When you are unwell, you think you will have loads of time to read. I haven’t found this to be true at all. In-between my cancer treatments and associated appointments and work commitments (which have been self-managed and not very onerous), I have usually only had time to be…. sick. It’s quite time-consuming to be honest — bad quality sleeps, nauseous mornings, negotiating all the various side-effects and medications to counteract them — it all takes time.
I also like to catch up with my children and their activities. After all, they need to continue with their lives in as normal a fashion as possible.
When I do have strength and inclination to read, I am then faced with the choice of “what shall I read”?
I have a few books and lots of pamphlets about the disease I am fighting — but sometimes it’s “yeah, nah” response. There’s only so much material about cancer than I can face in one day or week.
However, over the past 3 months since I have been undergoing chemotherapy treatment and been transformed into a turtle-type of existence, hiding away in my home during my weeks of feeling unwell or having to stay away from people to avoid infection, I have managed to work my way through some really good books.
Some of these I am still only part-way through and for very good reason. Some are quite heavy going and should only be read a little at a time, in my opinion.
My favourite is “Life, Happiness…& Cancer – Survive with Action and Attitude” by Phil Kerslake. He is a seven-time cancer survivor who shows you how to use action and attitude to support recover. (That information is taken straight off the back cover).
I find his writing style and information to be very clear, no nonsense and practical. He gives great advice and backs it up with examples and references. I have taken his advice on many issues which is helping me greatly in terms of dealing with this disease and having more control over my own attitude towards it. Thank you so much Phil!
I am also working my way through “Beating Our Breasts” compiled and edited by Margaret Clark, “Surviving Breast Cancer” by Carolyn Weston and “Chemo and Back Again” by Andrea Fairbairn.
All these books are written by New Zealanders who have experienced cancer and are now sharing their stories and in some cases, the stories of others, with the aim of helping others. Reading them sometimes is quite cathartic and I have drawn a lot of inspiration and hope from their stories. These books are available from the New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation.
When I didn’t want to even think about cancer (which is harder than you might think), I had a choice of a few others.
One, which was given to me by my pastor, is a collection of books called “Extraordinary Lives”.
One of these is the story of Harry Belafonte’s life in “My Song”. I learnt so much about this incredible man and his role in the Civil Rights Movement in the United States and other places around the world. There is a lot more to the “Banana Boat” guy and again, it was very inspirational and educational.
Then, just to throw a spanner in the works (and this one I picked up from the waiting room of the cancer treatment unit… I have yet to return it, naughty me) is a really gem in the form of “Shroud for the Archbishop” by Peter Tremayne. Oh my gosh, where has this author been all my life? I was so immersed in the adventure and description of the story that it was finished all too soon!
An historical, fictional drama, it is set in AD664 and tells the story of a religieuse sister trained in criminal investigation. I learnt a lot about the religious orders of that time and about ancient Irish culture which I found totally fascinating.
Now I am seeking his books out in the library because I loved his story so much. Who needs “Miami CSI”?
And just for something different, well not so different for me but mainly because I had heard so much about this play but had never read or seen it (a terrible gap in my education) and because it was sitting in my son’s basket of books to read, I grabbed “Fresh off the Boat” by Oscar Kightley and Simon Small.
This play tells the story of a man who travels from one of the Pacific Islands to live in New Zealand and his struggles with cultural differences and the differences between a traditional island life and an urban life.
It was a story with which I am familiar, being a first generation New Zealander, borne of mixed Pacific and New Zealand Pakeha (European or Caucasian) heritage. It is a very well written play and would have been a ground-breaker when first performed 20-odd years ago. I would love to see the play performed with a new contemporary twist, if it shows in a town near me.
I have now finished my chemotherapy treatment and am in recovery mode. I will work my way through some of the books I have mentioned but when I don’t feel in the mood, I will do some colouring-in, or art therapy as it’s called now, for adults. A very good friend sent me a book and a set of gel pens and although it’s not something that I thought I would do, I have found it quite soothing and enjoyable.
You don’t have to think much — the hardest part is choosing the colours you want to use — just colour in, keep within the lines and let time go by, which at the moment, is just what my body needs.