For some time now I’ve been reviewing the occasional book for Macmillan Cancer Support, the latest Late Fragments by Kate Gross is about how to live with cancer whilst concurrently preparing for death from the perspective of a young woman otherwise in her prime with a young family and caring husband.
The book is very easy to read , it grabbed and held my attention from the very first words right through to the end. In the Introduction she states “When I was three, I told my Mum that I kept my words in my head, in a clear plastic bag. Now it is time for me to take them out, to arrange them into this story.” A born storyteller she has left her boys a legacy they will surely treasure and reminded me of the frailty of life and the need to spend our time wisely.
I read it very quickly in two days and know one day I shall read it again.This book is arranged in 10 short chapters, describing Gross’s childhood memories, the fulfilment and stress of work, the slog and joy of family life and her “fat, jolly little babies”.
I liked it’s truthfulness, honesty, admittance of great changes to her personality, ways of being and how she copes with this.
Kate died on Christmas morning 2014, however her legacy goes beyond that of her immediate family and friends. Kate is an elegant and straightforward writer, sprinkling wit and bitterness in all the right places. She strikes a balance between putting the reader in her shoes and expressing the impossible solitude of facing what you have to face.
Our peer advocates often have to walk in other’s shoes to experience the full impact of their situations. That they do this with such compassion is a testament to their own experiences and deep commitment to helping others in similar situations.
Although this book is about a young woman and her family the messages it contains are universal. They leave the reader with a deep sense of compassion for others in a similar place. If like me and the wonderful advocates with whom we work, readers are working to support those other’s then reading this book reminded me that to re-engage with our compassionate self can only serve to enhance our work.
I’d like to thank all those people working on the Cancer Older People’s Advocacy programme for their continued compassion towards others and commitment to changing people’s lives for the better.
Kath Parson, OPAAL