Science Book a Day Interviews Ranjana Srivastava

ranjana-srivastavaSpecial thanks to Ranjana Srivastava for answering 5 questions about her recently featured book – So It’s Cancer: Now What?

Dr Ranjana Srivastava was educated in India, the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia. She graduated from Monash University with a first-class honours degree. In 2004 she won the prestigious Fulbright Award, and was admitted as a fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians in 2005 and started practicing oncology in the public hospital system. Ranjana’s writing has been published worldwide, including in Time magazine and The Week, and in medical journals The New England Journal of MedicineLancetJournal of the American Medical Association and Journal of Hospice and Palliative Care Management. In 2008 her story ‘Ode to a Patient’ won the Cancer Council Victoria Arts Award for outstanding writing. – From Ranjana’s Homepage

Ranjana’s Homepage:

#1 – What was the impetus for So It’s Cancer, Now What? ?

To me, this book feels like an extension of my existing work in the cancer clinic. Hospital medicine is often done one patient at a time, which has its own rewards. However, I wanted to write a book to reach out to all patients and address the fundamental questions that all cancer patients face at some point.

#2 – Who have you written this book for? Doctors? Patients? Their families? Have you received feedback about your book?

The book is aimed primarily at patients and those who care for them and about them. As you go down the table of contents you will see that the chapter headings reflect the common questions that go through people’s minds. They relate not only to cancer treatment options but also diet, sexuality, altered body image, and existential issues, because I believe it is important to treat not just the cancer patient, but the whole person.

#3 – Your book seeks to guide people through the realities of living with cancer. Why is this guide necessary? Too much information? Too little?

The commonest reaction to the words ‘You have cancer’ is fear followed by a complete sense of disempowerment. Although this is understandable, I hope to let people know that it is not necessary and there are ways to overcome it. It is possible to make reasonable, well-informed, and sensible decisions about all sorts of healthcare choices and no one needs more help than cancer patients.

#4 – What misconceptions do people often have about cancer?

The cancer arena is absolutely littered with myths, many of which I have tried to address sensibly in my book. The myths range from what causes cancer to the treatment methods, to alternative therapies and even the role of palliative care teams. When people are feeling frightened or uncertain it is not difficult to nudge them along some more Sometimes, friends and family air misguided views about cancer with good intention because they simply want their loved one to get better. I think that the more we discuss stigmatized issues the better people are empowered. Empowered and well-informed patients usually make decisions in keeping with their personal philosophy.

#5 – Are you working on any new books/projects you can tell us about?

I am enjoying writing for The Guardian, speaking at various events involving high schools and universities to community forums, and doing snatches of ABC radio. I feel it is a privilege to be given a public voice to demystify various aspects of healthcare to society; it is important to use the responsibility well.

I am about to start working on my next book about which I will tell you more in the coming years!

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