Bangers and Mash by Keith Hern

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Bangers and Mash by Keith Hern

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Category: Home and Family
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: A very readable account of one man's personal experience of having throat cancer and the treatment which saved his life. We hope that you don't need it, but if you do then it's highly recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 168 Date: November 2009
Publisher: MX Publishing
ISBN: 978-7103074

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Keith Hern found a small lump in his neck and when the results of the tests came through he tried to put the appointment off as he had something more pressing to do, but the doctor was insistent. He knew then that he had cancer. The lump in his neck was, in fact, a secondary tumour with the primary being in the back of his tongue. But for the secondary tumour the discovery of the primary might have been too late for successful treatment. Keith takes us through the discovery of his cancer, his reactions to the diagnosis, his treatment and the titular meal of bangers and mash – the first solid food which he had attempted for some time.

Don't be put off by the mention of NLP – neuro-linguistic programming – on the cover because the book is about much more than the help which he received from an NLP coach. The coach does make some valid points which are not just relevant to someone undergoing this treatment but to life in general – I found the thought of looking beyond a particular problem to find the desired outcome particularly thought-provoking and there are plenty of other points which will allow you to consider how you approach problems. NLP isn't pushed in the book – it's simply a tool which Keith found useful in helping him to get through a particularly difficult time. If you're hoping to find out more about NLP then this might not be the most appropriate book for you. You'll get the feel - but not the detail.

But if you – or someone close to you – is suffering from cancer and particularly throat cancer then this book is invaluable. Keith is brutally honest about his reactions to the news of the diagnosis. He's open about the tears, the fears and the difficulty of telling people what the problem was. With a serious illness it's easy to think that you're not coping because the diagnosis has hit so hard and it's reassuring to know that someone else has had pretty much the same set of feelings.

The book really comes into its own when he details the treatment he received. He's honest about his fears and how badly the treatment affected him on occasions, but not to the extent that anyone would be put off having the necessary interventions. If you look on it as 'this is the treatment that I (or whoever) will be having and this is what I should expect by way of reaction to it' then it will help the mental preparations. Despite all that Keith went through he's consistently positive and I found the book uplifting.

He's a photographer and he was encouraged and then in turn encouraged others to take photographs at each stage of his treatment. They're printed in black and white but I found such details as the making of a protective face mask fascinating and I'm sure that many people facing invasive surgery will be reassured that a major operation scar which looked as though it would be a life-long disfigurement rapidly fades to little more than a thin line.

Despite the subject matter it's easy reading. It's not John Diamond but it's none the worse for that and deserves to stand on its own without comparisons being made. I'm sure that anyone approaching treatment will find this book an invaluable support.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

Taryn McKeiver gives an equally frank account of her battle with bowel cancer in A November to Remember.

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