"Is it really true that all this information can be lost?"
Yes (that's why everyone bangs on about backups)
"Surely if I have the drive there is some way it can be read and recovered??"
There are specialist data recovery services that can dismantle the drive and read the disks - they will almost certainly cost an arm and a leg. If you want to go down this route, please ask again.
There are some data recovery programs you could try - but you will really need to get your drive into another functioning system before you can sensibly try to run anything to try and read it. Such activities are not for the faint.hearted, and with respect, unlikely to be successful unless you can sit with someone who knows a fair bit about systems. By remote control via this forum, I would honestly hold out little hope.
You can search with google for professional services, and get a few quotes - and you can likewise search for hard drive data recovery programs.