Wells Po­etry

The big names com­ing to small town’s fes­ti­val

EDP Norfolk - - Inside -

DANCER, DRAMA teacher, B&B land­lady, school din­ner lady and one-time ma­gi­cian’s as­sis­tant Jane Hog­gar was de­ter­mined to laugh in the face of cancer. As she went through the gru­elling, be­wil­der­ing, scary process of di­ag­no­sis and treat­ment she fo­cused on find­ing fun in se­ri­ous sit­u­a­tions.

Now she has writ­ten the book she wanted to read. It be­gan as a blog, writ­ten day-by-day as she ne­go­ti­ated the dif­fi­cult, and not ob­vi­ously hi­lar­i­ous, events and de­ci­sions around breast cancer treat­ments, out­comes and side-ef­fects. Chemo Sum­mer, il­lus­trated by her artist daugh­ter, Holly Bishop, tells the story of her di­ag­no­sis, care and cure.

Jane had long feared breast cancer as both her mother and grand­mother were treated for, and sur­vived, the dis­ease. She had al­ready asked doc­tors to check out sev­eral po­ten­tial lumps, over the years, when she no­ticed what she de­scribes as a “saggy breast.”

“It was ac­tu­ally an ap­point­ment for my hus­band, for a knee prob­lem,” says Jane. “On the way out I said, ‘Could you just have a quick look at my tits!?’ One was saggy and one was perky, so I thought it wasn’t just go­ing south be­cause of my age!”

That was three years ago. Since then 51-year-old Jane has had a lumpec­tomy, chemo­ther­apy, ra­dio­ther­apy – and turned the blog which helped her get through it all into her first book. “When I was di­ag­nosed, I was very shocked, ob­vi­ously,” says Jane. “You im­me­di­ately fear the worst. It’s a nat­u­ral hu­man re­ac­tion. I wasn’t scared of dy­ing, but the thought of my chil­dren hav­ing to cope with me dy­ing was too much to bear.”

The blog be­gan as a way to up­date con­cerned friends and fam­ily. “I was get­ting ex­hausted, ring­ing ev­ery­one to talk through what was hap­pen­ing each day. With this they could sim­ply log in and read,” said Jane. “I started en­joy­ing writ­ing it, find­ing anec­dotes, tick­ing the days off as I went through chemo­ther­apy.”

Jane and her maths pro­fes­sor hus­band, Steve Bishop, re­cently re­turned to East Anglia, where they both grew up. “We found a house we fell in love with on Har­leston High Street,” said Jane. She is about to start chil­dren’s dance classes in the town and says: “I didn’t re­alise how much I would love com­ing home.”

Her own dance ca­reer be­gan with bal­let school. Too tall for a ca­reer in bal­let she be­came a Blue­bell Girl in Paris. “It was amaz­ing! We were treated like celebri­ties around the world,” says Jane. “I did can-can shows in France and Italy and got my­self into a bit of trou­ble in Ja­pan, and had to es­cape from a spa ho­tel in the moun­tains in the laun­dry van! When you are a dancer you can’t pick and choose,” she says. “If you want to work on stage you have got to roll up your sleeves and take what’s of­fered. I’ve worked as a ma­gi­cian’s as­sis­tant. I al­ways just about man­aged to get out of the ap­pa­ra­tus in one piece, but lad­dered my tights ev­ery time! You have to be flex­i­ble, not just phys­i­cally, but in your at­ti­tude too.”

She was liv­ing in Lon­don, and au­di­tion­ing for West End shows, when she met her hus­band-to-be.

Many years later she and Steve found them­selves sit­ting, side-by-side in front of a mir­ror, about to choose a wig for Jane.

“I had al­ways won­dered what I would look like bald. I was hop­ing it might be like Sinead O’Con­nor but it was more like Ko­jak!” says Jane.

It is just one of the many anec­dotes which brings laugh­ter to Chemo Sum­mer.

“I needed a book that would cheer me up and make me re­alise that there are lots of peo­ple go­ing through the same and that they don’t nec­es­sar­ily die, very few peo­ple die,” says Jane. “It’s not all bad news. Breast cancer, if it’s caught early, they can help you. I don’t have cancer now.” She hopes the book will help other peo­ple through cancer and take the fear out of talk­ing about cancer.

She also be­lieves it could save lives. When a friend ad­mit­ted miss­ing a mam­mo­gram ap­point­ment Jane en­cour­aged her to re­book and an early cancer was de­tected in time for it to be treated. “That’s a good ex­am­ple of why we must talk about it,” she said, “although my hus­band did ask me to stop check­ing my­self for lumps in restau­rants!” Chemo Sum­mer costs £7.99 and can be or­dered through book­shops or on­line.

Jane Hog­gar

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