They say you never understand someone else until you walk a mile in their shoes. Books make it that bit easier.
Some months back my friend Yvonne Foong (left) gave me a signed copy of her book I'm Not Sick, Just a Bit Unwell.
I knew nothing at all about the incurable illness, neurofibromatosis, that Yvonne suffers from before I began reading her blog. I know a great deal more now after reading her book, not only about the illness (which causes tumours to keep growing all over the body) but about Yvonne's long struggle to cope with the diagnosis and the successive major spine and brain operations. For the first time I began to appreciate just what Yvonne has gone through and the extent of her courage.
Courage. The last time I used that word about Yvonne, someone took me to task.
True, life has handed Yvonne no choice but to be brave. But she's no more self-pitying than the next person when she has every excuse to wallow in 'why me?' depression. She's become incredibly self-reliant - raising funds for her own surgery. She doesn't let physical handicap get in the way of the things she wants to do in life. And she's really a fun person. (Despite her deafness she played a full part in my writing class and at times had us all falling about with laughter at her well-timed comments.)
This slim little volume contains a personal story that very much needed to be written, not just for other sufferers of the illness but for all those in the medical profession who need to acquire a bit more empathy. (The book is an eye opener about local standards of health care.)
I found the writing honest and very readable, and no doubt thanks are due to Yvonne's friend John Ling who gave her editorial help and has been Yvonne's main encourager throughout. This is a promising start to the writing career she so badly wants for herself.
Yvonne's latest operation to remove a brain tumour has been a success, and she hopes that an implant will give her back her hearing in the new year after the swelling subsides.
My thoughts and love are with you, Yvonne.