As part of my commitment to raising awareness of PMP, I am also a Macmillan Cancer Voice. Cancer Voices are people from across the UK who share their experiences to help shape cancer services and improve cancer care. I’ve been to a few meetings in the past and more recently I have been reviewing books for them.
One of the books I’ve read is The Copper Tree: Helping a Child Cope with Death and Loss by Hilary Robinson & Mandy Stanley. The book is aimed at young children and tells the story of a teacher who is ill and ultimately dies. It is written through the eyes of a child. As a mother myself to a young child and following the death of a close family member, the book arrived at exactly the right time for me. My daughter couldn’t understand why I wasn’t crying (at least in front of her), and the book helped me explain that, when I thought of the person that had died, I had nothing but happy memories. Children, in the book, were encouraged to write their happy memories and attach them to a tree as a memorial to their teacher. Such a lovely tribute. If you find yourself in a situation where you want to or need to explain death and illness to a young child then I would recommend this book.
Another book I have read is The Anatomy of Hope: How People Prevail in the Face of Illness by Dr Jerome Groopman. On the back cover, the Evening Standard states “a copy should be airlifted to every NHS oncologist immediately”. Why they singled out just NHS oncologists, I’m not too sure! I think all medical professionals should have a copy for bedtime reading, as should every patient have a copy. This book really helped me process some of the situations I have found myself in over the course of the last 16 years or so, dealing with this illness and its subsequent treatments. When I was told I was now “palliative and that nothing else could be done”, I was given no hope by the initial doctor who broke the news. When I went for my second opinion I was told the same thing but I came away with hope. This book explains the difference. Through the lives of real people, it outlines the need to distinguish between false hope and true hope and whether we should ever give up. Well worth a read.
5 Months 10 Years 2 Hours by Lisa Reisman is the real life account of a New York attorney who wakes up one morning in a hospital bed with a malignant brain tumour. It interweaves running in a triathlon 10 years later, with her initial diagnosis and treatment. What I loved about this book is that she does not portray herself as a warrior, as someone with inherent courage, she reveals the true nature of cancer survival as a feat of endurance, forbearance and true grit. Nothing is sugar-coated, she is real and she describes her relationships with family members really honestly. I expected that the story would finish in that fairytale way “and they all lived happily ever after”, it doesn’t, she recognises what life is really about.