A Love Affair With Cancer
Chats & Interviews <|> Gig/Tour/Festival Reviews <|> CD/DVD/Book Reviews <|> Photo Galleries
Free Hawkwind Downloads <|> Resources <|> Other Features
News <|> Links <|> Search <|> Site Map <|> Home
Synopsis

'A Love Affair with Cancer' tells the true, powerful and emotive story of an immature teenager attempting to
come to terms with the devastating diagnosis of cancer and the outrage he feels at the attempt of his parents
to deny him that knowledge. The journey outlines the psychological damage that the disease can elicit and the
subsequent change to his personal philosophy.

The story begins with an admission of his failure to comply at school and his passion for one of history's
great rock bands, Hawkwind. It continues with the association and small part that this band played in keeping
John on the straight and narrow, including his first and traumatic experience of the big city. The high jinks
and tomfoolery of young teenagers is an important part of adolescence and the story depicts his eagerness to
play the practical joker, yet soon we discover that he finds himself in a difficult predicament as he follows his
heroes (Hawkwind) to London.

Plagued by an unexpected fatigue John is diagnosed with a life threatening cancer. Yet no one can even
attempt to imagine the destruction and fear that chemotherapy can cause and as an innocent eighteen year
old, John tries to explain the unexplainable and the psychological morbidity caused by an indiscriminate
disease and the equally predatory treatment, but importantly John highlights that cancer is very much about
individualism. No two people are affected the same and yet the mutual peer support is invaluable.

Recurrence of cancer time and time again means more and more treatment until, enough is enough and he
decides that no more chemotherapy can or will be tolerated, whatever the consequences of that monumental
decision may be. The story unfolds the respect John earns for his carers, particularly a young staff nurse
named Sid, who takes it upon himself to persuade John to continue with more chemotherapy. Unfortunately,
even though he accepts more treatment, it fails and eventually his parents, again, without his knowledge, are
told that this cancer is likely to claim the life of their son. Yet, unexpectedly within months the cancer
disappears.

Continuing with a poignant story unlike any other, John confesses to making knee jerk reactions in a bid to
conform to societies demands such is his feeling at missing out on so much so early on in his fragile life.
Sadly, this decisions proves to be wrong as he enters a marriage destined to fail, but not before he finds the
joys of parent hood followed soon afterwards by the news that all parents fear, a cancer diagnosis of their
child, even worse is to follow as it revealed that Donna is expected to die from the vicious ravages of cancer.
The story gives an insight into the difficulties parents face trying to come to terms with this news and the
coping mechanisms that are needed. Once again, John is faced with an end of life scenario, but on this
occasion, it is not the threat to his own mortality that he fears, it is his precious daughter.

Despite an ongoing handicap the amazing Donna belies all of the odds to become a prolific swimmer and
ultimately represents Great Britain at the 1997 World Swimming Championships in New Zealand, returning
with unexpected honours.

Faced with a decision in respect to his future employment, John decides on a career in nursing but not before
the difficult ordeal of returning to college to attain the requisite qualifications needed to become a student
nurse. But, it all pays dividends as he experiences a meteoric rise to the top, including working as a staff
nurse on the very ward that he himself was a patient on many years earlier. He clarifies the pleasure that
nursing cancer patients brings with it and subsequently returns to his home town of South Shields where he
is appointed as a Macmillan Clinical Nurse Specialist in haematology, caring for individuals with the same
disease that both he and his daughter had had and using the same rooms at his local hospital to discuss
diagnosis and prognosis with patients today in the same way that on more than one occasion, bad news was
given to him many years earlier. It is evident of his joy working in the same hospital that made his diagnosis
some thirty years ago. And so he has come full circle and believes passionately that much of this is down to
fate.

The unique and occasionally tearful story draws to a close with the most unusual wedding ceremony,
walking down the aisle to the sound of Hawkwind, one of his life long passions. Yet, irrespective of all that
has gone before, a love affair with cancer emphasizes just how difficult it is to escape the life long sentence
that is a cancer diagnosis and the permanent psychological scarring that remains, but also how this disease
can change your beliefs and philosophy to make you the person you are.

A Love Affair with Cancer epitomises the individualism that the killer disease creates, but also how every day
is faced with enthusiasm and fervour, a new perspective and appreciation of life itself.
title of a new book, being
published in March 2006,
and written by John
W.Pattison - who also
goes by the moniker of
'Hawklord of Shields' on
the pages of this site.  
John is a massive
Hawkwind fan and in
particular helped with
getting the Chart Trek
campaign going on the
2004 Winter tour.  All that
pales in comparison with
the content of the book,
however, which tells the
story of John's own
involvement with cancer:
and it also manages to
feature Hawkwind in
almost every chapter.

My intention is to get hold
of a copy of the book and
review it here, but
meanwhile here are the
back cover blurb and
synopsis of the story,
both written by John
himself (I think!)
28th February 2006

The book is now ready and available via the publisher's website and is easily the cheapest (£8.00) way
of getting it.  P & P is approximately £4 (depending on where you live).  Check that page out to see the
cover of the book and read a brief extract.

12th March 2006

Here is my review...for what it's worth
This is a story quite unlike any other, and very definitely of interest to any Hawkwind fan as well as to
those whose lives have been touched in some way by cancer: which, as the book points out, is just about
everyone.  It is very highly autobiographical, and charts the personal journey made by the author, from
adolescence to grandparenthood.  In some ways it is a story that resembles the course of many of our
lives (I mean hairy-arsed Hawkwind fans when I say "our"), but there is a difference, and that is the love
affair with cancer referred to in the title.

The synopsis given above really says enough about the outline of the story, so I will confine my
comments to observations concerning the experience of *reading* the book, which I managed in almost a
single sitting; it is very compelling stuff.  First of all there's the familiarity of much of the initial material,
particularly for those of us who grew up in the UK in the 1970's.  But that changes in the third chapter
with the diagnosis of cancer that turns John's life upside down.  What really struck me, and I have
virtually no experience in this subject, was how barbaric cancer care was at that time in the National
Health Service.  As the book progresses, this point is more fully drawn out, given that the author is now a
senior health care professional in that very field; and one of the keenest points to be made by the book is
that, although he does not parade his personal experience of suffering from cancer to his patients, it
obviously informs the author's philosophy and professional outlook.

In case I am making it sound as though this book is a depressing trawl through a subject that is
traditionally held to be horrific, that is not the case.  First, the author dispels the myth that cancer is a
doom-laden business inevitably resulting in terrible pain, suffering and death.   And this is not really a
story about cancer, but about a life lived with and around it.  One consequence of this distinction is the
surprising amount of Hawkwind content in the book.  Being a *serious* fan, Hawkwind plays a huge role
in John's life, and this comes across loud and clear, with the multitude of references to them being much
more than just passing mentions.  John describes trips around the UK to see them live, his reaction to
newly released albums, the degree to which they are an essential layer of his everyday life, and does an
excellent job of getting across just how much Hawkwind means to we the committed.  And when you
look at the chapter titles, and marvel at how relevant they are to what unfolds in the author's life, you can
see why this is.

Now to something which might be construed as a criticism, but which I think in the end almost enhances
the book, and that is the style in which it is written.  I have the greatest admiration for the author - John
has done things with his life which I could never accomplish, if I live to be 150.  But his writing style is
pretty undeveloped (maybe because of the lack of application at school that he mentions), and I could
further characterize it as raw, naïve and unpolished.  This has certainly not been helped by an apparent
total lack of editing, which has resulted in the text containing some basic errors of spelling and/or
grammar, such as the interchangeability of "to" and "too", and the misuse of "new� where "knew" was
intended.  Now, this book was obviously never intended to be a work of literature, and so in that sense
this doesn't matter one iota.  And actually, it reinforces the fact that this is an intensely personal narrative,
telling the inside story of one man, who started out as a welder in a shipyard and made the journey to
becoming a Haematology Clinical Nurse Specialist (not an English Literature major at a prestigous
university!)  

But...¦something that the writing style does achieve is to mirror this journey, so that early in the book, the
author notes that "I could recall many anecdotal stories about those early days and the mischief I regularly
found myself in, most often of course I didn't have to look far for it, trouble seemed as though it could
find me quite easily."  Contrast this with a sentence from the penultimate chapter: “The published data
in respect to developing cancer as a result of the effects of treatment (Carcinogenesis) is rather
ambiguous."  The subject matter is of course far more mature, but there’s a stylistic sharpness in the
latter sentence that is missing from the earlier chapters of the book.

I did find the passage towards the end in which John explains his views on religion to be unnecessary, or
perhaps overstated, but otherwise found this a thoroughly absorbing story, which completely achieves its
aims, and will be unlike anything else you've ever read.  And I learned a lot from reading it too - in fact, I
now feel a little embarrassed when I recall the conversation that I had with John on meeting him in
person for the first time, after the London Astoria gig on 21st December 2005.  On that occasion we
discussed his forthcoming book, and I rather airily asked him if I was right in thinking he was "a cancer
survivor", with what I now realise is only a superficial understanding of all that implies.  I remember John
smiling slightly and nodding in assent; he had the graciousness to leave me to discover the extent of my
own ignorance at the right time and in the right way.  Like I said, I could never do what he has done and
continues to do, but maybe I can persuade you to buy this book.  It is well worth reading.
15th March 2006: the East Devon Midweek Herald carries a news story on this very subject!

And there was also the
Love Affair With Cancer Launch Party on 11th March 2006!

3rd November 2006: The author now has a website dedicated to the book '
A Love Affair With Cancer'
This is not the usual tripe that I put on this site, though it is intimately connected with Hawkwind.  "A Love
Affair With Cancer" is the