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ss triple helix - summer 2009,  Learning to be the patient

Learning to be the patient

A Doctor's Cancer Journey
Hazel Butland
AuthorHouse 2008
$11 Pb 292pp
ISBN 978 1 43439 696 9

CMF member Hazel was a GP, police surgeon, and a doctor at a local hospice; someone full of energy and outside interests; a Christian, a wife, and a mother. She was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 50. This book stems from her journal, mixing narrative and reflection on issues like the diagnosis, telling the family, the treatment with its uncertainties and side effects, and her efforts to continue working and socialising.

It provokes all sorts of questions about getting the balance right. Somehow she manages to be both doctor and patient - even by attending the day hospice where she is known as the doctor, yet benefiting enormously from making a mosaic. Alongside her cancer journey she deals with past hurts from a previous position in general practice, old pain resurfacing when facing new trauma.

This book is well worth reading - but do bear with her and remember why the journal was written. In places it becomes a little tedious and it is tempting to skip the recurring thoughts and the detail on drug regimes and constipation! Initially I couldn't put the book down. It is perhaps overlong, but it is honest, insightful, and describes a journey of faith.


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