John Diamond


Because cowards get cancer too…

Book review by Anthony Campbell. Copyright © Anthony Campbell (1999).

John Diamond was a successful journalist and broadcaster when, a few years ago, he was diagnosed with cancer. In this uncompromisingly honest but at times intensely funny book he tells the story of his treatment and his reactions to it. The form of cancer that afflicted him was a peculiarly disastrous one for someone who earned his living in part by means of speech, for the primary tumour was in his tongue. This was not immediately obvious at first; the correct diagnosis came out only after a series of investigations and treatments, including surgery and radiotherapy. Once the primary had been found he required a radical operation to remove the primary. As if this wasn't enough, a couple of weeks after the operation his trachea became blocked by secretions and he all but died; he was rushed to hospital and was given a tracheostomy. He provides a list of the medicines and equipment he needed to care for the tracheostomy; it runs to two and a half pages.

Diamond has long been opposed to alternative medicine and his experience of cancer hasn't modified his opinion; not that he is uncritical about conventional medicine either, but he is clear that there is nothing better available and he has nothing but praise for the Marsden, the cancer hospital where he was treated. He is also sceptical about the lessons that illness and suffering allegedly teach. He accepts, reluctantly, that he has indeed learnt some things as a result of his experience, but he is emphatic that it isn't worth it. Nevertheless, in a postscript he describes himself as having reached a kind of contentment.

This would be a difficult book to read were it not for Diamond's light touch and wry sense of humour. It deserves to be widely read, not least by doctors.

%T C
%S Because cowards get cancer too…
%A Diamond, John
%I Vermilion
%C London
%D 1998
%P 240 pp
%K biography, medicine
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