Intended for healthcare professionals

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Editor's Choice

Towards the patient revolution

BMJ 2014; 348 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g1209 (Published 29 January 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g1209

Rapid Response:

Re: Towards the patient revolution

It is by now abundantly clear that patients understand the impact of disease and its treatment far more than clinicians [1] and they understand the realities of their condition and the effect of that and of its treatment on their lives [2] to an extent that their clinicians cannot. A powerful demonstration of this can be found in a small pamphlet called simply "Treatment" by John Mole, of which oncologist Dr Sam Guglani writes, ‘This is required reading for all health professionals’.

It is a sequence of poems about John Mole’s experience of chemotherapy. These possess a truly personal reality, and the means by which they do this also make them work brilliantly as poetry.

He says he rides the waves of nausea, for example, like a surfer mastering the tide.

The experiences of hair loss and changed appearance are presented as reactions by well meaning acquaintances: ‘Without your beard/You’re a new man…At first/ I didn’t recognise you.’

And there are striking references to Macbeth: ‘Who would have thought the old man/To have had so much blood in him…No king but a commoner/In his hospital nightshirt’ – while the many drugs become the witches’ brew ‘on the blasted heath’.

Not much here to cheer a patient; but at the end, although ‘The doldrums/ Of fatigue repeat themselves’, he writes, ‘Not long now/ Before the weather’s better’.

The pamphlet may be obtained from the publisher, Shoestring Press, for £6 or, better, from John Mole (11 Hill Street, St Albans AL3 4QS), who will send £1.50 of this to Macmillan Nurses.

1 Godlee F. Towards the patient revolution.
BMJ 2014;348:g1209 (Published 29 January 2014)

2 Richards T, Montori VM, Godlee F, Lapsley P, Paul D. Let the patient revolution begin. BMJ 2013;346:f2614 (Published 14 May 2013)

Competing interests: No competing interests

17 May 2014
Daphne Gloag
poet
none but now retired member of BMJ editorial staff
London, UK