Book Reviews

“Erin Ley has transformed a life threatening struggle and created an inspiring, moving and heartfelt journey of growth and wellness. With eloquence and grace of spirit, she has offered a priceless gift of healing.”

Debra Koppelman, Director of Development, Coalition Against Breast Cancer, Inc.

“After reading Erin Ley’s The Will to Live, I would recommend it to any of my patients who are facing serious health problems. Erin takes us through her cancer with such clarity and spirit, that it would be an inspiration to anyone facing a dire illness or any potentially devastating situation. This book can give patients the hope and inspiration that we physicians cannot always provide.”

Romeo C. Solon, M.D., Lenox Hill Hospital, New York, NY

The Will to Live: The Perks of Cancer through the Eyes of a Survivor is a well-documented and powerfully introspective insight into the mindset a young adult living with, through and beyond cancer. Erin is clearly someone who got busy living when faced with her diagnosis and who serves as yet another one of myriad growing examples of what it means to survive cancer as a member of this oft-forgotten demographic.”
Matthew Zachary, Founder and Executive Director of Stupid Cancer, Inc., Cancer Survivor

The Will to Live is full of valuable information about how to cope with a cancer diagnosis and the treatments that follow, but Erin Ley’s courageous, deeply personal account of her own experience as a cancer survivor is what makes this book unique. She tells her story calmly and with unflinching honesty. Erin’s descriptions of her experiences are heartrending, but her unwavering determination to focus on her inner strength and optimism shine through every page. In The Will to Live, Erin speaks from her heart, and I feel that her story will move and inspire cancer patients, their families, and their friends.”

Whoopi Goldberg, distinguished award winning actress and comedian; Radio talk show host—Wake Up With Whoopi, Television show host, The View; and so much more

The Will to Live shares the personality factors which can make one a survivor. There are qualities within survivors which help them to exceed expectations and become our teachers and guides when we confront adversity. This book is filled with the hard-earned wisdom of a survivor. Erin Ley writes about cancer introducing itself to her and improving her life. I think it introduced Erin to herself and she liked whom she met and fought for her life. She became what I call a respant, a responsible participant, and not a patient, submissive sufferer. She shares the important lessons that one should never give up hope and always pay attention to the mind, heart and spirit, and to the possibilities which exist. I have learned that when mind, body and spirit work together in your life, they truly help you to heal your life and cure your disease.”

Bernie Siegel, M.D., author of Love, Medicine & Miracles, and Help Me To Heal

Erin Ley Author

My Image
My Image

The Will To Live

The Perks of Cancer Through​​​​​​​ the eyes of a Survivor

​​​​​​​To choose happiness over misery when faced with this type of a situation is a lot easier said than done—I was 25, and abruptly thrown into a world of disease, pain and turmoil. What could I take out of the experience happily? Many things, as is illustrated in my book—the negative brought full circle to demonstrate all of the positive results from my experience. Yes, I went through extreme anger and helplessness on many occasions through my various surgeries and hospital visits, but all I could think about was getting well and to continue on with my ‘new and improved’ life.

My identity became a big question mark—who was this person I saw in the mirror? Would people still love me? Might I frighten them? Sure it seemed superficial, but it was a big reality to me. It was not only unnatural to me to be completely hairless; it was always a constant reminder of the disease. Pre-diagnosis I gave credence to everyone else’s viewpoint of who I was, more than my own self-assessment of my identity. Having experienced cancer and everything that came with it brought me back to my true self. Eventually, the physical, emotional, and spiritual reunited making me whole once again.

Through this experience, it helped me to realize that with every tragedy comes a balance of bliss—the experience has caused me to live more deeply and more intensely, and has helped me to become more immersed in the essentials of my life to a higher degree than I would have otherwise been.  My ultimate goal is to empower and inspire those going through the diagnosis of cancer—to be able to help someone else through their life-threatening situation without as great a struggle. I now have a healthy respect for my life, and for those lives around me.


I first met Erin (Heenan) Ley when we were beginning our junior year of high school in Garden City, New York. Erin always loves a good time and always has a smile on her face – she’s a very approachable person. We also had a lot in common, so Erin and I quickly became best friends; we have remained so to this day.

We were only twenty-five years old when Erin was diagnosed with a lifethreatening form of cancer – non-Hodgkins lymphoma – in May 1991. I was shocked – how this could happen to anyone our age, and to Erin of all people, was beyond my comprehension. As I watched Erin go through the demanding treatments that tested her courage, faith, and physical, emotional, and mental strength to their limits, all I kept thinking was that she had to get better. I knew Erin was an incredibly strong person, so I believed with all my heart that her physical and mental strength would make her healthy again.

This book is Erin’s story of her personal journey through cancer. She writes candidly about the many ups and downs she experienced – hope and despair, joy and distress, bravery and fear, tranquility and anger. Nevertheless, when Erin looks back and discusses those times with me, she always says she is grateful to have had the experience, and that it changed the direction of her life for the better.

The time Erin spent living with cancer gave her a priceless gift – the willingness and ability to look for the silver lining, no matter how difficult things get. Her diagnosis and treatments took her on a journey that tested this ability  to the limit. Her life-and-death battle with non-Hodgkins lymphoma was the catalyst that prompted her to explore the deepest parts of herself, where she found strength and wisdom she didn’t know she had. With great admiration, I watched the strongest person I know keep getting stronger and stronger during the most difficult time of her life. And more than ten years later, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I drew strength from my memories of Erin’s struggle and ultimate success – they were so inspirational for me! Without realizing it, Erin had shared her priceless gift of optimism and faith with me.

When I told Erin about my diagnosis, she hopped right into the picture and played an amazing role in my journey with cancer. She made me realize that I was going to get through it, and that the cancer was not a death sentence. As Erin had shown me a little more than ten years before, it’s mind over matter. With her help and encouragement, and with the incredible support of my husband, Jerry, my will to live became bigger and greater than anything else. Cancer was the enemy, and I was going to beat this enemy. After radiation, a double mastectomy, numerous operations, seemingly endless medication, and everyone tilting their head asking me if I was okay, I finally got through it – I became a survivor. I ask myself to this day, What would I have done without her?

Now that all of the craziness is over, I want to thank Erin for her uplifting conversations and the gift of a St. Peregrine medal (the patron saint of cancer patients), which I keep in my wallet at all times. Erin showed me that when you recognize how strong you really are, you can battle anything. She helped me to see that I needed to grow stronger, grow as a woman, and realize that nothing would take me away from my life. And that is exactly what I did – with Erin’s support, I drew upon my never-ending physical, mental, and spiritual strength. 
In this book, Erin does not minimize the physical and emotional pain and fear experienced by patients, their families, and their friends. On the contrary, she writes with searing honesty about the debilitating effects that her diagnosis and treatment regime had on her and everyone around her. As we, her loved ones, were helping her through this trying time in her life, she was doing the same for us. We were drawing strength from each other.

I realized Erin’s strength as a woman when she lost her “crowning glory” hair, eyebrows, and eyelashes. I went with her to help her pick out wigs. That must have been a devastating experience for her, but she continued to smile and glow as the beautiful woman that she truly is. We actually had fun with it – Erin and I had so many laughs that day. Who would think?

The most inspiring part of Erin’s message is that in the midst of all the pain, fear, and sometimes despair, she was able to find many positive things – important practical lessons, insights into herself and her relationships with loved ones, and the power and beauty of hope for the future. These are what Erin calls the perks of cancer. This book does not recount her experiences in chronological order. Instead, each section explains how Erin recognized and gradually embraced one of these perks, and how each has contributed to her development as a person.

This book is a gold mine of information, support, and inspiration for cancer patients, their families, and everyone who would like to more fully understand what a diagnosis of cancer means at the most intimate, personal level. In it, Erin gives practical advice on everything from coping with hair loss, how to tell strangers that you have cancer, and heartfelt words of support to others who find their lives turned upside down by a diagnosis of serious illness.

Ultimately, this book is about what Erin learned about herself, about others, and about the world while battling a life-threatening illness. It tells the story of one person’s experience, but its message is universal – out of pain and despair, we can always find joy and hope if we are willing to look for them.

Thank you, Erin, for making my life richer and better than it has ever been before.

Kristin Linn Voels, Cancer Survivor 

“Erin Ley’s The Will to Live clearly describes how one’s positive approach to disease and life can guide and help heal both physical illness and emotional conflict. It is an inspiring portrayal of how an individual’s will, attitude, spirit and personal strength oftentimes is the difference between success and failure in the treatment of many illnesses. Bravo Erin!”

Kenneth F. Mattucci, M.D., F.A.C.S.

“With remarkable courage and humor Erin Ley gives us a roadmap to healing mind and body; from the dreaded cancer diagnosis, through the harrowing medical maze, to the peace of recovery. This book is a ‘must-read’ for anyone facing such a challenge.”

Kathleen Atkinson, LSW-R, Psychotherapist, Cancer Survivor

“As a young adult with cancer Erin’s world erupted in unexpected ways that tested her ability to transform loss into gain, deepen her will, and transform her life. Our ability to coexist with cancer and its lasting effects are very much influenced by what we do with the disease more than what the disease does to us. As Erin reflects on the lessons she took from cancer she shares what healing really means with her readers.”

Selma Schimmel, CEO, Vital Options International and host of The Group Room® cancer talk radio show

“Erin Ley’s The Will to Live is a powerful and inspiring read for cancer patients and for those close to them. Individuals experience their own ‘cancers’—tragedies that become defining moments—in their lives, and hopefully go on to become survivors. Erin focuses on living and thriving, not death and hopelessness. What an enthralling, refreshing read!”

Itzhak Haimovic, M.D., F.A.A.N.

“Erin Ley has taken her early experience with life-threatening disease and turned it into a positive story of empowerment. Her journey from illness to a fulfilling career and family is a rewarding narrative.”

Paul Margulies, M.D., F.A.C.P., F.A.C.E., Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine, NYU School of Medicine, Attending Physician, Department of Medicine, North Shore University Hospital, Manhasset, NY

“…stirring. A Will to Live is a motivational journey that will inspire the reader to readdress their own life’s perspectives.”
Robert Herman, M.D., P.C.

“This wonderfully inspiring book belongs in the hands of every family struggling to overcome cancer.”
Lymphoma Foundation of America

Book Reviews

“What a great night we had with Erin at Book Revue! It was such a joy to listen to her remarkable story of success. Most poignant was seeing so many people stand in line to have her sign copies of The Will to Live to give to their own friends and family struggling with cancer. She is truly an inspiration!”

Julianne Wernersbach, Publicist, Book Revue, Huntington, NY

“Author Erin Ley is looking to help others loosen themselves from cancer’s grasp. Through her memoir/self-help book, The Will to Live: The Perks of Cancer Through the Eyes of a Survivor, this cancer survivor, against all odds, went on to become a wife, mother of three, author, and so much more. Erin is looking to inspire and empower others through her words. Once the book has been read cover to cover, the reader can return to any chapter (Perk) of the book again and again, during any particularly difficult time in his or her life, whenever there is a need for a lift, inspiration, and empowerment.”
Smithtown Messenger

“Author of the children’s series, Maggie the Magnificent, Erin Ley has now launched her first book for adults titled, The Will to Live: The Perks of Cancer Through the Eyes of a Survivor. This book documents Erin Ley’s positive approach to her two and a half year encounter with this disease—from the non-Hodgkins lymphoma diagnosis to survival and success. Ley’s book emphasizes the importance of positive results from negative experiences.”

The Garden City News

“Erin Ley, author of The Will to Live discusses keys to making a positive out of a negative experience. When diagnosed with cancer at age 25, Mrs. Ley’s youth abruptly ended, throwing her into a world of disease, pain and turmoil. What would typically make one feel as if his or her life was on hold catapulted Mrs. Ley’s life into one that is more fulfilling than she would ever have imagined. ‘The experience has caused me to live more deeply and more intensely. It has helped me to become more immersed in the essentials of my life, including my faith in God, to a higher degree than I would have otherwise been. My mantra is “Celebrate life and you’ll have a life worth celebrating,” Mrs. Ley recently told The NEWS. ‘And the sidebar is that it’s all about mind, body and spirit. When they’re in synch, that’s when you’re in the zone.’ Since surviving her bout with cancer, Mrs. Ley has gone on to become a wife, mother of three and an author. Keeping cool helped conquer cancer.”

The Smithtown News

Book Reviews


​​​​​​​America's Devoted Empowerment Coach!