Alexa Craven

'Pocket Isle'

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As children get older they are usually able to understand more and more about illness and treatment but for me I felt that a child’s age is only a general guide to what they may understand. For me a 5 year old may understand some things more easily than an 8 year old, it depends on the child. It was clear to me that I had two children who were insanely bright and compassionate. They had been gifted in an honest and open environment and I wanted to connect with them in the same unconditional loving way.

I treasured my times reading adventure novels written by well-known English authors to the boys and sharing that of a similar narrative in our heads before bedtime. I learnt how important sharing imaginative journeys and the mystery and magic of metaphor truly is.

I passionately researched an array of books, it was imperative to me to find a book that was fun, imaginative and gentle with the truth. In my search I was disappointed to learn that it seems whenever we hear a story about someone who has cancer, the terminology used to describe the human’s experience of cancer is framed in military terms.

While I understand the language is intended to motivate people and evoke positivity, I learnt that for many people it can also feel quite negative for those with cancer to receive. It has been argued that words such as “battle” and “fight” are inappropriate, as they suggest that cancer can be defeated if one just fights hard enough. Cancer as we know is not a disease that has its own rules and doesn’t always respond to treatment the way people hope it is supposed to. The use of the battle metaphor implies a level of control that patients simply do not have.

A person with cancer might feel pressure to manage with the sense that people might think that they are not “fighting” hard enough.

For some people thinking of their body as the enemy when the body has served them well feels wrong to them. These people feel they do not want to engage in a battle with themselves. These people can choose to gently consent to making a series of choices, to bring the cancer back under control with the hope of extending life.

Battling metaphors suggest that people with cancer who succumb quickly have in some way failed to fight hard enough and that people who survive beyond their expected prognosis are in some way tougher with greater strength.

No one with cancer should be considered a loser in any way during the course of disease.  Once someone receives a cancer diagnosis, this journey requires patience, tolerance, and courage.

I found myself concerned for the boys, I knew I wouldn’t be able to shield them from this language forever however I didn’t want to expose them to a book with metaphorical language in it.

I would agree with many others on how we can invite us to ask ourselves, what other ways we can talk about living with cancer that are loving and encouraging and less disparaging.

With this new found empathy I found myself meeting the question of “why is she acting different?” with a shared gentle metaphorical language between the boys and me, a language which I felt that was relatable to them. I felt this was wholesome, and this felt organic and uplifting. I remember thinking at least if I am honest with them, they can never claim that I fibbed to them!

Often feelings about a painful experience are too painful to explore, in this case they are banished to our unconscious. However it is in the unconscious that they can cause such misery. Repressed emotional energy can leak out in all manner of neurotic symptoms if left in the dark.

The child will revisit his/her painful thought via dreams, in his/her acting out behaviour, and in his/her ways of relating to people in everyday life. Theorists Freud called this ‘repetition compulsion’ (1917). Van der Kolk writes: “The trauma keeps them rigidly fixated on the past, making them fight the last battle over and over again” (Van der Kolk, 1989). This therefore mans the feelings of trauma keep getting retriggered, the child has to re live the whole situation again. These triggers can be in the form of a facial expression setting of a feeling, a sound, or an image. If triggered these traumatic memories consist of somatosensory impressions or intense emotions when the victims are aroused or exposed to reminders of the trauma.

To minimise children acting out their traumatic experiences in anti-social ways, children require the opportunity to tell their story to an empathic adult who can really help them work through their feelings about it and help the child properly process their pain, so child can finally put the painful emotion to rest so not to be spooked by it. In this way the child is able to be heard and therefore with help they will not need to keep acting out parts of their story. Story provides children conscious reflection of traumatic feelings compared to discharging them onto other individuals for example in the playground.

This book I hope will aid parents in helping a child understand how a loved one might feel when battling cancer in a language that is relatable to them, helping the child understand the uncertain nature of the illness. I wish I had a book to help me strengthen my delivery at the time. Additionally I hope that this book gently invites people with cancer to remain engaged with life, keeping their body clean and living as well as possible.

"Join Monty on a quest that features a ship with an odd set of sails, mischievous lemurs of all colours shapes and sizes and a very important campfire…."

"I first recognised the need for a therapeutic book aimed to help a child understand how a loved one might feel when battling cancer, when I was asked that very question by two little boys I am very fond of in relation to their Mother, a loving friend to me.

My friend, a journalist writer and broadcaster at the time shared her time between London and Kent. I was honoured to be asked to take care of the boys whilst my friend meandered her way through the mental fog that often comes with cancer, a cancer-related cognitive change. These changes can make people unable to perform usual activities, it can seem like it takes a lot of mental effort to do them.

I think of my friend as a person who is full of life having an effervescent personality even throughout her treatment.

Cancer treatment as we know can be stressful for any family facing many challenges and changes, and children are very quick to pick up on these changes.

Education

2015-2017

University Name

2011-2014

University Name

2007-2014

University Name

This is your Education description. Concisely describe your degree and any other highlights of your studies. Make sure to include relevant skills, accomplishments, and milestones gained. Don’t forget to adjust the timeframe in the subtitle.

This is your Education description. Concisely describe your degree and any other highlights of your studies. Make sure to include relevant skills, accomplishments, and milestones gained. Don’t forget to adjust the timeframe in the subtitle.

This is your Education description. Concisely describe your degree and any other highlights of your studies. Make sure to include relevant skills, accomplishments, and milestones gained. Don’t forget to adjust the timeframe in the subtitle.

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