Friends, friends of friends and friends of friends of friends have cancer. I always recommend this book by Lynn Kohlman, whose career change from model to photographer inspired the book's title, Lynn: Front to Back.
For me, it's up there with only a handful of books that are guaranteed to put me back-on-track fast whenever I feel directionless. I regularly turn to it for inspiration. In quick succession, Kohlman was diagnosed with breast cancer, her mother died, she underwent a double mastectomy and then, after a seizure, was diagnosed with highly aggressive brain cancer.
Despite the subject matter, this book is no sob story. It's about working out what inspires you in life and doing it. From reading subsequent material about Lynn, for example, this interview, I learned that she was in her second marriage, that she'd been sacked from a prestigious job. None of this is in the book. Her passion for photography, yoga, the outdoors and above all friends and family shines through instead. It's not that other stuff didn't happen, didn't exist, or that there was denial at play, it's just that Kohlman's diagnosis forced her to focus on what truly mattered to her. It's a life lesson I take from this book over and over again.
There are many moving passages, especially from friends and family towards the end of the book, but perhaps my favourite is from Lynn's son Sam, who was 17 at the time:
'How to be happy cannot be taught in a classroom. Rafting through Idaho, the last place one might expect to find a New York City kid, I have found that the key to my happiness is in following the things that I have learned to love. This may seem simple and obvious, but I have met very few people who have put this belief into practice'.