Customer Review

5.0 out of 5 stars An interesting read and reflection on one mans experience of having a life limiting illness, 16 April 2013
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This review is from: When I Die: Lessons from the Death Zone (Kindle Edition)
The book is written by Philip Gould a former political advisor to the labour government, who describes his diagnosis with oesophageal ca and the journey from having a potentially curable disease to being, "in the death zone." His book has fascinating descriptions of his interactions with different health care professionals and his response to their manners and attitudes. He also describes and assess his interactions with the American private healthcare system and the NHS. His response to his own illness is also challenging with regard to both his fears, his perceptions of how he is coping and his strategies for accepting death.

The post scripts to Gould's story provide an alternative interpretation of the process of illness, but should not be read in a public space for fear of tears. In this section daughter describes his final days and his wife her perspective of the journey.

An interesting aspect of this book is the occasional appearance of well known people such as Gordon Brown, Tony Blair and Alistair Campbell. Both Blair and Campbell are portrayed as empathetic sympathetic human beings, not traits I had previously associated with them!

Some excerpts to whet your appetite:

"The scans are not troubling in themselves. What is distressing is the delivery of the test results. It is like receiving an opinion poll on the future of your life."

"There is no easy easy way to do it. Gail and I would inevitably arrive early and wait to see David( the doctor), struggling to hide our anxiety. Absolutely the worst part is the moment of entry into the waiting room. You greet the people there, at the same time examining their faces and body language for hints of their likely prognosis. It all happened so fast, and with a faint sense of unreality, as though in a dream."

"If the news is good you will usually be told instantly that all is well. Conversely if doctors have bad news for you, they invariably start with some earnest chatter about your condition move on to some spurious evidence of something that has gone well, then announce a huge, "but" that swallows the room. Gail learnt to hate nothing so much as the word, "but"."

Post surgery:

"The Doctor reviewed my surgery to his team, going through detail after grisly detail, totally oblivious to the fact that I could hear every word. I had moved in the blink of an eye from being subject to an object."

"Time after time, comments meet my face were flatly contradicted by remarks made just seconds later when I appeared to be asleep. One moment a nurse told me I could have as much pain relief as I wanted, but the 2nd my eyes were shut he turned to his companion and said, "He's obviously neurotic about pain, and the more pain relief he gets the more he'll want.""

"Completely true, of course. Pain was an issue for me, certainly. I felt low-level pain almost continuously and acute pain quite often, and I hated it. I learnt the disabling power of pain how hard it is to cope with, how undermining it can be."

A reflection by Gould's wife:

"Most hospitals, including the Marsden, have excellent palliative care units which deal expertly with pain control and the symptoms of the dying, but until you are on the horizon it is a hit and miss affair."
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