Thursday, 17 December 2015

Book Review: The Astrocytoma Diaries by Ken Mooney

23rd May 2014. The day I was diagnosed with a brain tumour.

I faced diagnosis. I faced surgery (awake!) I faced radiotherapy. I faced chemotherapy. I got my treatment and I'm still here.

During treatment, I tried to keep a diary, a place to share my hopes and frustrations. It was also a place to discover a lot about myself, where humour and movies and music made the experience all the more bearable.

This is not something anyone should ever have to go through. But this is how I came this far and tried to kick its ass.

Some of the proceeds for this book will go to charities and services that helped me through this war, and the international charities that encourage other people to keep up the good fight: Beaumont Hospital Foundation, The Friends Of St. Luke's, The Irish Cancer Society, FCancer & Stand Up To Cancer.

My Review:
It is very difficult to read and review a true story about a cancer battle, which is why it has taken me several days of drafting my review before I could start writing it for real.

I came into contact with Ken online when I applied to review his book 'Godhead' on Goodreads. I always had fun reading what he was doing on Twitter, so it was a shock to hear about his brain tumour. I tried to follow his progress where possible as at the time my mother was losing her own battle with cancer. I was a little nervous to read it after my own experiences but I'm glad that I did.

Having spent a lot of time in hospitals over the last few years, I could relate totally to what Ken says about the endless waiting. Waiting for the appointment, the waiting to get called, waiting for the doctor or nurse to start telling you what is going can all be pretty soul destroying when you just want things to start moving. I remember vividly the expressions on the faces of the other patients and families in the waiting areas, all having had similar experiences. I do remember the look that Ken mentions passing between each of you, silently wishing each other luck and showing solidarity.

I know also what he means when talking about the urge to google all the scary sounding words to scare yourself with what it says on each page. Oh yes, done that. We can't seem to resist the urge to torture ourselves with that worst case scenario when it will do nothing to help. Human nature eh? Then is the fear of saying certain words beginning with C, as if saying them finally makes them real. I was totally on that page with him. I certainly understood quite a few things that he was talking about and could relate to it.

The descriptions of the surgery is pretty damn scary. I'm scared of the dentist drill so hearing a bone saw chomping it's way into my head with the smell of me burning alongside is far from appealing and must have been bloody scary to go through. The number of surgeries, the ooze and other complications...I just can't imagine how frustrating, upsetting and exhausting it must have been. And to then have radiotherapy and chemotherapy to face after that, well, Ken proves how strong he was to face it all and still keep a sense of humour in his online posts. I remember one post after one of the surgeries which said along the lines of 'still here bitches!' which really made me smile. Plus all our jokes about which X-Men superpowers the surgeries were going to give him!

I can imagine that some readers might want more details about the treatment or the appointments etc, I imagine others would have set it out a bit differently. However I think this book is powerful because it was raw and largely unedited from when Ken first noted down his thoughts on the experience. It is no surprise that you would have random thoughts running through your head at a time like this and putting things down in a nice neat order would not be your priority! These are the thoughts of a man facing something scarier than the rest of us can imagine and writing about it at all would have been beyond most of us. It's a book that has a lot of emotion in it and must have been hard to write.

Books like these should be published as they can be a help to others facing the surgery and the complications and all the uncertainty. I hope that more people choose to pick this up and read it.
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