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Monday Memories – Life After Retirement #2: Back to Work.

The person we appointed as manager of the Services to Elderly People Project was due to commence work at the beginning of September. In August he notified us that he would not be able to leave his current employment as soon as he had originally supposed. As manager of a group of insurance collectors he was engaged in the process of winding down the operation which was transitioning to telephone and internet.

Completion of the process was not going easily and was now expected to take until December. He would have to withdraw his acceptance of our appointment. The steering committee met and decided that, rather than go through the whole recruitment process again, we needed someone to fill the gap as temporary manager, until our designated appointee was available. Delaying the start of the project would mean losing a significant element of the funding. I was asked if I would be willing to fulfill that temporary role, subject to a successful interview?

The upshot was that I found myself in full time paid employment once again, albeit for a short period. I took part in the recruitment of the first employees, each of whom had experienced a long period of unemployment and would be engaged part-time so that they could continue to receive welfare payments whilst also working on the project. I purchased tools and equipment, prepared and distributed a publicity leaflet, set up a task recording and scheduling system and, at the end of February, handed over a fully operational service to the new manager.

Late in the summer of 2009 I received a call from the manager of the community development organisation telling me she had nominated me to take part in a course being run by Volunteer Ireland. At the end of it I and the other man she had nominated would be qualified to deliver the same course to community groups around the county, the aim being to enable them to better manage their volunteers.

Image shows a modern single story building surrounded by trees an lawns.
The Cuisle Centre in Portlaoise – support for cancer patients and their loved ones. I’ve been a volunteer here since April 2010.

One of the participants on the first course I delivered, in January 2010, was manager of a cancer support charity. I asked her about the work that volunteers undertook at the centre they run. “Right now I’m looking for a gardener,” she said. When I told her of my interest in gardening she suggested that I arrange to meet with her in the spring to talk about it. Nearer the appointed date I suggested to Freda that she come with me. Maybe there were some tasks she could undertake as a volunteer there.

As a result of that meeting we agreed that I would work in the garden twice a week and that Freda would run a weekly knitting and crochet session for clients. Thus began an association that would last until the present day.

Meanwhile my efforts with the paint brush were continuing. The group held annual exhibitions and I sold a few paintings. I mostly painted landscapes, working from photographs, sometimes my own, sometimes from published images, especially from calendars. I had also taken tentative steps toward my other proposed activity, writing. Sometime in 2007/8 the local council offered a series of writing workshops which I attended one evening a week for 8 or 10 weeks.

Later in 2008 they appointed a writer in residence. Although I did not attend her workshops, I did answer her call for submissions for stories for inclusion in an anthology she was to publish at the end of her term of office. To my surprise and delight the story was accepted and duly appeared in print.

My first “in-print” short story appeared in this.

Then late in 2009 I saw an advertisement on the internet for an organisation offering opportunities for would-be writers. I e-mailed a sample piece and was instantly accepted. In hindsight that should have flagged a warning. Over the next year or so I submitted several articles with varying degrees of success.

The business model was what has come to be known as a “content farm”. Articles are produced with the deliberate intention to attract advertising. People clicking advertisements produce income for the organisation, some of which is shared with the writer. Articles are peppered with key words targeted at specific readers thereby attracting advertisers who also want to appeal to those readers. The research required can be time consuming and the business model was earning a bad reputation.

There were several attempts to change the model but eventually the business collapsed. The principle benefit for me and many others was the opportunity to “talk” to other aspiring writers via the forum. I have since been able to watch as the careers of several blossomed following the demise of the company.

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Stevie Interviews Author and Singer-Songwriter Donna W. Hill

I’m getting behind with my own author interviews so I’m delighted to be able to share this one between Suffolk based Stevie Turner and Pennsylvania’s Donna W. Hill. I found it truly inspiring – I hope you do too.

via Stevie Interviews Author and Singer-Songwriter Donna W. Hill

Supporting Cancer Charities With Writing

It is 7 or 8 years since the Laois Writers’ Group published an anthology which they sold in order to raise funds for the Cuisle Centre. By attracting sponsors and holding a slew of fund raising events we were able to defray the cost of having the book printed locally so that all sales proceeds went to the charity which supports patients and their loved ones following a diagnosis of cancer.

macmillan5More recently, as Paul Ruddock’s post which follows explains, a group of authors from across the world contributed stories for an anthology published to support the UK’s Macmillan Fund which provides nursing care for cancer patients being cared for in their own homes. I am proud to have had a story accepted for the second such volume which will be published later this year. I am also assisting with the final preparation of the volume.

Paul’s post below includes the story he contributed to the first volume. Read and enjoy it. Then click his link to buy the book and support this great cause.

“In 2015 my good friend and fellow author, Ian D. Moore invited members of our FB writing group the IASD (see www.indieauthorsupportanddiscussion.com) to write and contribute original stories for an anthology of short stories on the theme of Relationships in all their many and varied forms. The idea was born out of the author’s personal loss of a much loved close relative to cancer. See more

 

Open Book Blog Hop Oct 2 2017

I’ve been a volunteer with a local cancer support charity since the spring of 2010. I mostly work in the garden there. But in 2013 I trained to lead groups of walkers on a programme called ‘Strides for Life‘. Too many of my friends at relatives have been afflicted by this disease which takes lives at random. It’s good to be involved with people who help those recovering from the illness, and family members struggling to come to terms with the fact a loved one has it.

This is first time I’ve participated in the Open Book Blog Hop. You are welcome to have ago. The idea is you blog about the week’s subject – My Favourite Charity this time around – then click the blue button to post a link to it. To get the button, follow this link.

Rules:
1. Link your blog to this hop.
2. Notify your following that you are participating in this blog hop.
3. Promise to visit/leave a comment on all participants’ blogs.
4. Tweet/or share each person’s blog post. Use #OpenBook when tweeting.
5. Put a banner on your blog that you are participating.v

Meditations on Mortality

I was given this book by a stranger. Not a complete stranger as I almost wrote, for we had met twice over breakfast. Allow me to explain. If you saw my posts from the first couple of days in June you will be aware that I spent a few days in North Kerry taking in some of the events of Listowel Writers’ Week. We stayed in a small bed and breakfast establishment just outside Ballybunion. The other guests at breakfast on Thursday and Friday morning were Andrew, a professor of English from Santa Clara University in the last days of a six week sojourn touring around Ireland. In the course of conversation he revealed that Emma Donaghue’s father had been one of his professors.

The other guest at breakfast on those first two days was a lady named Elaine, down from Dublin for a few days. On Friday morning we talked briefly about the book shops in Listowel and the importance of independent book shops generally.

Saturday morning she had departed before we arrived in the small dining room. Andrew handed a paperback book to me, saying that Elaine had left it for me. A surprising and delightful gesture. I’m truly sorry that I did not have the opportunity to thank her. More so now that I have read it.

When Breath Becomes AirWhen Breath Becomes Air” is both a memoir and a meditation on the meaning of life and death. The title is suggested by a verse from Baron Brooke Fulke Greville’s “Caelica 83”

Kalanithi’s family migrated from India to New York and thence to Arizona. They were a medical family but young Paul was more interested in literature than medicine. On obtaining a degree in English literature he realised his quest to discover the workings of the mind: the way it defines our personality and the way we relate to our fellow beings, required an understanding of how the brain functions. This, in turn, led him to neuroscience. Becoming a neuro-surgeon, he completed his residency and was ready to become head of his department when he was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.

As a septuagenarian I am well aware that I have an ever reducing amount of time left. At the same time it is important to remember that death can arrive at any time. When I was in my teens three contemporaries lost their lives in tragic circumstances – a drowning, an accident with a shot gun and a motorcycle accident. Over the years since, too many friends have been taken by cancer. And yet there are people whose abuse of their bodies in their twenties ought to have finished them off decades ago but they are still living life to the full in their seventies.

Nevertheless, to be told in your mid-thirties that your life is about to end must be devastating. Kalanithi still harboured a yearning to write. In remission following treatment he is faced with a decision: have I long enough to go back to the work I love and that is changing lives or only long enough to write my book?

To say more would be to spoil the book for other readers.

There is medical jargon here, including words used in the USA to define the various levels of seniority in the profession that have different titles on this side of the Atlantic. It would have been helpful to have had a glossary. This, however, is a minor criticism.

People talk a lot about “bucket lists”: the things you’d like to see and do before you die. Too often these take on a selfish tone with a desire to see some of the wonders of the world, whether created by ancient civilisations: the Pyramids, say, or Machu Pichu; or by nature such as Ayer’s Rock or the Grand Canyon. Kalanithi’s book reminds us that it is what we leave behind us that is most important; what we’ve achieved, not where we have been or what we have seen. Life, he tells us, is essentially about striving. I would add that there are, in this 21st century world, far too many who are more concerned to avoid that struggle than to take part. Kalanithi was not one of those. He epitomises the work ethic that characterises Indian as well as the best of American and European culture. As such, his story is one of the most inspiring you are ever likely to read.

Getting it – or Not?

I am no linguist. Apart from schoolboy French, mostly long forgotten, I know no language other than English. Nevertheless, I have a love of language. One of the fascinating things about the English language is that, whilst there are some things for which there is more than one word, there are also many words that have more than one meaning.

It is the latter fact, in relation to one word in particular, that has mired the Irish Cancer Society in controversy in recent days. The particular word is “get”.

Meaning #1: acquire, as in “I’m going to get a new phone.”

Meaning #2: understand, as in “I get that there is more than one meaning for the word ‘get’.”

Meaning #3: to wreak revenge, as in “I’ll get you for that.”

The Society has been running a series of television and radio advertisements in which individuals are recorded saying “I want to get cancer.” Some of these clips are broadcast without any accompanying explanation. The explanation, when it comes, relies on a statistical prediction to the effect that half the population will be diagnosed with cancer in the next few years.

The individuals in the advertisements are implying that if one out of every two people is going to be diagnosed, they would rather it was them than their friend, partner or close relative.

The society’s message goes on to point out that they, too, want to “get” cancer, both in the sense that they are working hard to understand cancer in order to find more effective treatments, and that their aim is, not so much to wreak revenge on it, as to destroy it.

It is a clever play on words and the wonderful peculiarities of our language. The problem is that, whilst literate adults have no problem grasping the underlying message, the way it is presented, with people saying they want to get cancer with no explanation, children, especially those who may have seen a close relative die from cancer, are disturbed by the thought that anyone would want to acquire such a devastating disease.

One mother, whose 20 year old son was diagnosed with a particularly nasty form of the disease in August and died shortly before Christmas, is so angry that she has posted an open letter to the Society on Facebook. The post has received a great many “shares” and “likes” and attracted many messages of support.

Whoever came up with this idea at the Society – or approved it, if devised by an agency – is probably regretting their decision. The official line is that they wanted to get (that word again!) people talking. Whether the conversation that is being had is the one they wanted, however, is questionable.

Strides for Life: #atozchallenge

I started volunteering at my local cancer support centre about 6 years ago. The centre has a large garden and I spend 3 or 4 hours each week assisting with its maintenance. A couple of years ago I was asked if I’d like to become involved in the Strides for Life programme. I readily agreed.

A group of people participating in Strides for Life Photo from Irish Cancer Society.

The programme was devised by Marie Murphy, in conjunction with the Irish Cancer Society. Marie is a former Irish Olympic athlete who lived and worked for many years in California. She spent 14 years working with breast cancer researcher and author, Dr Susan Love, researching the beneficial effects of exercise for breast cancer patients. During the training she provided for those of us assigned to deliver the programme in Ireland, she related many inspirational stories about patients with whom she had worked. It was in the course of this work that she and Dr Love were able to demonstrate that the rate of recurrence of cancer among patients who adopted a structured programme of exercise is much less than in those who shun exercise.

At the Cuisle centre we provide the fifteen week Strides for Life programme twice each year: February – May and August – December. The group meets weekly. The first week participants are timed walking 1 mile. This provides a measure of their current state of fitness from which they are assigned an appropriate exercise programme. During the following week participants are expected to walk for 15 or 20 minutes on alternate days.

At the start of each of the next 4 weeks the group walks together for 30 or 45 minutes. Because some participants will be able to walk much further than others during this time, we ensure there are 2-3 people accompanying them. This is my role, along with maintaining the necessary records. Week five is a timed mile once again, to assess improved fitness and assign a new programme. The five week cycle is repeated a second time, making up the fifteen week total.

Alongside the exercise there is good conversation and participants certainly appreciate the companionship established over the fifteen weeks. Some friendships established on the programme continue after the programme is complete. Some participants take part in two successive programmes.

Strides for Life is one of several services provided by the centre to support cancer patients and their families as they come to terms with their diagnosis. Check out the centre’s website for more.

S is also for ‘Stronger than Yesterday: Living your Life Beyond Adversity’. It also stands for surviving which is what the book is about. Surviving is also the aim of the Strides for Life programme and everything else that happens at the centre. There is no charge for the services of the centre which receives no state funding. It is financed entirely from voluntary donations and fund-raising events.

Use the comments below to tell me about a voluntary or community service with which you are involved.