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Tom Philip’s Journal

Tom Philip’s Journal

Tom Philip has written a journal entitled "Don’t be a man: Do the right thing", which is an ongoing series about living with cancer from Tom’s perspective.

A Banana a day helps you see things okay

by Tom Philip

One of the more pleasant aspects of recovering from colon surgery at home has been having the time to do two of the things I love: reading and writing. I tend to leave the ‘rithmetic alone, because I’m just no good at it.

Knowing that I would be facing about three months away from the daily grind and stress at work, I concocted a pre-surgery plan to read … a lot. To that end I made sure my magazine subscriptions were current, my library card renewed, and my lists of new books to read, and old favourites to read again were sizeable.

Cancer of the colon is related to diet, genetics and environment. Nothing I could, or can do about the family tree; that’s a given. My diet had to change a bit, adding more vegetables and fruit to give my digestive system the fibre treats it craves, while cutting back on red meat consumption. As for my environment, Linda and I already live in a quiet country hamlet, surrounded by mature trees, farm fields and the remnants of a once thriving apple orchard.

The one environmental change I could control completely was the time I devoted to reading, and writing while healing at home.

I had already promised to re-read the many books written by my friend, Cape Breton author Silver Donald Cameron (and I recommend Don’s writing to everyone who loves this country:, and a steady stream of MacLean’s, Saturday Night (alas, no longer), Home Workshop, Chatelaine and other fine magazines was assured. Volumes of Farley Mowat’s passionate contributions had been retrieved from my bookshelves (more essential reading for concerned Canadians … and I really must get Farley to autograph my 1st edition of Never Cry Wolf). There is always comfort in familiarity when it comes to literature.

It was also time to see what my friend the Internet had to offer by way of new literary talent. I’d pretty much searched it out for information about colorectal cancer, so it was time to use my high-speed access to get some non-medical info. And it was there, in cyberspace, that I discovered “Banana” Yoshimoto and her novella, Kitchen.

Yoshimoto “Banana” Mahoko is a prolific, forty-something Japanese woman who wrote Kitchen about 20 years ago while working as a waitress, often during her breaks. Kitchen is divided into two stories (Moonlight Shadow is the second part), with the main, female character in each story dealing with the loss of loved ones. Both stories juxtapose miraculous events with daily life, and remind readers that the unpredictability of our lives should be accepted, even celebrated, more than our destinies should be mourned.

Banana Yoshimoto’s writing really made me sit up and take notice. I had made it through major surgery and some complications in hospital, and I was now at home, resting in the sunny green space that is our back yard. I thought that the hours and days of self-pity were behind me; but all at once I realized that the “why me’s” were not completely gone. I was still mourning the cancer that had invaded my body; angry that my life had been disrupted so much by that malignant mass and the surgery that removed it, that I had not allowed myself to accept fully that I was … that I am … cancer free.

“I just had to go back for one more look at the kitchen. It was a really good kitchen,” reads one passage from the book.

Sometimes we have to spend just a little more time taking a second look at our situations to understand how ‘good’ we really have it. And it took colon cancer, surgery, and a mandatory rest at home, where I discovered the books of a Japanese writer, to help me figure that out.

next  Why me? Some say it’s Lady Luck

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