independent

Friday 20 September 2019

WRITE APPROACH

FINTAN LAMBE

'EXPRESSIONS of Hope, words from Writers and Fighters' is a new book of writings from Wexford women who have had cancer, which goes on sale on February 1.

The book, which contains writings from a creative writing group at the Hope Cancer Support Centre in Enniscorthy, will go on sale next month from the Hope Centre and from Book Centre shops, to raise funds for the centre.

In 2009, Wexford County Council through the County Wexford Community Arts Network, provided a grant to the Hope Cancer Support Centre to part fund a creative writing project, facilitated by Suzanne Power, where ten brave women living with a cancer diagnosis over a period, put their thought words and feelings on paper.

The result was the anthology 'Expressions of Hope' which will be launched in the on February 1, at 7.30 p.m. in Wexford Book Centre.

The powerful collection of words from writers and fighters was written for and themselves and for anyone who may travel a similar road and is available at The Hope Cancer Support Centre and The Hope Shop, priced €10.

Further details can be obtained from the Hope Centre, Enniscorthy (053) 9238555.

The following are a selection of extracts from the book:

The chapter Prescriptions for Living, opens with a piece from Emer, who died last year but left so much energy with those who knew her.

These are the words of a woman who knew the value of health and of healing and of writing it down. This piece symbolises the life and approach of a proactive and imaginative woman who is sadly missed. VISUALISATION

A high energy start: body buzzing, glorious sunshine, bursting to get out of the bed and to celebrate the day. Smoothie while standing in the kitchen, kettle boiling, birds singing, heat on my body from the incoming sun. Mellow and happy. Fruit and tea. What next?

Walk on the beach at St Helen's: glorious sunshine, deserted strand, cooling breeze, sitting down to watch the sea. Looking for seals, sun on the water, pure heaven.

Back to the car. Take out chairs, picnic: cheese, fresh bread, wine, deep breath, mellow, content. Chilling calm. Blue skies. Sea. Happy Out! Snooze, heat on my body, cuddles, spooning. Get the kayak. Dress up. Throw on wet gear. Attempt to get in the kayak. Lots of laughter. Tears streaming down my face. Lots of splashing. Falling in. Eventually getting the hang of it. Taking off. Freedom, satisfaction, achievement. Tired of exertion. Barbecue. Happy. Emer November 11, 1971 - December 7, 2009 RECOVERY

Get better. Improve. Pick up. Rally. Revive. Mend. Convalesce.

All very positive words, but the knowing of them and the reality of them are two very different things. And this is okay and very normal. Life has been a roller coaster, suddenly propelled into action by the initial diagnosis. Your focus has been to get through treatment and suddenly you are in a very different place. No longer marking off dates on the calendar but facing the rest of your life.

The buffer between you and the rest of the world is gone.

Bewilderment. Can I? Yes I can. Sensations return. Food begins to have flavour and meals become a pleasure, not a chore. New hair growth is greeted with joy.

Family and friends are relieved - expectations are high, both theirs and yours.

But support is needed even more. Perhaps a different style of support, such as encouragement and empathy from people who have walked the same path. Kindnesses must be accepted at a time when maybe you expected to be more independent.

The most important source of kindness is that which you show yourself. Acceptance of who you are at each moment, that it is still you but seen from a new angle. You may not walk in the same shoes as you did before. The Manolo Blahnik heels may be a bit high but you are still a beautiful person. Each path is made up of individual choices. No set prescription here, only the wonder of small achievements. A longer walk one day, an afternoon you managed to stay awake, a chapter of a book read. All reasons to congratulate yourself.

Tempered by the winds of illness, but you are like a flower coming up. After a season of withdrawal greet yourself with acceptance, kindness and allow the recovering you to develop at nature's pace, to be the best you can in this next season of your life. Bloom! Aideen

The Hope Cancer Support Centre in Enniscorthy is a different planet, one where atrocity does not exist, where people care for one another. There is a sense that time stops when you walk through the door, to be picked up again on the street. The silence speaks and it only has kind words to say. Volunteers, staff, clients, family, people. All together. All learning from one another. In this piece Stella, one of the writers and fighters who feature in Expressions of Hope, talks about her fears on first going and her gratitude that she did it. BREAKING FREE

Hope. How often did I look at that leaflet in room where I had my chemo? But my eyes always darted away from it. It always read hopeless to me. Then, near the end of my six months of treatment, my doctor rang to say she wanted to talk to me and the first thing she said was, I should try the Hope Centre in Enniscorthy.

A few of her patients told her to recommend it to anyone coming after them. It worked wonders for them.

So I went to take a look. I felt scared, fragile, vulnerable, no confidence. It was just great. So bright and cheerful, so peaceful. This atmosphere was created by the environment, but also the staff. It's the best thing I've done for myself and my family. I am just finishing the writing course. I've had counselling and reflexology and met some great people.

'I Want to Break Free', Freddie Mercury sang and I'm saying: 'I am Free to be Me' in Hope. I don't have to wear my mask so much with my group of friends. Understanding and caring I get and need so much console for the hole in my soul after chemo and cancer. It helps me to feel whole again.

Hope gave me the space to show my real face, to swear and declare: "f *** it, it's not fair".

Where do I need to be right now? Nowhere, except here in Hope with good friends, having a laugh and sharing thoughts and dreams. I feel so safe and understood. Life is funny ha ha and funny peculiar. One time I would have wanted and needed so much more but if this is as good as it gets, that's fine with me.

Stella

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