Personal Views

Teach me to hear mermaids singing

BMJ 1996; 313 doi: (Published 31 August 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;313:565
  1. Clare Vaughan

    Five months ago I developed a chest infection which would not clear up. I had been overworking: four part time jobs, three children, Christmas with its expectations, and a winter of coughs and colds. My general practitioner suggested a chest x ray examination. I went with my 5 year old daughter in tow. The result was extraordinary and the radiologist looked suitably impressed. My daughter turned to me, “Mummy, has your cancer come back?” “I am afraid it has, my love,” I replied.

    At first I crept into my bed and withdrew from the world and howled. How preposterous not to see my lovely children grow up. How unbearable to have had only half my life with my love. How disappointing to leave all my exciting work plans at such a vulnerable but optimistic stage.

    So, four years after the first diagnosis, I have a tumour like an avocado pear in my right lung and a small crescent of functioning liver remaining. I am probably dying: the biggest adventure of all. The past five months have appalled, surprised, and exhilarated me and given me insights into my life in a totally unexpected way. I would like to share some of this richness.

    Breast cancer is a roller coaster of an illness with windows of complete wellbeing, the last of which lasted two and a half years. I was more than well. I was fired with energy and vigour. I focused on my family with an …

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