Tuesday, 1 October 2013


This is a comment I wrote to the NHS about the latest episode in my disease:

 "I have been nearly fatally  misdiagnosed twice in the last eight years by GPs responsible for my cancer care in the community. Four years ago, the GP diagnosed labyrinthitis, which turned out to be a brain tumour. In March this year, I was diagnosed with asthma, and  this has turned out to be a tumour on my thorax which is sticking to one of my lungs. I am now having chemotherapy and am unable to get the antibiotics I need for my chest infection because the GP has failed to issue the repeat script after three requests. I am very unwell and have lost all confidence in the GP's ability to care for me. I know this happens to many others in similar situations.

I asked my consultant oncologist if I could go direct to him in future; and the neurosurgeon who treated me last time asked me to 'promise to cut out the middleman' if the disease came back.. Had I listened to his advice, I might not be so ill now.

How are patients like me, who have a chronic disease, who live alone and depend on GPs for repeat prescriptions, supposed to cope outside the hospital? l We have excellent hospital care for cancer in Truro at The Sunrise Centre at RCH Treliske, but the doctors there who fight for their patients are badly let down by the 'middlemen' in the GP practice. I worry about all those patients at home who experience neglect and indifference from general practitioners who appear to know very little about chronic disease like cancer, in spite of having hospital records about a patient's history. Seven months ago, I went to my GP with a chest infection and persistent cough - now badly infected.  I was prescribed two different sorts of antibiotics, then a Ventolin inhaler, then a steroid inhaler.  Every time  he tried something new,  the GP told to come back in three weeks if it didn't work.

There seems  to be no option for me in future but to go straight to A & E. The GP out of hours service is hopeless. I am fortunate that I am still an outpatient at the oncology clinic, otherwise I probably would not be writing this today. "


Of course, this is history repeating itself. It was the same scenario four years ago when the labyrinthitis turned out to be a brain tumour. I got through that, thanks to my oncologist, Dr Whateley and neurosurgeon, Mr Fewing.  This time, the GP did send me for a chest x-ray 'in view of my history'; but I was told by my home care nurse that an x-ray wouldn't show a tumour in the centre of my chest. It was left to Dr Wheatley to find that out. I wonder just what GPs do to justify their living? Staring into a screen and doling out  drugs willy nilly is the standard practice. That doesn't look good for people like me, does it??


On a lighter note, I saw my daughter off to Barcelona last week where she is taking a gap year as a conversation assistant in a local school. I was going to go out there in November to see her, but I'll be knocked out with chemo et al for the next six months; and then there's the recovery. I insisted she grasp the opportunity instead of sitting here watching me being treated. It isn't over. I'll get through it. It's just another stage. And I'm looking forward to a Brittany Break with seafood....


photos by Terry Webb

Thursday, 18 July 2013


Lord Alan Sugar has chosen a woman with a Botox business to be his new partner ('The Apprentice Final', BBC1, 17.7.20013)

He is sure to attract more brickbats than plaudits for this. The way I see it is that it's a shame to see a young doctor choose to use her skill  for  profit  in the vain enterprise of medically applied  cosmetic enhancements . After all, however much Botox you buy to freeze your expression, we're all still growing old inside. And then there's the end....

I have a hospital clinic in August, which I hope won't throw up any sinister link between my recently diagnosed asthma and the other condition....


Friday, 3 May 2013


My latest crime novel, Legally Bound, set in Regent's Park and the City of London is now available online at Amazon.

I conceived this story several years ago as a TV drama script and had encouraging noises made about it by the BBC, but in the end - after two  years on option, they didn't produce it. So last year, I started writing it up as a crime novel. The key location is Regent's Park, the best park in London as far as I'm concerned. It was a cherished space for me to walk through on my way to work from Primrose Hill to Great Portland Street. At week ends, I hired a deck chair for the day and sunbathed, reading books and drinking cups of tea from the flask I brought with me. The gardens were my Riviera, full of characters - some of who pop up in the background in the novel. A callous crime takes place in the park, although I always thought of it - and still do -  as a sanctuary, a healing place.

Had a  chest x-ray on the day of the book launch. My new GP - one of the old, patient-friendly school,  called me this afternoon with the result - all clear. This is a great relief because the year is 2013 after all, and four years after my last battle (brain tumour) which was four years to the day after my first diagnosis and chemo treatment in 2005. So the number four  has been unlucky for me - although it's the date of my birthday - and thirteen, as everyone knows, is unlucky for some. I have had a persistent cough since January and am now in the middle of my second course of antibiotics. Felt less anxious about the x-ray when I met up with Chris, after seeing the GP. Chris was my neighbour on the surgical ward where we both had a mastectomy in September 2005.  She had pre-cancerous spread in one breast, which was the reason she had to lose it, like me, though I had the full-blown advanced variety in mine. Chris has struggled with lung infections ever since, been hospitalised for breathing difficulties, had a collapsed lung, and now uses an inhaler and a nebuliser. But - and this is the point, she remains cancer- free after eight years, as I do. I've asked her to call me up again when she comes to Truro because she's a trouper.  I hadn't seen her for seven years but we send each other Christmas cards. She's an ambassador for survivors because, in spite of poor heath affecting both her and her partner, she always looks on the bright side.

Spring looks as though it might have arrived now,  and soon it will be June, when my daughter leaves school. I promised her eight years ago, when all this started, that I would be there for her Speech Day in 2013. It looks as though I can keep my promise...

photo: Cara Loukes

Wednesday, 6 March 2013


These glorious pictures of Moscow in the snow were sent to me on my birthday by my Russian friend, Svetlana with whom I spent many happy times on visits to her home-town. It was still called Leningrad then but has since  gone back to its original name, Sankt Peterburg (after the Apostle but also for Tsar Peter the Great. who founded the city - his  'window on the west).  I was last in Moscow in 1990, filming a story about  organised crime in the Soviet Union. Those days are long  gone, but the spectacular churches of old Russia remain,  their pre-revolutionary dignity reinstated. They take my mind off the precarious state of the NHS under the Coalition and illustrate the fact that governments, however radical and right wing (in the case of the Bolsheviks,  left wing) come and go....

Picture by Svetlana Pavolovna, 2013

Picture by Svetlana Pavolovna, 2013


Good news today from a newer site which shares the same name as my Topic of Cancer blog but has a different URL and concentrates on prostrate cancer - a hormonal disease, as is breast cancer. Indeed when I go to clinic, I have to take care not to get an appointment on what my oncologist calls 'Boys Day' (he is the consultant for all hormonal cancers at the hospital).

Nigel Baker, founder of Topic of Cancer (for men) writes

Topic of Cancer is raising awareness and funds for the research team in Guildford and their work into Immunotherapy as the best way forward to kill cancer cells using our own bodies. One day we may be able to deal with cancer before it becomes a problem rather than after. We are also encouraging the setting up of Support Groups across the UK. www.topicofcancer.org.uk  Registered Charity Number 1151079 

Thursday, 28 February 2013


'Fatal Truths',  my new psychological thriller and the last in the Louise Moon series,  is now available on Amazon Kindle. It's a brand new novel, published for the first time as an e-book by Endeavour Press.

Here's the link:


Set mostly  in Switzerland the book is about assisted suicide. I wrote it after watching a documentary made by Terry Pratchett (best-selling author of the Discworld series) who followed the journey of a couple as the husband was preparing to go to Zurich to die. There has also been a TV drama about this process, starring the excellent Julie Walters - can't recall the title. I followed the Pratchett documentary up with some research into Dignitas, the Swiss clinic cited in the programme and was amazed and saddened to read blog posts to the Dignitas website from people desperate to  die, often because of emotional distress, or plain dissatisfaction with life,  It's a sobering choice to make, and I don't think I would ever make it. I want to live with cancer, not view it as a death sentence. The way to go, I think, is more funding for palliative care. So let's hope the NHS stays free and the Tories are not re-elected....