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Friday, 13 May 2016
From Both Ends of the Stethoscope by Dr Kathleen Thompson
What we thought: The response I kept hearing, from friends who had read this book, was ‘You don’t expect a book about cancer to be a page turner – but this is.’ I can vouch for that. I read it in the course of two successive train rides to London, and the journey has rarely gone so quickly.
Kathleen Thompson is a British doctor who, in her mid-fifties found herself on the other side of the medical ‘fence’ when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
The book alternates clear explanations, in non-medical terms, of every aspect of breast cancer diagnosis and treatment, with frank and personal accounts of Thompson’s own experience.
One of the first things Thompson reminds us is “Cancer is not a death sentence. Not everyone will recover, but most will.” Her gentle voice guides the reader, from the first anxious visit to the GP, through diagnosis, surgery, the various post-surgical paths and into (it is to be hoped) ‘life after cancer’. She is full of praise for the NHS, but also clear-eyed about the things that can sometimes go wrong. She knows how important it is for a patient to take charge of their own treatment and not allow themselves to be railroaded by well-meaning but often overworked and rushed medical practitioners. But she also understands just how hard that can be for someone faced with a life-threatening illness.
The power of the book lies in Thompson’s willingness to be completely frank about her own fears, frustrations, her highs and lows; and also her capacity to see the medical staff who treated her both from the perspective of a patient and from someone who has sat on the other side of the desk.
Even if you are lucky enough never to get cancer, chances are at some point in your life you will have a cancer scare. If not you, then your mother, sister, daughter or friend will face this disease at some point. If you are a patient, this book will help you understand what you are going through and give you courage to make decisions that are right for you. If you are a carer, a family member, a friend or a member of the medical profession, it will deepen your understanding of what the cancer patient is experiencing.
A work of huge compassion, and one that, in the end, is surprisingly uplifting.
You’ll Enjoy This If You Loved: The C Word by Lisa Lynch
Avoid If You Dislike: Frank medical detail
Perfect Accompaniment: A pot of green tea
Genre: Non-fiction, Medical
Available from Amazon