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Tuesday, 17 March 2015

OVARIAN CANCER AWARENESS MONTH, MARCH 2015






My mother, taken on her honeymoon. I do not have many pictures of her as a young woman, and, poor thing, she only just made it to pensionable age, which was then 60. She was diagnosed at 56 with terminal ovarian cancer, managed with the help of (then) brutal treatments to survive for four more years, seeing both the birth of my brother's first child and also the (ill-fated) wedding of Charles and Diana. She died a few days before her own birthday in September 1981.


She had a beloved elder sister who had died of this disease in her 30's. But as people spoke very little about cancer back then she did not recognise the symptoms in herself and by the time she was forced to acknowledge her illness it was almost too late. She was admitted for surgery but they could do nothing, it was so far spread. She had bloating, pain and breathlessness, all of which anyone a little clued in now would understand as very serious indeed. But she didn't know; I didn't know -
I didn't even realise it myself when in 2000, also aged 56, I too had the same symptoms.It was a veterinary friend who bluntly told me I needed to go to my GP pronto!


So I did and next day I was admitted to hospital, stage 3 ovarian cancer,  and shortly after that had surgery, chemotherapy, and became very familiar with the insides of various clinics. But I was lucky; the chemotherapy treatment was better than what my mother had and I survived.


The biggest shock was that, when I was diagnosed, my father told me candidly that my mother's 4 sisters had all died of Ovarian cancer. I knew about Beth, the beloved sister, but I certainly didn't know about the others.My mother's family was large, and I didn't know them all.

But once I had that information to hand I was whizzed off for genetic testing and found to carry BRCA2 . Important information especially if you have daughters: such a gene can predispose to ovarian cancer ( and in my family it has definitely done that) but in men it can predispose to prostate cancer I was told. So everyone should be aware of this. My family all know and one of them has discovered the gene in their own system

It shouldn't be the case though that only where there is a family history you become entitled to genetic testing: I feel any woman with ovarian cancer should receive this - ANY woman with ovarian cancer. It might save herfamily, her daughters, even her sons from a lot of nasty trouble later in life.

And I mean nasty: my mother's own illness was appalling; she shrank to almost nothing but skin and bone; she was constantly sick, nothing tasted right and anyway she couldn't keep it down; her lungs were full of fluid and breathing was very painful.She died in great pain.

If you have any reason to think you might be at risk, check out the signs at Ovacome's website. You can help your daughters to BEAT ovarian cancer if you let them know the signs.



Sunday, 22 February 2015

TELLING YOUR DAUGHTERS TO B.E.A.T OVARIAN CANCER



For ovarian cancer awareness month in March, Ovacome, the UK charity for the disease, are urging mothers to tell their daughters about the tell-tale symptoms of Ovarian Cancer which are:

Bloating;

Eating less (no appetite);

Abdominal pain;

Talk to your GP!


It is, I feel, wrongly referred to here as the 'silent disease': in the USA it is called the 'whispering disease' and this I think is far more accurate.


Here is a poem, which is my way of telling:





Daughters, I need to tell you


about pain each time I bent over,

about being so breathless
I felt my lungs were leaving my chest.

About my stomach
huge as a full-term pregnancy.

About my surgeon’s eyes above his mask,
the brilliant blue of them.

About pressing the button
on the morphine pump –what you thought

was ‘courage/cheerfulness’
was simply outright stoned.

About the nights my body was so full
of knives I couldn’t sleep

and when death came in to tempt me
I almost welcomed it.

About the utter focus of my fight to live.

Daughters, I need to tell you this,

because I want it never to happen
to either of you.




 Gill McEvoy








Sunday, 8 February 2015

ANTHOLOGIES

There is something joyful about an anthology - a handy source of poems for occasions/ reading groups/a happy-pick-and-chose for you to dip in and out of whenever you feel like it.

I've been fortunate recently to have several of my poems included in anthologies: The Book of Love and Loss (ed June hall and Rosie Bailey); Her Wings of Glass (Second Light ed by Myra Schneider, Penelope Shuttle and Dilys Wood); Blame Montezuma (a collection of poetry about chocolate, Happenstance Press);The Darker Side of Love (Paper Swans); Heart Shoots (Indigo Dreams); and, soon to come, Caboodle (Prole Books).

There's a further joy to being included: it's so good to see how other poets have tackled a shared theme. When you think there's nothing new to say about anything, that old Ecclesiastical gloom-thing, pick up an anthology and revise your opinion!


Sunday, 18 January 2015

THE FIRST TELLING, how it came to be

This small collection of mine, a pamphlet published by Happenstance Press in Nov 2014, deals with rape and its aftermath. It is effectively a sequence of poems which are best read in order and at one sitting. And it has taken me 3 years to bring it to the state it's now published in.

Because I love birds I have always been fascinated by the myth of the rape of Philomela by Tereus, her brother-in-law. In the myth all the protagonists, Tereus, Pholomela, Procne her sister and  Itys, Procne's son, are turned into birds. Versions differ but Tereus, the perpetrator of the rape, is turned either into a hoopoe or a hawk, Philomela into a swallow or nightingale, likewise Procne, and Itys into a goldfinch.

When I first began writing these poems I wanted to stick fairly closely to the original myth so that I could use these birds as images. But I found that didn't work. So I updated the myth and made it modern. Keeping the same birds. And that didn't work either. I showed it to trusted writing friends, and they all said it had great power but that it wasn't right. So I went to Hawthornden Castle for an amazing month of being looked after hand and foot and buckled down to it. A lot of the buckling down consisted of walking in the woods and by the river in the glen there, thinking it through. And of course I watched birds as well (peregrines, kingfisher, heron, buzzards, sparrow hawk, goldcrest).

There is a huge amount to be said in praise of walking as an aid to thinking. After 2 weeks of this I began at last to get a stronger feel of how the collection should work. Then when I came home the news seeemd to be full of nothing but child abuse, terrible stuff. It began with Jimmy Saville and shortly after that revelation the skeletons came thundering out of cupboards. It made me so angry. Oh so angry, and there is nothing like a bit of rage for fuelling a piece of writing.

And now it's in print, still with bird poems in, though not quite the mythological choices (but close) and it focuses more on the aftermath of rape - the silences, the self-harming, and then with the help of a counsellor, the steps towards a healing.

The print run is small - Helena Nelson, of Happenstance Press, now does only 150 copies of pamphlets. Should you want one I do urge you to buy one quickly; 150 copies don't hang around long and I've already sold 50 myself.

I feel and hope, and so does Helena, that this is an important collection - so much in it needs to be said and more importantly it also should encourage belief in the real possibility of healing.

It is available from www.happenstancepress.com, price £4.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

LAURIE LEE

Been feeling a little disappointed that more was not made of Lee in his centenary year - bad luck to have the same year as the First World War, and also Dylan Thomas.I know celebrations were held in Stroud and rightly so; I just wanted more!

But my poetry reading group spent a night looking at his body of work, including the radio plays, and I have recently written a sort of response to his poem "April Rise",a thank-you rather for the poem. It's too late for it to go anywhere as the year is heading speedily towards its end so I'll post it on this blog instead.




To Laurie Lee, from Llandudno, with thanks for his poem “April Rise”

(in honour of his centenary)


If ever there were blessing in the air
it’s here, in this quiet evening light,
moonstone-blue at horizon’s edge.
It falls like silk on my tired eye.

The shaven head of the naked moon
peeps from night clouds closing in
as one by one the lights blaze out,
are doubled in the glaze of sea.

The Orme’s great hawk-shape spreads its wings,
scoops up the town in feathered hug;
white gulls slice a path through air,
brightness fills their wake.

Flocks of oystercatchers now
darken the line of salt-flecked sand;
their wistful piping carries loud,
like blessing in the night.

Round lamps gild the esplanade,
lacquered by smatterings of rain.
We look out at the bay and know
if ever world were blessed, it’s now.
















Gill McEvoy

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

POND




Spent much of last week watching the pond you can just see through the window here, of The Courtyard House, Pentregall, Wales.It was alive with bees, on the fleabane, loosestrife and mints growing round the edge, and absolutely thriving with dragonflies, from hawkers to darters down to blue damselflies. Many were busy mating, flying in tandem or curled in a wheel. It was one of the best ways to spend a holiday!

Although I also went kayaking thanks to the generosity of my family and I have to say I can't decide which wins: that, or the pond, for highlight. The kayaking was wonderful, out on the open sea from Fishguard, managed by Kayak-Kings, Charles and Anthony, who were wonderful guides and instructors. I learned about the lcihens on the rocks, especially the black lichen that looks like oil-stains, as well as edible seaweeds, sponges, barnacles and limpets.

This event was a surprise, and when I realised what we were going to do my heart stopped -  I'm not fond of water and I thought Oh Lord, No! But it was one of the best things I've ever done and not anyhting like as strenuous as I expected (probably because Anthony was my co-kayak partner!0
My thanks to both of them (and to my family) It was excellent.

Friday, 1 August 2014

Bell Foundry at Villedieu les Poeles, Normandy

This is the gate to the bell foundry at Villedieu les Poeles, part of it rather, it's a pretty big gate! I thought this man pouring hot metal was delightful.

Our guide could have entered for Britain's Got Talent, except he was French - he was a real entertainer, leaping about joyously from one item to another and regaling us with stories. We learned that this is one of only 2 bell foundries in France and of course most of the bells made will become part of a carillon, or will simply be tolled: I think it is mainly the British who exercise the skill of ringing changes.
In the courtyard there were plenty of bells available to try out: a friend and I landed a  rather heavy-handed clout  with the hammer on one very large bell and frightened all the waiting tourists with the vast booming swell of sound that shook the area (it frightened us too!).