rest-awhileIt’s been wonderful (and mildly embarrassing) to have Run for Your Life featured in a few publications over the last few weeks. I’m grateful to friends who then share the links and talk so positively about the book, and I’m delighted that people are enjoying it and finding it helpful.

When you send your writing out into the world, you can’t control how people respond to it or what they make of it. When people write about your writing, there is even less you can do about how it is received, however faithful they might be to the story or however positive they are about what you have written. Someone wrote on a Facebook link to one of the articles: ‘Inspiring stuff, makes my current chemo exercise regime look totally pathetic but as she says, do what you can, not what you can’t – or something like that.’ I’m glad he picked up on the ‘do what you can’ bit, but I’m mortified that he would call his exercise pathetic. My hope for my writing is that it should be liberating rather than oppressive. Here is the beginning of my chapter on chemotherapy:

‘This is how I went through treatment for cancer. It is not a prescription or a ‘how to’ manual. It is not an example to judge, either as one to aspire to or one to criticise; cancer is not a competition. So many factors come into play when you are trying to negotiate a life-changing situation like this, and we all respond in our own unique way. Your way will be different to mine, will be different to hers, will be different to his. So why share it? Because I felt that being diagnosed with cancer plunged me into a different world where I didn’t know the rules or how to find my way around. I wanted to hear from people who had been there before me that it would be ok, that they had navigated this disruption and come out the other side. Like a BBC foreign correspondent, I am reporting back on my experience in that strange land in the hope that it helps other people who have been given the same assignment.’

Treatment is gruelling enough without added pressure to respond in a certain way just because someone else did. Any exercise is beneficial, but if chemo has wiped you out so you can’t even get out of bed, then what you need is rest and recuperation not a judgement that you are being pathetic. It makes me want to borrow and adapt the beginning of Mary Oliver’s poem and say, ‘you do not have to run… you only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.’ Listen to your body and do what feels best for you.

Photo: Jonny Baker

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