The Elephant in the Room
4 April 2012
Professor Jonathan Waxman is Clinical Chair in Prostate Cancer in the Department of Surgery and Cancer at Hammersmith Campus. He founded the Prostate Cancer Charity, the first national organisation promoting research and patient support for this condition. Jonathan writes about how he was inspired to write The Elephant in The Room, his recently published collection of short stories about the lives of cancer patients and the doctors treating them.
“The book was inspired by my friend, the novelist J.G Ballard, whose book Crash was adapted into a film by David Cronenberg. Jimmy helped me publish my first novel, by introducing me to his agent. I had the privilege of looking after him when he became ill. When Jimmy developed cancer, I asked him if he would write a book with me; a discourse between a doctor and his patient, explaining the view from both sides of the clinic. The aim was to help people who had cancer understand what it was all about. When Jimmy became too ill to write, I thought that I would try mini profile writing it by myself. The stories are fictionalised accounts of real people and their struggles, and in them I try to explain how cancer patients feel, but also explore the feelings and the doctors who care for them. The elephant is a metaphor for what’s obvious, omnipresent and perhaps ignored. One of my favourite things about my job is getting the chance to help patients through their illness. Seeing patients get better is amazing, but being allowed to observe the love between a patient and their family and friends is the best thing in the world.”