West Hempstead man pens map through cancer’s minefield


He had a secure life — a wonderful wife, two beautiful daughters, a great career, nice house — until the great disrupter hit: a cancer diagnosis.

West Hempstead lawyer and now survivor of acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) Howard Bressler is determined to use his experiences fighting cancer to help others.

Since the beginning of his treatment, he has counseled other cancer patients; now he is seeking to increase his field of influence. He has written a book, intertwining his experiences with advice and guidance on the path from diagnosis to cure and life after. As much as cancer is a life-changing experience, there is life after cancer.

The book, “The Layman’s Guide to Surviving Cancer: From Diagnosis Through Treatment and Beyond” (Langdon Street Press), has been lauded by doctors and patients, one oncologist calling it a “bible” for cancer patients. It deals primarily with the cancer fighting and healing process, how to talk to friends and family, how to choose doctors, how to navigate hospital stays and treatments, nutrition, maintaining a sense of humor, and the inevitability of change after becoming a survivor. The book also deals with the possibility of death and how to prepare for that as well.

Bressler told The Jewish Star that, since his diagnosis in August 2000, he had the idea for the book in his head but “got busy with life” after completing his treatment. “To encourage and inspire other patients,” he penned the book as a “simple, easy to understand roadmap to get you from point A to point Z, a vehicle to get a patient to survivorship,” he said.

He began writing the book two years ago and presented it to oncologists for review of terminology and descriptions. He said that revisiting and reliving his cancer is “never difficult for me,” noting that for patients it is either “cathartic or they don’t want to talk about it.”

“For me, the process of speaking about it and helping other patients is a catharsis and continues to be a healing process, emotionally and spiritually for me,” he said.

“When you are a religious person, you feel that things happen to you for a reason. I went through leukemia and [was] changed by it and I can now help others.”

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