So, I’m excited to announce that my book, Cancer Nutrition & Recipes For Dummies is officially out—okay, it has been out for a few weeks now (since July 29th, to be exact), but finding the time to do anything these days is a tremendous challenge. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I have burnout and need a break from all the extracurricular activities. Bill is in the same territory as I am, so we’re two peas in a pod in that regard. But as tired as we are, we just can’t say no to projects, particularly when they excite us. And that is how it was for me with the cancer book. So, I wanted to tell you a little about how it came to be and what my experiences were along the way.
As many of you know, Bill and I have written a few books together, projects that we got through our agent, Matt Wagner. They were all technology books, of course. And while I love technology, it really isn’t my strong suit. In fact, Bill often likes to tease me by calling me a “technology witch” or “technology lich” (you’ll get that reference if you’re a fan of Adventure Time, like we are). And he’s right! Technology seems to fall apart in my hands. I don’t know why or how, but it always manages to go awry in some way. But I always thought that this quirk, if you can call it that, was what made us a great team on these projects—he’s the subject matter expert who knows his stuff and can fix things and I’m the dope who breaks them, thereby helping us determine which troubleshooting topics to cover.
After coauthoring a few books with Bill, Matt emailed me that he expanded his contacts at various publishing houses and asked if I had any ideas for potential medical titles. He wanted to see if I had an interest in doing stuff in the clinical arena as well. I shot off a few ideas to him, all focused on cancer.
Cancer was foremost on my mind because I had been an oncology editor and writer at my previous job and it’s an area where there’s a lot of activity, so there are always lots of exciting developments to read and write about—kind of like with technology. It was also a topic very dear to my heart because of my mother-in-law’s struggle with breast cancer. I saw the obstacles she faced and felt so helpless to do anything for her. Many people joke about their in-laws, but she was always kind to me and I considered her a second mom, so watching her decline was truly devastating for me.
A while after sending the pitch to Matt, he indicated that Wiley wanted to do a cancer nutrition book and asked if I was interested. I was a bit skeptical at first, thinking that this had been exhaustively covered already. But when I looked into it more closely, I saw that the bulk of what was available wasn’t evidence-based or even based on best practices. Instead, there was a lot of snake oil being sold to desperate patients—people were offering a cancer cure through some form of modified eating or other dangerous advice. Or there were books focused just on nutrition or just on recipes, but nothing that served as a real guide to wellness. So seeing an opportunity to fill a void, I signed the next 4 months of my life away.
Of course, working for a few years as an oncology editor and writer doesn’t make one a cancer expert, even if you know where to look for information, so my task was to enlist appropriate coauthors. I had suggested in an email exchange with Wiley that I’d see about getting Dr. Maurie Markman onboard. He was the editor-in-chief of one of the oncology publications I had worked on and is considered a thought leader in the field of oncology. When I had worked with him a few years earlier, he was still at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas, but he had since moved to Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) in Philadelphia. You can see him in some of the CTCA commercials now. After he agreed to coauthor the book with me, he suggested that we add a cancer nutritionist, which made perfect sense to me, and he extended the invitation to his colleague Carolyn Lammersfeld. She is a registered dietitian and the VP of Integrative Medicine at CTCA, and we were truly lucky to get her to join us.
With Carolyn in place, I felt that we had assembled a really great team. Everyone brought an important skill to the table. Maurie and Carolyn brought their tremendous cancer and nutrition expertise and I brought my publication management skills and my ability to substantively edit and write medical content. After having read and edited thousands of manuscripts over the years in various medical specialties, I’d also like to think I’ve learned a thing or two about medicine.
We divided up the writing, with each of us taking chapters, but everything had to be polished up by me before going to our copyeditor at Wiley. As you can imagine, this was exhausting for me, particularly when you consider I have two full-time jobs already: overseeing two clinical journals and then as a mom to two awesome but sometimes demanding little girls. Not to mention, there was the frenetic pace to contend with. Although it may take a publisher many months to get a project approved and signed, once that happens, they want everything delivered pronto. And as all book projects go, there are always hurdles that pop up along the way. With this project, there was a major redesign to the Dummies brand just when we were about half way through, and that redesign required us to produce additional content that we had not previously accounted for. And in addition to all the physical stress I was under, there was the emotional stress of watching my mother-in-law’s health in rapid decline. So we made sure to spend as much time with her as possible.
I could have taken shortcuts with the project along the way, but it’s not something I think I’m capable of doing with my OCD tendencies, and I desperately wanted to give it my all. I sacrificed weekends and evenings to get it done, envying people who had freedom to simply enjoy themselves. It was important to me to provide patients with the resource that I wish Bill’s mom had and to give them the information that she was never provided. So many patients receive no nutritional guidance and become malnourished, leading to poor outcomes. They are not told that how they eat can help manage side effects and prevent recurrences. I hoped that I could raise awareness about these things and help patients go from feeling scared and out of control to feeling empowered, regardless of where they were on their cancer journey. I really hope we’ve achieved that with this book and I wish Bill’s mom had lived to see it.
But I did share my intended dedication with her last Christmas, about a month and a half before she passed away in February. Here’s what it said:
“I dedicate this book to my mother-in-law, Josephine Loguidice, one of the most beautiful people I know and the reason I’m writing this book. The strength and resilience you’ve shown throughout your cancer journey has been nothing short of amazing. You’re truly an incredible person and an inspiration to me.”
But as an author, a lot is out of your direct control. Edits are made that you never see or you’re required to cut stuff you’ve spent hours developing. And that’s how it went. I was told there was only space to include a two-line dedication, so I shortened it to “I dedicate this book to my mother-in-law, Josephine Loguidice, one of the strongest and most beautiful people I’ve ever known.” It’s not exactly what I wanted, but it still gets the point across and at least she knew what was in my heart. And as an editor, I know how this business works, so I just accept what comes.
I’m sure people will find flaws with the book. You can’t please everyone no matter how hard you try. And this is a topic, certainly, where passions run high and everyone has an anecdote or antidote. Not to mention, information is always changing. But we provide a very balanced and scientific view and took every care to put the best information forward. If I could, I’d give every patient with cancer a copy of this book. While I don’t have the means to do that, I do have an extra copy that I’d like to give an Armchair Arcade reader who can make good use of it or give it to someone who can. If you’d like it, let us know. I don’t want to give it to someone who is just going to turn around and try to sell it. And that’s not because I’m afraid of missing out on any profits. You don’t write these types of books to make money. I just want the book to fulfill the purpose I intended.
You can see some photos for the displays for one of Christina's upcoming book signings, here: http://billloguidice.tumblr.com/post/58261674199/the-posters-and-book-di...
As both my parents had / have cancer this book is very important. My dad is battling lung cancer at the moment and my mom is in remission from large intestinal cancer. Kudo's to you Christina for making this book.
Congratulations on the book, Christina! I'm surprised to hear that they insisted on a short dedication. I've seen them as long as a paragraph in other books!
It seems like a book on this topic would find an easy audience. I can't even imagine the huge piles of pseudoscience out there, though, that it will have to compete with. Every year I go to a big arts and crafts festival where a guy hawks some kind of "Nigerian soap" that he says will cure cancer. Ugh. Sad part is, old folks line up to pay $40 or more for this gunk.
Thanks, Matt and Mark. Yes, the shortened dedication was the most disappointing aspect for me, especially when I saw all the open space on that page when I received my comp copy of the book. But what can you do? It is what it is. I understand all too well how this industry works, and sometimes you just have to grin and bear it. It sucks though to be sure.
Matt, I don't know if it will necessarily find an easy audience. As you said, there is a lot of noise in this arena. There is also a lot of misinformation and the misinformation may be more appealing sounding to a lot of people. It does not surprise me about people lining up to buy the guy's "miracle suds" or whatever other "cure" people are selling these days. When it comes to cancer, people are desperate, and you can't blame them for that. The problem is that many people have no understanding of what cancer truly is. If they did, they would not spend their hard-earned money on nonsense like that. Many people think of cancer as one disease. But in reality, it's really thousands of diseases. It can affect any number of different cell types, affect different organs, and have different levels of aggressiveness and different mutations. So I don't see that there will ever be some blockbuster pill that will cure all cancer. But I could see in the future that people's cancer cells will be sequenced and a personalized remedy will be given to more effectively fight the disease. And even today people are cured of their cancer. It happens all the time. Of course, there are no guarantees that any particular treatment will work, and that's scary when you're facing a life-threatening disease. And then you always have the fear that it might come back lurking in the back of your mind. It's a horrible thing to have to think about.
Mark, I will send you a copy of the book. I will be curious what you think of it as a health expert. I'd also be curious if patients in Europe receive nutritional guidance when facing a disease like cancer. In speaking to some of my relatives in Germany, it sounds like it is discussed a little more over there. In the United States, the only place patients truly get that additional support is at integrative cancer treatment centers, which many patients don't really have access to. It's really unfortunate. These days we realize how diet affects other diseases, like heart disease, diabetes, celiac disease, etc. And nutrition is often at least discussed for such conditions. Why not for cancer? Cells need nutrients to function properly, and cancer happens when certain cells go awry. Not to mention, healthy cells get horribly assaulted during treatment, so you think a goal would be to help protect them. Hopefully as we continue to learn more about cancer, nutrition will play an increasing role in helping people get through treatment and stay healthy thereafter.
One of my grandparents' friends recently bought into one of these scams. Sad part is, her whole church did several fundraisers to send her off to some kind of faith healing garbage--to the tune of $50,000. I seldom engage my grandparents on religious matters, but here I had to be frank--that was nothing but a scam. Not only should they not donate to the fundraiser, but they should actively speak out against it. To no avail, of course.
I think there's a similar scene in the movie Man on the Moon with Jim Carey. I guess if you're dying, it's easy to fall prey to these leeches.
Thank you Christina, I am very much looking forward to reading it and giving you some feedback. Germany is quit ahead in this field I think.