I was born in Tanganyika (now Tanzania) in 1957 and moved around the world with my peripatetic parents, who divorced when I was eight. After a childhood, which saw me attending at least nine schools, I scraped into Cambridge to read anthropology and archaeology, where I met my future husband, Ross.
My roots have influenced my life choices and I subsequently had a long career in both book and newspaper publishing in Africa: I was Publisher of the Heinemann African Writers Series and authors such as Chinua Achebe, and no less than four Nobel Literature Prize winners. I am currently a member of the Council for the Caine Prize for African Writing and Chairman of London Art Gallery Art First, in Eastcastle Street.
After various spells working in the UK, as Enterprise Director for the Telegraph Group and Managing Director of PRNewswire, my last full-time role was as Media Director for the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development, responsible for the media portfolio of newspapers, TV and radio stations in East Africa.
Meanwhile life went on: we seemed to be the model family: two successful parents and two lovely children, Tommy and Louise, born in 1988 and 1989 respectively.
Then a series of catastrophic life events unfolded, starting with the death of my mother in 2009; breaking my hip in a skiing accident in 2010; the death of our beloved Louise, aged only 21, in 2011; Ross’s prostate cancer and, finally, my father’s death, both in 2012.
Losing a child is the most shattering experience, especially when that death is sudden and unexpected. We believe that this surfeit of bereavement has played a pivotal role in both of us developing cancer.
After Louise’s death, I became an Ambassador for the Angelus Foundation (www.angelusfoundation.com) and I helped spearhead a public campaign to introduce compulsory drug education in schools and to warn of the dangers of ketamine and legal highs. The current high profile of this issue is largely due our work and to my public profile. You can link to some of the articles and Louise’s tribute site here.
In 2013 we were offered the chance to move on when Ross was offered a job in Singapore. Despite the anxiety of leaving our remaining ‘child’ – now an adult with a job and a flat of his own – we gladly embraced the challenge of a new job, new home and new environment. The anthropologist in me has delighted in exploring new countries and cultures (you can read about our travels here), and it has provided a welcome respite from the constant painful reminders of England: Louise’s friends getting married and having babies, our contempories charting their own children’s achievements and milestones in ways we can’t do with our Louise: she will be forever 21.
Ross’s cancer was successfully operated on using the latest robotic surgery and his prognosis is excellent. The bombshell arrived late in 2013 when a suspected sports injury in my calf turned out to be an aggressive and malignant soft tissue sarcoma. In fear of losing my leg, I rushed back to England – thank God for insurance – and was operated on by one of the world’s top limb sarcoma surgeons. There followed six and half weeks of radiotherapy before I returned to Singapore in March 2014.
Before my cancer, I was extremely fit, a keen skier and practised yoga. It was but a small leap to start thinking about alternative approaches to my health and well being, involving yoga, Traditional Chinese Medicine (I am ideally placed after all!) and diet.
This website is the result of my exploration of all of these and the result is my personal blueprint for continuing health. I am sharing it in the hope that it may help others as much as it has helped me. My first set of scans were clear – both leg and lung, the seat of the secondaries from this sarcoma – so even if one can’t say it was down to any one particular thing, I do believe this holistic approach has to be beneficial. Dr Fi will explain about how taking control of your illness can make a huge difference to your recovery (see My Doc).
Please feel free to share your own experiences and tips via this website so that we can all learn from each other.