The Bright Side
Author: Kate Granger
In this slightly shorter but equally gripping sequel to The Other Side, geriatrics trainee Kate Granger continues chronicling her challenging diagnosis of terminal cancer. She picks up where she left off, with the difficult decision to stop chemotherapy. The narrative is dominated by the author’s determination to avoid the isolation threatened by her illness, and she did this mainly by cultivating the ‘social aspect of work‘ (page 6). Her primary motivation for writing was to encourage other healthcare professionals ‘to put themselves in their patient’s shoes’, and to ‘understand what impact their behaviours, no matter how small, have on the people they look after’ (page 2).
The book revealed the heavy toll of cancer on the author’s personal life, and the courage and grace she showed in the face of a relentless disease. She relates how ‘even the simplest activity of daily living such as having a shower had to be a military planned operation’ (page 21). She recounts the impact of her illness on her husband who cries ‘virtually every night’ as he struggled to accept her impending mortality (page 30). We feel her frustrations as she navigates a very exasperating healthcare system, yearning for a palliative care system that enables people ‘to enjoy their remaining time without so many medical interventions‘ (pages 7, 13, 39-40, and 57-58). She again gives vent to her irritation at the almost ubiquitous lack of courtesy shown to her by many health professionals. Contrary to this, she appreciated the value of the ‘mutual support of others going through the same experiences’ (pages 52-62 and 98-100).
The author dedicated a major part of her book to the beneficial fallout of her illness experience on her medical practice. She reflects, for example, on realising ‘the need to communicate with patients’, and the necessity of ‘becoming my patient’s advocate as well as their doctor’ (pages 10 and 29). She discusses how she developed a deeper interest in the lives of her patients, frequently enquiring about ‘those little details…that make them special‘ (pages 42-43). In a touching demonstration of empathy, she gave a practical masterclass in breaking bad news, absolutely essential reading for every doctor (pages 93-95).
Mortality is expectedly a prominent theme throughout the book. She expounded a very pragmatic and healthy attitude to her imminent demise, and wondered why death was such a taboo subject in society. She was very ‘matter of fact‘ about her impending mortality, and this practical approach explains her decision to decline resuscitation ‘under any circumstances’ (pages 26, 57-65). Accepting her mortality led her to a greater appreciation of life; she resolved to ‘enjoy life for what it is’, and she was ‘determined not to waste a precious second’ (page 26 and 49). She set out to achieve her ‘bucket list‘, and this included getting a tattoo, retaking her marriage vows, and travelling to places that rekindled childhood memories (page 11). She succeeded in self-publishing and promoting her first book, and she humorously referred to basking in her new ‘reluctant celebrity‘ status (pages 42-48, 59-60, and 80-82).
This sequel afforded readers a greater appreciation of the diverse facets of the author’s personality. She revealed more of her determined nature, such as when she said ‘once I get an idea in my head no-one is going to stand in my way’ (page 7). She also revealed a wicked sense of humour especially in describing other healthcare specialists, for example saying ‘nurses like to fuss’, surgeons adopt a difficult attitude when talking to medics, and oncologists ‘use far too many euphemisms‘ (pages 13, 28 and 33).
This is a passionate and largely intuitive book which addresses, in an intimate narrative, most of the issues around illness, suffering, and death. The author tackled these big subjects in her uniquely down-to-earth style. The book had no titled chapters, and there were areas that required a bit of editorial oversight; the lack of editing however enables readers to appreciate the genuine and heartfelt thoughts of the author. The extensive glossary compensates for the author’s liberal use of medical terminology. T
This is an excellent guide for all healthcare professionals on the impact of illness on patients. It is deeply moving, and it achieved its stated objectives in every page. I unreservedly recommend it to all doctors.
Publisher, Place, Year: Self published,
Number of Chapters: No chapters listed
Number of Pages: 107