Book Review: And in Health – A Guide for Couples Facing Cancer Together by Dan Shapiro

And In Health(Boston: Trumpeter Books, 2013)

Dan Shapiro is a clinical psychologist who counsels couples dealing with serious illness. He is also a cancer survivor himself, and is married to a breast cancer survivor. His own experience as a survivor shows especially in his understanding of how hard it can be for the patient to surrender control to the caregiver, and what this can mean in an intimate relationship.

And in Health is organized according to the stages of cancer diagnosis and treatment. Shapiro begins with things couples need to know immediately, such as when to do research and where, continuing through to the difficult long-term conversations couples will have about their sex lives, and issues related to death and dying. He encourages both partners to express their emotions and listen to each other, and offers exercises to build the relationship skills couples need to cope with their cancers.

I particularly liked the way Shapiro addresses each spouse in turn: He counsels the patient, “multiply your surgeon’s estimate of your recovery time by three and ask a nurse what’s really going to happen.” And to the caregiver, he writes, “spouses may need to learn to advocate for their partner.” He also advises both partners: “if either of you develops depression, get it treated!”

And in Health is extensively cited. Check the references at the end for the research behind the narrative.