Look at this photo. Bernadette and I had a lot of fun trying to cycle this weird contraption along an empty road in China. What a happy time we had that day! It is to the memory of Bernadette that I dedicated my book Fighting Cancer – A Survival Guide (this was the original title of the book which I now call Cancer: The Complete Recovery Guide) I wrote this book because Bernadette was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 1993. She underwent surgical investigation, radiation and chemotherapy and was dead exactly a year later. Looking back, if I were to summarize my experience I would say the biggest mistake we made was to do what the doctors advised. Bernadette could not have died sooner if we had done nothing.
There is no doubt that she died as much from the treatment as from the cancer itself. In addition, that year – the year of her illness – caused us a great deal of seemingly unavoidable, painful relationship difficulties as we responded to her illness in very different ways. Yet, how could we have avoided these difficulties? If only we had had a book that could lead us through the whole field from an intelligent unideological point of view. I read over 150 books and could not find the book I was looking for. Most of the books were selling single cures. Others talked about a range of alternative cures but gave no rationale for choosing this route over the orthodox route. Many others vilified anyone who suggested anything other than surgery, radiation and chemotherapy … What was the truth? And even when Bernadette died I was still faced with the questions: What will I do if I get cancer? What will I do if Patrick, my son, gets cancer? I could see that if I didn’t keep on looking for answers – and above all for a framework in which I could make a decision – I would be destined to repeat the folly and suffering that marked Bernadette’s last year. So I wrote this book partly as therapy and partly as a means of arriving at an answer for myself – an answer that I could share with friends – an answer that would lessen the suffering of mankind. I owe that much to Bernadette for the suffering she went through. It must not be in vain!
Stevie and my charity involvements
I am involved with two charities that I founded: The Hong Kong Down Syndrome Association and Mental Handicap Network China. These are dedicated to the short, seemingly tragic, but ultimately transforming life of my daughter Stevie. Stevie was born with Down Syndrome. As a result of a hole in the heart she had an operation. Something went wrong. She suffered an oxygen shortage that caused brain damage leaving her blind, epileptic and so profoundly handicapped that she could not sit or roll over. Yet she was, when she recovered from the trauma of the operation and the seizures were brought under control, a happy girl, a girl who centred us and made us understand the power of love. Quite simply, she changed our lives. She taught me about pain and about fighting back stubbornly. I have written a book about my life with Stevie and Bernadette, Wordjazz for Stevie, which was published by Blacksmith Books.
This work, in collaboration with Dr Brian and Maureen Stratford, has resulted in the establishment of a parent resource centre in Guangzhou, and an annual conference attended each year by several hundred participants from many distant parts of China. This work continues to move forward.
My life now
I am a full time writer currently living in Brighton, England. In addition to my cancer books I have written a number of novels and works of non-fiction.