A journey to be avoided but not forgotten
by Anonymous

Once well-composed, articulate and secure
the person before the diagnosis can bemuse
at life's unexpected turn
and God's unforgiving churn.

And through the door
into the world of the unknown
we all watched cancer unfold
and grow.

Through hidden tears,
silent prayers filled
a room that's empty,
with no one sitting in.

Within the turmoil, the mind spins
The world goes round and nothing stands still.
As the body gets amputated and hair thins
Faces wrinkle and hope grows slim.

Four seasons fast-forward in time
Fresh grass pushes through grime
spring asserts that winter's gone
allowing the chimes to announce a new dawn.

The hair comes back,
the skin lights up
and hopes grow fast.

Yet some signs remain and never go,
A fallen rose with petals that do not grow.
That won't come back
That will just stay black.

So all that's left apart from newly found hope
And imposed regimes to cope
Is a faded memory of a normal life once had
And thoughts for others who missed that chance.


This collage depicts a daughter's emotional journey thoughout her mother's breast cancer treatment. This temporary collage was put together during a short workshop and disassembled afterwards. The accompanying text explains the choice of the seven images that were selected (clockwise from bottom left corner).

Philosophy workshop participant, University of Bristol InsiderArts Festival of the Arts and Humanities, November 2013

Dr Havi Carel led a workshop at Bristol Haematology and Oncology Centre inviting patients and healthcare professionals to engage with philosophy and one another in exploring the experience of illness. Using phenomenological concepts and art materials, the session took the participants through three steps of the phenomenological toolkit*, a staged process that includes looking at illness from multiple perspectives and examining its impact on patients.

*Journal of Medicine and Philosophy Advance Access published April 2, 2012

Journal of Medicine and Philosophy, 0:118, 2012 doi:10.1093/jmp/jhs008