Heather Cameron's cancer diagnosis and treatment led her to write poetry.
The result - A Random Caller: Cancer Poetry - is a little book full of big thoughts, emotions and experiences.
It was completed as the creative component of her Doctor of Philosophy, awarded in 2021 - the year she turned 60.
While acknowledging her experience with cancer, Heather stresses the poems are fictional. "I do not intend to imply that I know what each person's experience with cancer is, whether as a sufferer, carer, or health professional."
Her writing seeks to construct meaning far beyond the cancer battlefield.
The poems begin with the diagnosis and arrival of the random caller.
"You open the door and there it is,
And even if you were half expecting it,
It still surprises you to find cancer at your door."
The titles will resonate with anyone who has had a cancer experience or who has supported someone along the journey - Brain scan, Breast cancer surgeon, Note to the young doctor, In the chemo chair, Fear.
With years of experience as a clinician in the palliative care field, Heather had a good platform of knowledge about cancer and assumed she would utilise the prolific resources offered to her. So it came as a "considerable surprise" to Heather and her supporters that she discovered "an intense desire to not read anything - creative, informative, or otherwise".
She found she didn't want to know anything except what was happening to her at the immediate moment.
An expressive writing online support group run by the NSW Cancer Council helped change that.
"My motivation to write cancer poetry within the context of a formal course of doctoral study sprang from an experience of losing the capacity to write, and then slowly returning to a style of poetry writing that I had not experienced previously," she writes in a journal article examining why people write cancer poetry.
"At the core of my motivation ... is my own personal desire to reclaim my voice - a voice that was lost during my experience with cancer. A reclaimed voice that I now raise loudly and strongly above the surface."
A Random Caller: Cancer Poetry, by Heather Cameron (Ginninderra Press) RRP $27.50.
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