Advent Calendar alert!

My poor neglected blog. I’m sorry. I’ll try to do better next year.

The trouble is, I have another blog, where I write poems and stuff, and that kind of gets all the attention.

Seeing as I’m here, though, let me tell you about my poetry advent calendar. It’s based on my other blog – – and thing will be going up on twitter – and if you want the full open-the-door experience, you can find it here:

It’s my way of saying thank-you to some wonderful poets who have made 2020 a little happier than it could otherwise have been. I do hope you’ll check it out.

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Book Review – The Ministry for the Future – Kim Stanley Robinson

The Ministry for the Future by [Kim Stanley Robinson]This is a big book, physically and content-wise: it’s not often I read a book and come away with a list of things I want to look up and find out more about, but this book did that for me. It’s moving and painful and hopeful and inspiring, and I found it utterly absorbing.

What’s it about? It’s about everything, but primarily global warming. The horrors we are unleashing are laid out clearly. This is a call to stop and think and change. Kim Stanley Robinson places global warming firmly in the context of our neoliberal lifestyle and expectations – continuous growth – as if cancer is the paradigm for our society. He pulls in everything – the lack of parity between developed and developing nations, potential technological solutions, the need to sort out global finances and the super-rich if we are going to get any change on this. He segues smoothly between the near past and the future, carrying you along, making this feel almost like reportage, rather than fiction. There are many voices here, all with their own stories.

The main characters are Frank, a young relief worker, and Mary, the “Minister for the Future”. Their paths intersect in an unexpected way in Zurich, but their stories weave around each other, they don’t really merge.

This is not an action-packed thriller. It’s thoughtful and densely packed. It’s one of those books I want to badger people to read.

Thank you, NetGalley, for letting me read this one.

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BCAM: October 7th

Those of us with Metastatic Breast Cancer (MBC) live our lives in three (3), six (6) or twelve (12) month increments. What does that mean? We receive a scan in one of those increments, which tells us how our cancer is behaving. Traditionally, the first pattern is every three months. Adiba has this to say […]

BCAM: October 7th

This sums it up perfectly.

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Cancer: it’s really not a battle

I’ve been on Twitter again, so it’s my own fault, I guess. They are still out there – the cheerleaders shouting on the battlers. The strong, brave battlers, who they know will win this battle because they are strong and brave.

Please don’t.

Here’s why I think it’s so bad:

  1. It’s meaningless. What is this battle? My battle consisted of taking the prescribed medication, signing consent for the surgery, getting to the chemo unit, lying under the radiotherapy machine. They never gave me a sword.
  2. It puts pressure on the patient. (I’m pretty sure there’s a better word than patient, but let’s just go with it). If you’re told to be strong and positive and brave – well, you kind of feel that’s how you ought to be. A lot of the time I was positive and brave, but sometimes I was negative and scared and anxious – and those are perfectly valid ways to feel when you have cancer. And, actually, perfectly valid in other situations, too. It was helpful to have spaces where I could be negative, scared, anxious. The person with cancer shouldn’t have to protect other people from negative feelings.
  3. What if you lose? I feel this strongly, because I’m a loser. I trundle along, I live in denial, I don’t talk about it much, but I am a loser. Those little time-bombs are sitting in there, waiting to explode. Does that mean I wasn’t strong? I wasn’t brave? I didn’t fight hard enough?

Luckily, I didn’t buy into that narrative. I lost because I was unlucky. Wrong kind of cancer. Bad timing.

It’s a bit rubbish, having Stage IV cancer. I’m so glad I don’t have the added burden of feeling that I’ve let people (and myself) down by not being enough of a warrior.

I’ve seen quite a few posts on Twitter recently talking about the battle, and how strong and brave the battler is. I cringe inside. I don’t comment on those posts – I know the people posting are coming from a place of love and concern – but I needed to get this off my chest. It really is time to move on from the language of battle, and find a better way to show support.

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Irisi magazine – healing

You might like to look at this rather beautiful magazine from Irisi especially if you feel the need to contemplate the nature of healing.

You could just look at my poem, Kintsugi, but there’s much much more there.

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Book review – A Room Made of Leaves – Kate Grenville

A Room Made of Leaves by [Kate Grenville]I love Kate Grenville’s work anyway, so it was a massive treat to get a copy of this from NetGalley. Thank you.

This is the story of the early days of the wool industry in Australia. Very, very early – Elizabeth MacArthur travels to Australia with her totally unsuitable husband when the colony is still a convict settlement. I guess those early settlers had the choice to hate or to love their new home, to regret England, or embrace Australia. Elizabeth is canny enough to embrace things. She learns to manipulate her husband as much as possible – she’s a powerless woman in a man’s world.

The heat of Australia, the light, the bush – they shine through this book. Grenville is great at conjuring an atmosphere. She is also constantly aware of the impact of European settlement on the Aboriginal communities, reminding you of what was destroyed as well as created.

We should be in Australia at the moment, but the Corona virus put paid to that. This took me there, a little bit.

This is a great read. Look for other books by Grenville, too – The Secret River is another good read.

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Poetry Friday

Just yes.

Poetry Friday
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Now this is an article everyone should read!!

I read this blog today and it was something I wanted to reblog, which I don’t often do!! Everyone can benefit from learning about these cancer terms!! Have a read, you’ll be glad you did!! Breast Cancer Glossary: 41 Terms You Should Know When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer it was unimaginably overwhelming […]

Now this is an article everyone should read!!

Reblogging a reblog… remember those pictures of someone holding a picture of someone holding a picture of someone holding a picture…?

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Being Mortal – Atul Gawande

Being Mortal by Atul GawandeI got this book through the Mystery Book Club. 

The Mystery Book Club sends out a mystery book every month. It says it comes beautifully packaged – and it does. It was such a treat to receive.

This is a strangely appropriate book for me to receive. My husband was a little freaked out by it, and wondered if the Mystery Book people had been stalking me, but I think it was probably just one of those synchronous things that the universe throws up every now and again.

I have a soft spot for Atul Gawande. He’s a surgeon, I’m a Child Psychiatrist, so we work at pretty different ends of the medical spectrum, but I still recognise his dilemmas. When I had my second load of surgery and treatment for breast cancer a few years ago, I had quite a bit of time off work. When I came back, I was worried I’d forgotten how to do it. I’d had the Checklist Manifesto recommended to me a while before that, and I picked it up and read it. I made checklists. I made checklists for every kind of appointment that I offered. They gave me such reassurance. I’ve since handed them out to colleagues, including Non-Medical Prescribers, and they’ve always been appreciated. So thank you for that, Dr Gawande.

Reading this book was an altogether different experience. It’s a book about care in old age, and about care in terminal diagnoses. I’m statistically unlikely to reach old age, but I’m very likely to need to consider how to manage a terminal diagnosis. This book was painful reading at times – it’s much easier to consider oneself immortal – but it felt so important. My husband is a retired GP. He reckons this book should be on the medical school curriculum. He’s not a man given to over-enthusiastic endorsements of anything.

I think anybody could benefit from this, whether you’re fit and healthy or not; whether you have elderly parents, or not; whether you are slowly sliding into illness or not. There is a lot to consider in here, and unless you are lucky enough to be run down by that proverbial bus and killed instantly, you are likely to need the information and intelligence in here.

So thank you, Mystery Book Club. See you next month!

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Classics Challenge

I’m enjoying reading new authors at the moment, but I don’t want to neglect the classics! I thought I’d do the Books and Chocolate (I know) Classics Challenge. here’s my list:

1. 19th Century Classic. Any classic book originally published between 1800 and 1899. A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
2. 20th Century Classic. Any classic book originally published between 1900 and 1970. All books in this category must have been published at least 50 years ago. The only exceptions are books that were published posthumously but were written at least 50 years ago. The Ministry of Fear – Graham Greene
3. Classic by a Woman Author. The Awakening – Kate Chopin
4. Classic in Translation. Any classic originally written in a novel other than your native language. You may read the book in your native language, or its original language (or a third language for all you polyglots). Modern translations are acceptable, as long as the book was originally published at least 50 years ago. Books in translation are acceptable in all other categories as well. The Brothers Karamazov – Dostoevsky
5. Classic by a Person of Color. Any classic work by a non-white author. Uncle Tom’s Cabin – Harriet Beecher Stowe
6. A Genre Classic. Any classic novel that falls into a genre category — fantasy, science fiction, Western, romance, crime, horror, etc. The Time Machine – HG Wells
7. Classic with a Person’s Name in the Title. First name, last name or both. Examples include Ethan Frome; Emma; Madam Bovary; Anna Karenina; Daniel Deronda; David Copperfield, etc. Death of Ivan Ilyich – Tolstoy
8. Classic with a Place in the Title. Any classic with the proper name of a place (real or fictional) – a country, region, city, town, village, street, building, etc. Examples include Notre Dame de Paris; Mansfield Park; East of Eden; The Canterbury Tales; Death on the Nile; etc. East of Eden – Steinbeck
9. Classic with Nature in the Title. A classic with any element of nature in the title (not including animals). Examples include The Magic Mountain; The Grapes of Wrath; The Jungle; A High Wind in Jamaica; Gone With the Wind; Under the Volcano; etc. The Black Cat – Edgar Allan Poe
10. Classic About a Family. This classic should have multiple members of the same family as principal characters, either from the same generation or multiple different generations.  Updated: Family members in the title are also acceptable.Examples include Sense and Sensibility; Wives and Daughters; The Brothers Karamazov; Fathers and Sons; The Good Earth; Howards End; and The Makioka Sisters. East Lynne  – Mrs Henry Wood
11. Abandoned Classic. Choose a classic that you started and just never got around to finishing, whether you didn’t like it at or just didn’t get around to it. Now is the time to give it another try. Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
12. Classic Adaptation. Any classic that’s been adapted as a movie or TV series. If you like, you can watch the adaptation and include your thoughts in your book review. It’s not required but it’s always fun to compare. The Ladies’ Paradise – Emile Zola
Wish me luck! It looks like a slightly daunting list…
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