Eastbourne cancer survivor pens book inspired by her fight for life

Avril Chester is pictured on Eastbourne seafront with her book
Avril Chester is pictured on Eastbourne seafront with her book

A cancer survivor from Eastbourne is raising money for charity with a new book of poetry inspired by her fight against the disease.

Avril Chester turned to writing poems as a way of coping with her illness after being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015 at the age of 37.

The IT director, now 39, says poetry became her “companion” after the diagnosis and a gruelling treatment regime left her struggling to open up to family and friends about what she was going through.

The resulting collection, entitled ‘Be With Me, It’s C’, features a mixture of original verse and clever reworkings of classic songs and poems.

It has now gone on sale with at least 10 per cent of sales being donated to national charity Breast Cancer Care.

Speaking about the book, Avril says her hope is it will offer support for others suffering from breast cancer as well as encourage them to express themselves through writing.

She said, “I really surprised myself during treatment in that writing became my constant companion.

“Like many people with cancer, I found myself overwhelmed with so many new and scary things to take in. Even though I’m usually a chatty person, I found it difficult to talk about my experiences with others.

“But at least I could process and work through what was happening, such as the yo-yoing emotions and physical changes, through poems. It helped me organise my thoughts and feelings, keep loved ones informed and keep a record of just how far I’d come.

“Be With Me, It’s C is a culmination of these expressions written both in the small hours of the morning and during the day.

“I hope it helps provide some insight to breast cancer and, most importantly, acts as a trigger to encourage others to write down their frustrations, hopes, fears and dreams.”

Avril discovered a small lump in her breast in July 2015 but at first doctors thought it was benign.

It was only several months later following a round of medical tests and ‘wire-guided’ local surgery that she got the shocking news that it was, in fact, an invasive tumour.

Just before Christmas that year Avril underwent a mastectomy and then received chemotherapy to prevent the cancer reoccurring.

Thankfully, she received the ‘all clear’ this March, though the aggressive treatment has left her with osteoporosis and she will need to take hormone tablets for up to 10 years.

The poignant poems in Be With Me, It’s C chronicle Avril’s journey back to health from the night before her mastectomy, with a reworking of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’ by Clement Clarke Moore, through the darkest moments of her chemotherapy and up to her thoughts on reconstructive surgery.

The 44-page collection, which Avril has self-published, concludes with an inspirational poem to motivate other cancer patients and features special blot-proof blank pages for them to write down their own experiences.

Be With Me, It’s C by Avril Chester is available now, priced £6.99, from Amazon UK and other well-known booksellers. Follow Avril on Twitter at @bewithmeitsc