three years later) I am still using to discover my own emotional needs and take the opportunity to satisfy them.

by Louise Hay

Louise Hay believes that what we think about ourselves becomes the truth for us, that every thought we think is creating our future. She writes: “The body, like everything else in life, is a mirror of our inner thoughts and beliefs. Every cell within your body responds to every single thought you think and every word you speak.”

You Can Heal Your Life lists Probable Mental Patterns that create illnesses in the body as well as the New Thought Patterns or Affirmations to be used to create health. For instance, the lungs represent our capacity to take in and give out life. The heart, of course, represents love.

But the breasts – according to Hay – represent the mothering principle. “If cancer is involved, there is also deep resentment.” I had read this book prior to discovering my left breast harboured a Grade 3 infiltrating ductal carcinoma, but I re-read it following my diagnosis and I still refer to it, and the exercises it contains, regularly.

You Can Heal Your Life was originally published in the 1980’s, but in 2007 Hay released a DVD of the same name. Her works have been translated into 29 different languages in 35 countries throughout the world.

Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness
by John Kabat-Zinn

John Kabat-Zinn is the man who made meditation a daily practice for me. He is also the founder and director of the stress reduction programme at the University of Massachusetts Medical Centre.

Long before I ever heard of ‘mindfulness meditation’, I’d tried TM, the transcendental meditation made famous in the 1960s by the Beatles. I’d also tried various chakra opening exercises and different kinds of relaxation yoga.

But after I was diagnosed with cancer and realised stress-reduction would be a key step on the path back to full health, I discovered Full Catastrophe Living. “When we use the word healing to describe the experiences of people in the stress clinic, what we mean above all is that they are undergoing a profound transformation of view,” Kabat-Zinn writes. “Out of this shift in perspective comes an ability to act with greater balance and inner security in the world.”

Both the book, and the programmes at Massachusetts focus on mindfulness, a concept that involves living in the moment, paying attention, and being rather than doing.

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to travel to Massachusetts – where 16,000 programme graduates report that they are coping more effectively with both short- and long-term stress, enjoying greater self-respect, energy, and enthusiasm for life, as well as lasting improvements in physical and psychological well-being – so I did the next best thing. I read this book from cover to cover and bought Kabat-Zinn’s four CD-set. I’m addicted to the sound of his voice during my 45 minute Body-Scan meditation.

(“The full catastrophe” is the name Zorba the Greek gave to the bump, grind and sometimes stressful richness of daily life.)

by Richard Beliveau PhD and Denis Gingras PhD

Yes, this is a recipe book. It’s the companion to Foods that Fight Cancer, the book that kick-started a revolution in our understanding of the cancer-fighting properties of food. Now we know the value of green tea, dark chocolate and red wine, how can we incorporate these foods into our daily diet in practical and creative ways? asks the blurb on the back of this full colour coffee-table book.

Cooking With Foods That Fight Cancer showed me how! It features 160 specially-created recipes (all from top restaurant chefs) from quick one-pot family meals to more impressive dishes for entertaining.

“Around one third of all cancers are directly linked to poor diet, generally characterised by a lack of foods of plant origin,” write the authors early on in the book. They then move onto the food types, and the understanding that mushrooms, garlic, berries, seaweed, flaxseed, soy, tomatoes and citrus contained cancer fighting properties gave me hope that my anti-cancer lifestyle wouldn’t have to be tasteless.

The final third of the book is recipes, carefully grouped according to type of meal (appetiser, snacks, mains, salads, soups etc) with specific instructions to make delicious meals, including estimated preparation time and an indication of the ease or diffulty of each dish.

by Eckhart Tolle

I was an Eckhart Tolle fan long before Oprah, although I admit I’ve listened to most of the podcasts of Oprah’s much-hyped, Skype-sponsored sessions with the German-born spiritual author about his most recent book A New Earth – Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose.

I’ve also read Tolle’s fabulous first book about living in the moment, The Power Of Now, but it was Stillness Speaks that was most useful to me during the months of my treatment for breast cancer in 2005.

This is a small book and my copy is now severely battered from time buried deep in various handbags. Tolle invites us to sontemplate the spiritual truths which come through embracing silence and stillness. I carried it everywhere for more than half a year, opening it at random pages whenever I felt low.

Stillness Speaks is a collection of 200 concise and illuminating entries, arranged into twelve reflective themes. Three favourites:

Surrender comes when you no longer ask, “Why is this happening to me?”

Whatever you accept completely will take you to peace, including the acceptance that you cannot accept, that you are in resistance.

Feel the energy of your inner body. Immediately mental noise slows down or ceases. Feel it in your hands, your feet, your abdomen, and your chest. Feel the life that you are, the life that animates the body. The body then becomes a doorway, so to speak, into a deeper sense of aliveness underneath the fluctuating emotions and underneath your thinking.


  1. Molly, 28. December 2008, 15:55

    “Stillness Speaks” is a great book. It’s a nice one to read and come back to. I first found it at, which is a site that carries large print books. Really useful if you’re looking for them.

    Have you read “Healing Myths. Healing Magic”? It’s really good too and talks about all the assumptions we have about the causes of sickness and what wellness is. It has a lot to do with the power of the mind and preconceived notions, and how these things can help or hinder our healing.

  2. Maggie, 31. December 2008, 16:39

    Thanks for this list. I’m not dealing with cancer, but diabetes and heart disease and am feeling that there’s got to be a way to reverse it all. One book I’ve used that’s not on your list is Truth Heals by Deborah King. I found a lot of helpful advice and information on how to release all of the feelings of denial, fear, and anger that had built up in order to begin the healing process for both my mind and body.

  3. Scott, 6. January 2009, 11:34

    I am sorry that Kathy McVey has suffered the trauma of breast cancer. My mother had the disease some years ago, so I have at least a little appreciation of what a devastating experience it can be, and how long recovery can take.

    Doctors nowadays agree that diet and environment can play a role in causing and possibly countering many cancers, so a book like Cooking with Foods that Fight Cancer might well be valuable. But I think that some of the other books that Kathy recommends are not only useless in the fight against cancer, but actively injurious to many of their readers. I’ll focus my criticism on Louise Hay’s You Can Heal Your Life, because it is a book which I have had the misfortune to read it from cover to cover.

    Hay is an advocate of the fashionable New Age theory that each human being is a sort of little God with the power to will whatever it wants into existence. One manifestation of this theory is the pseudo-physics made popular by the movie What the Bleep Do We Know?, which claims that humans have the power to walk on water, if only they believe in that power; another is the ‘law of attraction’ promoted by Oprah Winfrey and others, which claims that the way to get wealthy is to close one’s eyes and think hard about money.

    This sort of New Age thinking often pretends to be timeless and deep, but it is actually a particularly crass example of the ideology of American capitalism. The good old American belief that every individual is responsible for his or her own (mis)fortunes is combined with a mystical view of wealth and health which owes a great deal to the mysterious way in which money circulates and wealth accumulates in the era of globalisation and fictitious capital.

    Louise Hay has no medical training, but she has made large sums of money over the years by ‘diagnosing’ a wide range of illnesses as the consequences of the bad behaviour and ‘negative attitudes’ of the people unfortunate enough to suffer those illnesses. Hay rejects all forms of conventional medical treatment, and advocates curing illness by ‘thinking positively’ and reciting strange pseudo-prayers to vaguely defined New Age Gods and Goddesses.

    The centrepiece of You Can Heal Your Life is a bizarre table of illnesses and their supposed causes, which Hay’s devotees are supposed to refer to before they ‘treat’ themselves. Hay’s ‘explanations’ for the various illnesses she lists are so hokey that they would make many readers laugh: she diagnoses hearing loss, for example, as the result of a failure to listen carefully to what others are saying. Other diagnoses are more sinister: Hay surely does no good when she reiterates the old lie that some types of cancers are the result of irritability and excessive self-regard.

    I am pleased that Kathy found Hay’s book helpful, but I think that many sick people would find the notion that they are responsible for their illness both offensive and hurtful.

    The notion that positive thinking is a panacea for all illnesses is equally injurious: often cancer patients, in particular, find it very stressful to be told that they are responsible for the outcome of their treatments, and that the anxiety and depression they often understandably feel is somehow a ‘wrong’ response to their situation. There is now very strong evidence to show that a patients’ attitudes to illnesses like cancer make little difference to their treatment outcomes, and this will come as a relief to many of us.

    Perhaps the most despicable part of Hay’s book is its recommendation that sufferers of serious illnesses like cancer throw away their medicine, and rely instead on the power of positive thinking and kooky incantations. Hay’s books have had hundreds of thousands of readers over the years; if even a few of them have taken at her word, then she is probably responsible for the unnecessary deaths of some sick and confused people who turned to the wrong person for help.

  4. Richard Quinn, 7. January 2009, 19:20

    Ah, thank you so much, Scott. My lifespan is now being counted in months. Metastasised prostate cancer, which was asymptomatic until it was incurable. I was livid at the original post, but felt that it just had far too much rubbish in it for me to be able to properly critique. Fatigue rules. Offensive to sick people it most certainly is. Do babies born with cancer ‘deserve’ it? Hmm.

    What I have found helpful in terms of self-healing is the following:

    Choose a busy, well-lit intersection at midnight on a full moon. Strip your clothes off, fondle your private parts suggestively, then dance widdershins seven times around a chamber pot, whilst biting the heads off toads and swallowing them, singing ‘He we go loopy-loo’, whilst concurrently pouring Lourdes water over one’s head.

    You will soon attract a gaggle of policeman with a very great professional interest in your ‘health’.

  5. Keri Hulme, 11. January 2009, 23:50

    Kia ora korua Scott, Richard: towards the end of 2007 one of my younger siblings died of cancer. She, like the rest of her family, was not religious, but did rely on self-help type books – initially. She found the Hayes book especially useless, misinformational, given to guilt-tripping…towards her end, she relied on music & family presence.

  6. Kathy McVey, 12. January 2009, 15:33

    Thank you all for your comments…

    I’m sorry if I offended you Scott, and my intention wasn’t to announce any ‘responsibility’ for my own illness, (or to suggest that others should do that) rather to demonstrate that – for me – cancer provided the opportunity to start taking responsibility for my own wellness. I had previously enjoyed a purely intellectual interest in all things mind-body, and my experience of cancer and its associated treatments meant I was able to put into practice what I had until then only considered.

    Whether Hay’s list of diagnoses and healing affirmations are correct or not, from my own experience I now have faith that my thoughts and emotions impact at the cell-level on the health of my physical body. And that faith has given me a kind of power and commitment that I’ve been using to remain well.

    I did not intend that the books I’ve reviewed are perfect for everyone, only that they were helpful – to me – as I began my own process back to full health. FYI – in addition to reading self-help and nutritional information texts I also worked weekly with a mind-body specialist, NLP-trained – rather than a ‘positive thinking’ specialist.

    The cancer journey is not one that I recommend, and yet, like eeverything, it brought its gifts – for me – as well. I feel so grateful to have been blessed by friends and family members who allowed me to choose my own path, and supported me even when they could not understand my choices, and even when they could not bear to read Louise Hay or Deepak Chopra or Eckhart Tolle etc.

  7. Richard Quinn, 12. January 2009, 17:55

    Kia ora, Kathy, Scott and Keri.

    I really hesitate to give advice to anyone suffering serious illness, because we all react in our own way. But what I’m consciously doing now is writing a book of my life. That is: I am trying to live – and die – as I choose, within the parameters that the illness itself sets – and some of those parameters turn out to be much more flexible than one might think, too.

    In essence, what I’m saying is this: write your own life and choose your own ending. No book can possibly contain everything you ‘need’ or want to know – (unless you are your own author) – on how to achieve this. There are some good books on dealing with terminal illness, but I tend to regard such books as just part of my ongoing research into my own book.

    Any terminally ill person reading this will know at least this: I have at least some idea of what you are going through. But you, not me, are the best judge of what sort of book you might care to write. The options are virtually limitless; you don’t even need to put this book on paper; just live it. Non-fiction, powerful, evocative and meaningful to YOU. That’s all it needs to be – and you CAN do it, if you choose to.

    Even humour helps some of us. When Oscar Wilde lay dying in a slum Parisian hotel, surrounded by his friends, he looked askance at the tatty, grubby wallpaper and said “Either that wallpaper goes or I do.”

    Being Irish, I can’t go out into my own good night without my own quip, so when Death comes for me, I mean to look him straight in the empty eye sockets and say, “You’ll never take me alive, you know.”

    If we must make the trip, then as far as possible we must make it on terms that make sense to us – at least, that’s what my book says.

    Now write your own book – and you may well come to different conclusions than I have; that’s the neat thing about self-publishing!

    And lastly, sometimes a powerful kind of healing occurs when you accept things as they are.

  8. Kathy McVey, 13. January 2009, 22:42

    thank you Richard – and bless you. I hope I might get to read your book one day.
    Aroha nui.
    You Are.

  9. Tish, 10. March 2009, 0:54

    I clicked on this link because I thought there might be something useful or helpful for me but having read the reviews, I don’t want to read a single one of those books.

    If you believe that your own body had created your cancer, then perhaps some of the self-help books above may be useful to you.

    Personally, I do not believe that my own body created my cancer, nor my relationships towards other people, nor any external force or being.

    I don’t believe in god or spirituality but just that sometimes bad things happen to good people and you deal with it in the best way possible for you.

    There is no point in seeking blame within yourself or with anyone else and I don’t believe that these books or (psuedo-)psychologists or healers or anyone who doesn’t have a medical background or isn’t a personal friend or family member can be better than my doctors, nurses, friends and family.

    Two books which have been recommended to me are ‘Snake Oil and Other Preoccupations’ and ‘Beating Our Breasts’.

  10. Richard Quinn, 11. March 2009, 1:41

    Tish, of course you’re right: you didn’t make your cancer happen. But for sure your own body created it; just a single buggered-up cell is all it needs to start.

    Don’t confuse ‘God’ with spirituality. I’m an atheist, but certainly have experienced spirituality. I still do. But no heavenly harps.

    I think you;re right to shun all the pseudo-babble. How you deal with cancer yourself is the right way for you: writing your own book. Wrote a poem about it once: how all the real experts are dead.

    Being angry with uninformed people is okay, too. I know it gives me the $hits. So I bite back. But we need to have a bit of compassion too, don’t you think? People just don’t know how to react. The cancer word is about the dirtiest word in the language – any language. And so many people seem to want to be young forever; but you can’t be, as I know you realise.

    In the end, we just have to accept life as it is and death as it is going to be. All else is madness. I just try to keep on trying; though it’s getting harder every day. So bloody tired. But I can still joke and I hope you can too. Hell, I even know a prostate cancer joke! Lemme know if you (or anyone else out there) wants me to record it for (ahem) deathless posterity.

    Good luck, Tish.

  11. Queensland Cancer Patient (Tish), 19. March 2009, 11:17

    I admit that was a bit blunt. Sorry about that but I felt I had to be because I was a bit hacked off.

    I really really liked what you wrote though, Richard. You hit the nail on the head and I can see that you have a great knack for putting words to paper/screen. Good luck to you too. I’ve started my own blog (which you’ve inspired me to keep going with), which has really helped me think things through and keep tabs on what’s happening/going to happen.

    As you know, there is so much to get one’s head around.

    PS, did you get sick of hearing the words “positive” and “strong” at the beginning? I banned those from the vocabulary of my family! But I’m OK with them again now. Likewise, I’m OK with people telling me that they’re praying for me.

    If you’re interested in doing a bit of reading instead of writing, I’ve attached my blog to the ‘website’ attachment option on here. Hope you’re having a good day today.

  12. Richard Quinn, 20. March 2009, 3:47

    Gidday Tish. Welcome back.

    I’ve been writing all night (not much output though!) Time to quit.

    Re prayers, well, I guess they do no harm – and maybe they make the person who is praying feel better.

    But I did have one lovely ‘Christian’ woman that I felt like decking. She was of the ‘It’s God’s punishments for your sins’ school of garbage.

    I could handle that okay. But then I asked her what about children with cancer? And, quick as a wink, she told me ‘Oh, they’re paying for someone else’s sins.’ I could either deck her or spin on my heel and walk out without a word, shaking with rage and disbelief. I still wonder whether or not I made the wrong choice that day.

    Thanks for attaching your blog link. I’m going to have a bo-peep right now.

    And (asking in turn to be decked myself!): stay strong; be posiitve.

    And travel well, cobber.

    (Ed: I’ve combined the two comments)

    Tish, I just went on a journey. You write well, explain things clearly and fully and you don’t forget to include the little bits and pieces that make it so human. (Who, I wonder, forgot the mobile phone?) Thass gunna keep me awake now!)

    Anyone who visits this site, click on Tish’s blog; it’s worth the visit.

    I can’t think of higher praise than that. Your description of the appointment being just like a pre-flight routine was spot on, Tish.

    Goodnight Tish; goodnight world.

  13. Jo, 16. February 2010, 22:16

    Kathy, thank you for sharing what has helped you through your journey. I feel compelled to respond because I’ve noticed some negativity in the comments.

    I had read Louise Hay’s book and then put it away not really understanding or thinking too much more about it. After a long and interesting journey of my own, I discovered EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique). Believe me, I was very skeptical and thought that the demo videos I saw on YouTube were made by a bunch of loons. Yet, something drew me to it, I swallowed my pride, and yes, after allowing myself – not to ‘believe’ – but to simply to ‘suspend my disbelief’, I found it absolutely does work for me. The founder’s (Gary Craig) theory of ‘try it on everything’ had me doing exactly that, even though I felt kooky and kept it private…until one day it all came full circle. I remembered I had Louise’s book tucked deeply in my bookcase. I had to look hard, but found it, and for fun started to experimentally use her list of ailments and causes as a basis for the EFT. I was beside myself to find that it actually worked. Through trial and error I have found an absolute connection between ones thoughts, attitudes and emotions, AND with how they can manifest as physical symptoms.

    I understand that for many its difficult to comprehend Louise’s work, because that’s where I used to be. I used to think that all the ‘love and light’ people were a bunch of hippies who’d had too much wacky weed. Now, I’m coming out of my own ignorance and am starting to ‘get’ what its all about. Its taken a while. I understand that there is a mountain of misinformation and misguided advice out there. But, how many times have you heard that scientists believe around 90% of illness is caused by stress? The actual evidence of this is growing. Then it would be logical to say that disease caused by stress is caused by emotion? To say there is no link at all, even for the largest critic, would point to a shallow understanding. Just because there may be little ‘hard science’ to back-up metaphysical work does not mean that it doesn’t exist (just as people believed that the world was flat once, or that surgeons washing their hands was ludicrous). On the flipside of emotions causing illness, there are ‘survivor’ profiles—characteristics of those most likely to come out of the tunnel shining… acceptance, faith, openess and positivity are some of these. Anger, fear and frustration are not. Is there an emotional connection? You be your own judge.

    Once I started to learn that the systems that are set up to ‘protect’ us, aren’t effectively doing their job, I began to understand how important it is to take on some responsibility in my own self-care. Study the health system, its funding sources and the corruption surrounding drug trials and approvals and it easily begins to make a person nervous. And disappointingly, in my own experience, doctors and nurses—as wonderful and supportive as they are—function mainly to treat symptoms…not causes. Alternative methods and medicines approach from the opposite end. They seek to target the cause so that the body can heal itself. They have been around much longer than the chemical cocktails developed in a big pharma lab. Sadly, they don’t rate as highly because corporations can’t make anywhere near as much money from them. I’m not saying that the cure lies one way or another, but that an educated, holistic approach allows you to cover more bases in a time of struggle.

    For the readers who are going down their own path of healing, I offer you encouragement to allow yourself to at least be open to all ideas, rather than shutting down on anything others may have found helpful (Louise Hay, alternative therapies or otherwise)… you just don’t know if one day it might all start to make sense. Question all that you are told is in your ‘best interest’ and don’t rely on one person’s opinion. You have the internet, take control, learn as much as you can, collaborate and form your own opinions. Explore and try different things, even if they are a stretch to your frame of reference. Be open and be gentle with yourself.

    In love and light x

  14. Kathy, 29. July 2011, 0:16

    Hi Jo – it’s only just now… I’ve found your comments from more than 6 months ago. How wonderful that you have been along a similar path to me :) I hope you are enjoying good health? In love and light to you x