A deeply moving exploration of what it feels like to be a former expert medical practitioner – a neuroscientist (now retired), long-versed in the practice of guiding others “through the landscape of illness” – now facing his own terrifying and potentially-terminal illness.
In this work, the author, Dr Henry Marsh, is astonishingly candid – drawing forth a poignant connection both heart-felt and challenging, so personal are the experiences shared and their direct resonance with this reader.
At seventy years-of-age, now confronting advanced prostrate cancer and the impending possibility of his own death (informed by his doctors, his own professional medical knowledge as well as a series of somewhat frantic google searches), the author’s mind wanders freely in this incandescent memoir – covering ground including the terror and grief associated with his condition, all-consuming love for his family, hobbies that help to sustain him, treatment and progression of his disease, all the way to fascinating and more cerebral musings on philosophy, consciousness, health-care, and ethics.
As his brain scans capture, in terrible black-and-white detail, the shrinking of his own physical brain-matter, the author questions what is left of his own “self”, unable to face thinking about even more fundamental cognitive shifts which could develop and threaten a lucid future.
Entering a long-familiar hospital, now as a patient, here to receive radiotherapy for his own cancer, the author notes the immediate dissonance experienced from his previous “self-important” and insulated professional role – “feeling himself lose height as he walked along the corridor”.
From doctor clinging to professional (and much needed) detachment, to patient craving “simple human contact”, the role-based insights gained in this journey are life-lessons for the author (and the reader), a delicate and often-painful balance understood and to be shared (in the training of future surgeons, and to all via the generous confines of this memoir).
A great big thank you to Goodreads giveaways, the publisher and the author for an ARC of this beautiful and inspiring book. All thoughts presented are my own.