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All things Pharma

Bangers & Mash by Keith Hern (MX Publishing, pb, £9.99)


This book is a true-life account of a year in the life of press photographer Keith Hern, starting with the discovery of a small and painless lump on his neck. Diagnosed with throat cancer, he experienced months of intensive treatment including radiotherapy, chemotherapy and surgery. The outcome has so far been successful.

Bangers & Mash is based on Hern’s diary and illustrated with photographs taken by him and others – some dramatic photos of him being prepared for radiotherapy and recovering from surgery were taken by nurses, using his camera. The title refers to his first mouthful of solid food after months of being unable to chew or to swallow anything but liquids.

Another form of treatment he received was psychological training from an NLP coach. NLP was developed in a clinical context long before its application to business practice, and Hern pays tribute to the coach who helped him to focus on ‘positive’ thoughts and images. He was less impressed by the NLP books and videos she gave him, however. MX Publishing is an NLP specialist imprint, but the book praises the therapy rather than the theory.

Hern’s case is a striking example of the power of early diagnosis and intervention. For anyone involved in commercialising technologies for cancer treatment, his account of the debilitating side-effects – at one point, he expresses surprise that an already sick body can endure such toxic intervention – is a valuable reminder of the patient perspective. The development of a more patient-centred healthcare culture depends on such voices being heard.

The financial aspect of his treatment is also worth noting. Hern received private treatment for his cancer thanks to medical insurance, but the company informed him that any subsequent health consequences of the cancer or its treatment would not be covered – which leaves him exposed for the future. Ironically, his year ended with a protracted argument over a travel insurance policy after his teenage daughter was taken ill on holiday. As we move towards a more finance-driven healthcare model, more and more patients will face issues of this kind.

This engaging and frank account is rich in humour and insight, and will give readers in the medtech industry some solid food for thought.

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