ANTIGONISH, N.S. - “The title says it all.”
Those were the words of Dr. John Graham-Pole when asked to describe his new book – a memoir. The title is Journeys with a Thousands Heroes; A Child Oncologist’s Story.
“I borrowed that, of course, The Hero’s Journey,” Graham-Pole, who settled in Antigonish upon retirement, said, referencing Joseph Campbell’s book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, released in 1949.
“But I don’t want to claim to be the hero; the children are the heroes, of my whole life really, actually,” he added.
“As I look back, I can hardly believe I worked for 40 years and, most of that time, with children. I think about that and I’m deeply grateful the opportunity was offered to me; through the way my life evolved to do this kind of work.
“I was honoured and moved by having the opportunity to serve, and I mean that word – it’s the best word for it – to serve children in great need, as well as their families.”
Graham-Pole noted the memoir does start in his own childhood, at the age of 12.
“That because my early ambitions were born when I was 12, when my mother died,” he said. “It was then when I decided the work I wanted to do.”
He noted it’s ironic he ended up practicing the type of medicine he did because, going through medical school, he was “terrified” of sick children.
“Yet, I was confronted by a young child with a very serious illness in my final exam,” he said.
“In those days, it probably doesn’t happen so much today, one was obliged to examine patients right, there and then, under the eagle eye of the examiner. That was me and it wasn’t the easiest thing in the world but what I discovered was I could get a great deal of help from many of a mother of a child with a serious illness; they were the ones who saved my life many times.”
He acknowledges the book, of course, contains sad stories but adds they’re also inspirational because he is telling the stories of heroes.
“Many of these children were very a powerful force for me … very courageous,” he said.
“They kept their spirits up and kept my spirits up and, may I say, never really lost their sense of humour, many of them; it was an extraordinary thing.
“I don’t make any hesitation to say it was a very spiritual experience looking after these young ones who seemed to understand and accept their short lives, the meaning and the love all around them, and inspired a great deal of love from me.”
Graham-Pole will be doing a local reading from his book Sept. 27 at the People’s Place Library and there are plans for readings in Halifax.
As far as obtaining a copy, he notes there will be plenty on-hand during those readings and the book will be available at the Antigonish 5¢ to $1 Store, and Coles in Market Square.
“And I have them myself, which is the best way from my point of view,” he said, encouraging people to email him (firstname.lastname@example.org) for a copy or visit the websites; www.johngrahampoole.com and www.harppublishing.ca.
The latter, he added, is a new publishing house, which isn’t quite up and ready yet but soon will be.