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CEDAR RAPIDS — When decorated columnist Shirley Ruedy retired from The Gazette in 2007, she had 99 requests from readers for a book compiling her collection of 400-plus columns on cancer written over decades.
On June 6, the three-time cancer survivor finally made good on her promise after taking a 15-year breather.
Her first book, “Finally a Manual on How to Handle Cancer: Reflections, Ruminations and Rooting Out Rubbish by a Cancer Columnist and Survivor,” compiles her most popular columns from enterprising work that earned her 30 journalism, health and civic awards, including the Courage Award from the American Cancer Society and the prestigious Batten Medal for “concern for humanity and excellence in journalism.”
Drawing from experience as a cancer patient, caregiver and counselor of 176 women with cancer, her curated selection focuses on the broad-spectrum emotional impacts often neglected by cancer literature. Through 70 columns, revised with updated studies and citations, Ruedy brings the former bimonthly “Cancer Update” back to the public with a personable and impactful voice.
“I looked at the whole broad range of the cancer experience — not just as it related to me, but as it related to others,” Ruedy told The Gazette. “I wasn’t a reporter on the outside looking in. I was a patient reporter on the inside looking out.”
Addressing the unspoken emotions that come with cancer — from wishing for an end to the suffering and managing fear to breaking the news to children and dealing with feelings of powerlessness after a diagnosis — Ruedy publishes the manual she never had during two bouts with breast cancer and one run-in with endometrial uterine cancer.
One section of columns is set aside in the book to administer a healthy dose of scientific education on navigating self-education on cancer, identifying debunked myths and how to look out for warning symptoms.
“My book tells you how to handle cancer in the many aspects of that disease: as a patient, a relative, a friend, caretaker, adult child, parent,” Ruedy said. “I frequently said in my column that ‘there was no manual on how to handle cancer.’ Well, now there is.”
Award-winning columnist Shirley Ruedy’s new book, “Finally a Manual on How to Handle Cancer: Reflections, Ruminations and Rooting Out Rubbish by a Cancer Columnist and Survivor,” can be purchased in paperback, hardcover and Kindle format at Amazon.com.
Paperbacks and hardcover copies can be purchased for $19.95 and $24.95, respectively, directly from the author by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
With an extensive family cancer history, Ruedy weaves emotional wisdom with practical wisdom that can only be gained through experience. In just over 200 pages, readers will finish the book with takeaways on how to be informed about cancer, how to be vigilant with aging, how to be smart with a life-threatening disease and how to listen to your gut and be a fearless advocate for yourself.
“The time to learn about cancer is before you have to,” she said. “(Many years ago,) people didn’t know much. Now, we can talk about it.”
1. Be informed. “Do your homework and learn about the cancer you’re dealing with.”
2. Be vigilant with tests and exams appropriate for your age and family history. “It’s absolutely crucial to stop cancer at square one before it has a chance to metastasize and spread to vital organs that can kill you.”
3. Be smart. “If you have the life-threatening disease of cancer, get a second opinion, one not in the same practice of the first.”
4. Don’t be afraid to make waves. “If your instincts are telling you something different from what the experts are saying, pursue your gut feeling, even if it ‘offends’ the experts.”
5. Remember that you’re half of the doctor-patient relationship, so be informed and listen carefully. “Make the decisions that are right for you, your body, your values.”
At 86, her first book also highlights the columns that produced her proudest achievements — persuading lifelong smokers to quit for good and prompting reluctant patients to see a doctor before it’s too late.
Using her emotionally intuitive style, the author reached readers at a level that statistics and scientific information couldn’t touch. Reaching that emotional experience, she said, is what the book is about.
“You write for so many years and gather awards along the way, but the biggest reward to me was when someone told me they had quit smoking because of a column I wrote,” Ruedy said. “It hits them at the gut level.”
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