Spring/Summer 2018 Book Reviews


Hope Never Dies: How 20 Late-Sate and Terminal Cancer Patients Beat the Odds

Innovative Healing Press, Scottsdale, AZ 2017

When physicians say the dreaded word “cancer,” patients often go into panic mode. Unfortunately, the premature fatalism that pervades the cancer world, combined with a rush into conventional treatment, means that patients overlook personalized integrative and alternative options that can be tremendously beneficial to their survival. In his new book, Hope Never Dies: How 20 Late-Stage and Terminal Cancer Patients Beat the Odds, Rick Shapiro, a leading cancer treatment consultant, interviews 20 cancer survivors and five trail-blazing cancer specialists to share how personalized, integrative and alternative cancer therapies are saving lives. While the conventional standard of care for treating cancer remains essentially unchanged over several decades, individual patients’ cancers are anything but standard. Shapiro describes compelling options that are worthy of investigation and, where appropriate, of implementing as part of a personalized cancer strategy. He strongly encourages cancer patients to selectively use the tools of conventional and alternative therapies. Following a cancer diagnosis, people are better off taking the time to learn about mainstream and alternative treatments, and to self-advocate for whichever makes most sense to their unique condition.

The types of alternative therapies described in the book often are meant to work synergistically with the standard surgery-chemotherapy-radiation protocol. For example, some patients chose as a first step to undergo testing of their biochemistry to show what nutritional interventions and supplements could support their immune systems, make their bodies inhospitable to cancer and help them recover from whatever standard treatment regimen they underwent. Another out-of-the-box option described includes use of chronomodulated chemotherapy treatment, which means chemo drugs are given at the time of day when they’re most effective and least toxic to the body. And a further option involves pre-testing chemo drugs on patients’ own tissue samples to find which drug will be most successful. Unfortunately, it’s rare that any mention of integrative or alternative options will come up at an oncologist appointment. Most physicians will resist, and even discredit, anything that isn’t approved by the FDA. Shapiro attributes this reluctance to the medical industry’s insidious profit structure and the influence of Big Pharma on choices outside the mainstream.

But yet, the so-called “proven” therapies have made only minimal progress in prolonging survival rates. Hope Never Dies makes the case that a more customized and integrative approach will bring about better results than confining those battling cancer to the narrow path of strictly conventional strategies. Unfortunately, for now, many aren’t widespread and aren’t covered by insurance. The 20 patient profiles each concludes with a section, “Transformations and Pearls of Wisdom,” in which they reflect on what made the difference in their survival. One reoccurring theme was that statistics do not foretell the future — they apply only to groups, and not to individuals. Many also attributed their survival to never giving up hope. Part 2 of the book presents enlightening interviews with five cutting-edge physicians and practitioners offering innovative approaches that are saving lives. Hope Never Dies brings to light the limitations of established cancer care in our country and empowers anyone with a cancer diagnosis to look beyond the medical establishment for innovative and hopeful ways to beat the odds.



Total Life Cleanse: A 28-Day Program to Detoxify and Nourish the Body, Mind, and Soul

Healing Arts Press, Rochester, VT 2018

To be healthy and happy we want to eliminate toxins, both physical and mental, that block connection to our soul essence, the source of our vitality, love and healing. Total Life Cleanse is a gradual and incremental approach to give the body, mind and soul a rest from a continual bombardment of toxins and challenges. Merging nutritional science with Ayurveda, its sister practice Yoga, Traditional Chinese Medicine and other wisdom, this 28-day cleanse is broken up into four one-week long phases, using plant-based foods and other supports to detoxify the digestive system and other major organs of the body. More than just removing toxins, the cleanse also restores the body’s innate wisdom in keeping the body functioning at best levels. Ignoring that wisdom blocks your access to good health. According to Ayurvedic principles, passing gas is an expression of your body’s wisdom, along with pooping, peeing, burping, and ten other natural urges. Repressing or unnaturally forcing these urges can lead to disease. Other human urges, however, such as greed, lack of self-control and excessive desire are urges that we do want to suppress, as they are obstructions which prevent us from reaching our divine potential and expressing our essence — pure health. It takes a total life cleanse to get there.



No Recipe: Cooking as a Spiritual Practice

Sounds True, Boulder, CO 2018

When you go to your kitchen to cook always bring someone with you: yourself. Otherwise, who is it that standing there doing the cooking? As cook at The Tassajara Zen Mountain Center in the 1970s, Ed Brown shared his beginner’s enthusiasm for the art of bread making in a cookbook that inspired other beginners to bring wheat, flour, salt and water to life. A burgeoning artisan bread movement of home bakers and bakeries dedicated to pure ingredients and freshly baked bread followed. Decades later, Zen cook Ed continues to remind us in No Recipe that the best foods are ones we cook ourselves while experiencing all the tasting, chopping, cutting and baking that is cooking. Skip over plastic wrapped “pick me, I’m quick” pre-made, pre-prepared packaged foods and ground yourself in the experience of cooking. You are the cook, enjoy the ingredients! Include spirit and a good heart. Taste as you go, asking what does this dish need — more salt maybe, or maybe some sweetness? Tasting keeps you present and engaged with your senses, with the smells, sounds, textures and tastes of the food you’re preparing. If you cook only to get to a final result of eating, you won’t notice the vibrant green as you chop the romaine lettuce, or see how the lettuce on your cutting board is simply being lettuce, while over on the counter the onion is onioning. Don’t lose the moment to your head which asks; will others enjoy this food I am making? Some people will like what you cook, some people won’t. You can never please everyone with your cooking so cook for yourself and enjoy. “When you are sincere, you offer what you have to offer, making your best whole-hearted effort, and let others receive it as they will.”



Your Guide to Forest Bathing: Experience the Healing Power of Nature

Conari Press, Newburyport, MA 2018

The special relationship between trees and humans has always been reciprocal. Trees breathe the carbon dioxide we exhale, and in turn we improve our moods, immune systems and our hearts by inhaling the mix of freshly-minted oxygen and aerosol exhalations of trees. Your Guide to Forest Bathing shows how our DNA recognizes the forest as home, and offers guidelines for establishing a healing relationship with nature. Known as shinrin-yoku in Japan, forest bathing differs from hiking or walking in the woods in that it isn’t a strenuous activity. The pace is much slower and you don’t go very far, ideally, in two to four hours you’ll only travel a half mile or less. Your intention is to work with the forest as a partner in connection with the more-than-human world. Rather than exploit nature by only extracting wellness and pleasure from it or observing it primarily to learn scientific facts, enter the woods knowing you’re in a web of relatedness to all other living beings. If you stay silent as you go, experience only what the forest offers. Don’t allow concepts such as walking meditation or mindfulness to trick you into efforting. In fact, you’ll want to minimize efforts to achieve anything. Speaking with what you encounter is a wonderful way to start a dialogue with all that’s around you. Though you’ll want to limit conversation, both in your head and with others if you’re forest bathing with a guide or group, talking out loud to the woods enhances your connection to being part of the forest. Say “Hello Tree,” then wait for a response. You may even want to sit with the tree and ask a question. Slowly breathe in the forest as the tree answers you. To engage in this way is giving and receiving, an act of positive support to both you and the forest.



Indigenous Healing Psychology: Honoring the Wisdom of the First Peoples

Healing Arts Press, Rochester VT 2017

Reconnecting psychology with its wholistic beginnings, Indigenous Healing Psychology is a respectful collection of Indigenous traditions, ceremonies and stories including wisdom of the Kalahari Desert’s Ju/’hoansi, the Lakota people of the Rosebud Reservation, and Fijians native to the islands of Fiji. Though diverse in practices, Indigenous pathways to healing include connection, vital spirituality and enhanced states of consciousness. In contrast, modern psychology, with its fixation on measuring outcomes, is dominated by a Western mindset that values accuracy over meaning. Mary Lee, a Cree elder from Pelican Lake First Nations in Saskatchewan, describes her work, “Visiting…that’s what we do. Just visiting.” Mary counsels those who are troubled, especially Indigenous youth experiencing depression, identity confusion and loss of hope, sometimes worsened by substance abuse. As an invited guest at a seminar for clinical psychology doctoral students, Mary’s humble description confuses some of the students. The Ph.D. candidates she is sharing with come from a world of mainstream psychological therapies, such as cognitive behavior approaches, which emphasize technical aspects more than the process and values of relationship. How can visiting be considered counseling? Mary explains that sometimes young people get overwhelmed and find it hard to cope. She sits with them. And listens. She doesn’t see them as her patients or clients; they are people who are out of balance, people who need to be heard. What’s the diagnosis code for “overwhelmed” or “out of balance”? The clinical students realize that the core of their training — a commitment to diagnosis — medicalizes life’s challenges. Indigenous healers assume interconnectedness. Modern psychology is biased towards a middle-class, white male perspective, measured by an intelligence or psychology test. This is counter to Indigenous perspectives, which sees wisdom as intelligence.



Seven Steps to Inner Power: How to Break Through to Awesome

Mountain Tiger Press, Medford, OR 2018

Tae Young Kim started life as a culturally unwanted and subsequently abused child in rural South Korea. She defied five thousand years of tradition to pursue her passion when she immigrated to the United States and happily cleaned toilets in Vermont (“in Korea I was cleaning the house and the toilet and getting beaten. Here I was getting paid for it!”), then helped pave the way for women to compete in martial arts in the Olympics. She is now one of the highest ranked martial artists in the world. In Seven Steps to Inner Power great grandmaster Tae Young shows us that the same power she cultivated to achieve her goals is a power available to everyone — the power of inner strength. No matter where you are on your journey, these seven steps to inner power will give you the focus to bring your inner strength forward: act as body and mind are one; uncover the truth of your strengths and weaknesses; attain purity of body, mind and spirit; love yourself; maintain loyalty; sacrifice to achieve your goals; and seek patience. Some of these qualities may seem vague, such as loyalty, but they are not. Loyalty to your own self means being loyal to every part of yourself — mental, physical, spiritual and emotional — and recognizing when you’re tempted to follow other people’s dreams and wishes instead of your own. Well-intentioned parents sometimes suppress a child's loyalty to her or his own self by asserting what the child may or may not want, or may or may not be able to do. While parental wisdom is loving and necessary, children must follow their own dreams to cultivate their inner power. Used in martial arts to break through stacks of cement blocks with a bare hand or foot, inner power breaks through mental blocks to our personal and professional goals as well. We often associate power with aggression, yet we know that a tree growing through a giant rock or a green plant sprouting through the sidewalk aren’t being aggressive, they are simply growing true to their own inner purpose. It’s the rock and cement that crack around the tree and plant. Gentle persistence is the strength of the tree and the plant. Gentleness isn’t weakness; it has its own kind of force.



The Backyard Homestead Seasonal Planner: What To Do and When To Do It

Storey Publishing, North Adams, MA 2017

There’s a lot to learn for a first-time homesteader. Along with time in the dirt, success growing field crops includes keeping bees and orchards, raising livestock plus plenty of planning and experimenting. The Backyard Homestead Seasonal Planner organizes the most common activities found on small diverse farms into twelve seasons, dividing the four major seasons into an early, middle and late period. Prioritizing chores for each microseason into categories is a great reminder for what needs to be done when, and spreads tasks throughout the year. Working with the seasons, doing a task when it would naturally occur or when conditions are most comfortable, produces better results, and requires less money and labor than doing things out of season. Consider a New England winter tomato — greenhouse grown, grocery store bought, expensive and often disappointingly mealy and bland. Compare that to a tomato planted in season which is bright red and juicy, plucked fresh from the garden on a sunny August day — less effort, less money and far better results. Just a few generations back farmers looked not at a calendar but out the window to find the appropriate time for tasks. Observing nature, and what the local birds, plants and wildlife are doing is the best guide for determining when to sow crops and take on other farm chores. While these signs differ depending on where you live (spring returns for some with the red-winged blackbird, while those to the south may wait for skunk cabbage to sprout), soil and and air temperature are fairly precise universal indicators of the seasons regardless of location.

Gail Lord is a freelance writer living in Massachusetts. Please send book review copies to 51 North Street, Grafton, MA 01519 or email socbookreviewer@gmail.com.

See also:
Fall/Winter 2017 Book Reviews
Spring/Summer 2017 Book Reviews