Summer Reading Series: Amy Nicholson on Linda Kopec’s “Cancer Gifts”

Our Summer Reading Series continues today with two reviews from Amy Nicholson. Her review of Water at the Roots, a memoir-in-verse of Philip Britts, is available here—Ed.

Cancer Gifts: Lessons in Gratitude,
Acceptance, and Perseverance
By Linda Kopec
Emerald Lake Books, 2021
$12.99   116 pp.

Bear one another’s burdens.
– Galatians 6:2

Most Americans have been affected by cancer in some way: either they’ve had it, or someone they know has had it. After working as a bookkeeper for over 20 years, Linda Kopec battled two different types of cancer within a 10-year period. In Cancer Gifts: Lessons in Gratitude, Acceptance, and Perseverance, she brings the reader along with her on her journey of diagnosis, treatment, and recovery—and then back again for a second round. Although Linda has had her share of trials, she has met them with indefatigable determination. The resulting story is one of hope in hard places. (In the interest of full disclosure, Linda is a friend of mine who I met through a local chapter of the Word Weavers writers’ group. Inspired to share her story, but not having done much writing prior to her diagnosis, Linda joined our group hoping the support and feedback she received would help her. We are pleased to say that it worked!)

For those readers who have been diagnosed with cancer, Linda’s book may serve as a useful companion. She documents not only the circumstances surrounding her experience, but her emotional response as well. By being open with her fears and concerns, she walks alongside the reader, perhaps sharing in some of their own anxieties.

To this end, Linda has included throughout the book a feature called “Ringing the Bell,” in which she invites the reader to reflect on their own feelings surrounding particular challenges in their lives. These reflections are relevant not just for cancer patients, but for anyone who has gone through a difficult period. The “Ringing the Bell” features also offer suggestions for self-care. One of my favorites is Linda’s advice to reward yourself when you make it through something challenging. Readers looking for ways to support loved ones as they face cancer (or any other health malady) will find many helpful suggestions.

Structured in the form of short chapters, Cancer Gifts presents its narrative arc in small, manageable bits. The author is also intentional about including the many blessings she received throughout her experience: people she met along the way, gifts and encouragement from friends and loved ones, the joys of giving back by participating in a cancer walk or knitting prayer shawls.

Other features include Scripture quotations, photos, and contributions from Linda’s family members and healthcare professionals. These pieces offer a variety of perspectives on her experience. A common belief among those professionals is that a positive attitude and outside support for someone battling cancer makes all the difference with treatment outcomes. Kopec’s story bears testimony to this: she makes frequent references to the physical and emotional support her family and friends provided that helped her maintain a positive attitude and determination to keep fighting. A thread of gratitude and blessing runs through her entire story.

Linda’s motivation in writing her book was that it might help others who find themselves in a similar situation. She achieves this aim, and does so in a way that exudes her warm and gentle spirit. Even those who have never been blessed to meet Linda in person will get to know her and share in her journey through her writing.

Amy Nicholson hopes to encourage and inspire others through her writing. She has been published in Country Woman, The Old Schoolhouse, The Lookout, and other publications. In addition to writing and discovering grace in ordinary places, Amy substitute teaches. Visit her at:


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