I prayed, I drew, I wrote

When she was diagnosed with breast cancer, Anne Alcock decided to write a book, in the form of a journal, to help others going through the same journey, writes Liz O'Brien
I prayed, I drew, I wrote
Anne Alcock pictured with her writing journal in her garden.Pic; Larry Cummins

AUTHOR Anne Alcock saw her cancer diagnosis as a new adventure that life had thrown her way.

She wrote a book — entitled Cancer: A Circle of Seasons — about her journey, a journey that she considered to be challenging but valuable.

She wrote her book in the form of a journal, one that she hopes can help other people going through cancer treatment or other illnesses.

Proceeds from the book will go to four charities in Cork and Kerry.

“In writing the book I never saw this (cancer) as a terrible thing; I know this sounds strange, but to me it was like an adventure — I haven’t done this before, I don’t feel alone in this, I never lost a night’s sleep over it, I do believe that the Lord walks with us and so it was that sense of faith that helped me.

“So, I thought ‘I’ll do this, I’ll do what I’m supposed to do, and I’ll go with it’ — it honestly felt like that.”

This is Anne’s fourth book; it follows the UK-born author’s scripture-based books Word Into Heart, Woman in Search of Wholeness and Turning Aside to Hear.

Anne has roots in Ireland, the UK, and Madeira, and she spent her childhood in Africa. After some time in London, as a Dominican Missionary sister, she returned to lay life, and has now lived in Ireland for more than 30 years.

She is a well-known spiritual director, and retreat facilitator, a whole-person-consultant, psychotherapist, stress-management facilitator and author.

She has a connection to Cork that spans three decades; in the late 1980s she was invited here, to work.

“I came to Cork in 1987, and I first worked in relaxation and body and retreat work and I was doing that in Ennismore, up in Montenotte.

“At that time there weren’t a lot of people doing holistic work.”

She worked in Ennismore until 1990, and then branched out by giving retreats nationwide and in the UK. From 1993 to 2000, Anne worked as a chaplain in St Peter’s school/college in Passage West.

Her mum, now deceased, relocated from Madeira to Cork many years ago — she loved the people, Anne remembers, and they loved her in return. When she became ill, Anne nursed her in her final days. It was a year after her mum died, in 2015, that Anne was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“I went for a routine check-up, and the doctor asked: ‘How are you?’ It was springtime and I felt fantastic!

“I said: “Never better, except that I found a lump.”

Anne was referred to Cork University Hospital and doctors confirmed that it was cancer.

“I had a sense — I kind of knew it and it was always like, ‘Wow, I’ve joined so many of my friends in this now’.

“I felt a great connection with the vast sisterhood of other women who are on this journey; I thought: ‘Well, why wouldn’t I have it?’ ‘It didn’t feel like ‘what a terrible thing has happened to me’, it really felt like, ‘Yes, this is another piece of life’.

“Maybe because at my age it wasn’t as traumatic a thought as if I had been a younger person — I am 70 so I would have been 67 (when I was diagnosed).

“I have reached a stage in life where I don’t expect it all to be fantastically brilliant; I think we make what we have brilliant — that’s how I would try and live.”

Anne underwent a year of treatment, which included surgery and radium afterwards, and she praised staff at UCC Breastcare Clinic and the Dunmanway Suite in UCC who helped her through it.

When diagnosed with breast cancer, she prayed, she drew; she talked, and looked for a book that could help her.

“This book was my way of bringing it altogether and maybe helping anyone who would also like to journal and reflect creatively about their own life-experiences. Anything. Not just illness.

“Even in the midst of family and friends, many journeys have to be taken alone, and as someone living on her own, I have always found writing prayers to a companioning God, very helpful — these prayers are included, alongside actual diary entries and journaling questions for the reader.”

Cancer: A Circle of Seasons, is a self-help book that invites the reader to document their own story — every chapter has a ‘Journal for You’ page, prompting the reader to write.

“I actually found that this was a journey that was valuable, and if we do have a chance to reflect on how we meet the challenges that life brings us, it can really be life- enhancing — that’s how I see it and how I always saw the book.

“Ultimately, it’s the healing and calming value of reflective journaling in challenging situations.”

Anne inherited a positive outlook from her mum, who taught her to live with her ‘eyes open’. That ultimately stood to her during her cancer journey.

She now has a check-up every three months and tries not to think too much about the disease she had.

“The lump was removed, treatment was given and I’m getting on with my life; happily taking life as it comes.”

Royalties from the book go to the Irish Cancer Society, Kerry Health Link bus, Breakthrough Research, UCC and Recovery Haven in Tralee.

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