Repost from Swirl and Thread: It's A Mad World Extract

Today, Swirl and  Thread feature an extract from Susie Kelly's new collection of memories - It's A Mad World - Travels Through a Muddled Life...

Read more of this popular book review blog here

http://www.swirlandthread.com/

Today I am delighted to bring you all an extract from It’s A Mad World: Travels Through a Muddled Life by Susie Kelly, published February 17th with Blackbird Books.

FrenchEntrée Magazine – ‘There are a handful of authors who achieve that elusive trick of making you laugh out loud. For me it’s James Herriot, Bill Bryson and Susie Kelly.’ 

Author Tanya Bullock – Reading a Susie Kelly book is like sitting down for a cuppa and a chat with your best friend… your funny, witty, generous, big-hearted, kind, eloquent, compassionate, intuitive, sometimes poignant, often hilarious best friend.’

[ About the Book ]

Unlike her daredevil husband, Susie Kelly is afraid of water, elevators, heights, skiing and flying upside down and she hates being in the spotlight. No matter how hard she tries, things seem to go wrong more often than they go right. Fortunately she can see the funny side of most things, even her cancer diagnosis. However, snoring transforms her from a sweet little thing into a pitiless monster.
These often funny and sometimes poignant tales of travels through Susie’s muddled life confirm that, as Simon Reeve writes in his autobiography ‘Step by Step’, ‘…it is always worth remembering that some of the most memorable times can happen when things go a bit wrong.

[ Extract from It’s A Mad World ]


Introduction

There are two basic types of people.

      Those whose lives run smoothly. Their horses never sneeze and deposit green snort on their clean white shirts just as they are due to enter the ring. The heel of their shoe does not snap off on their way to an important interview. They do not arrive at work still wearing bedroom slippers. Their holidays always go exactly as planned and expected. They never lock themselves out of their own car. Their printer never breaks down without warning when it is most urgently needed. They never arrive at friends’ for dinner a day early. Their cakes always rise and their dogs never jump up on the mayor covering him with mud. Neither does the mayor arrive unexpectedly when they are still wearing their pyjamas at lunchtime.

      I am not one of those people. I never have been and by now I accept that I never will be. It is not that I don’t try. I really do. I prepare carefully and plan ahead, but if something can go wrong, it will. It is what it is. It does make life interesting.

      I have found that those people whose lives do run smoothly, even the most tolerant, tend to think it’s our own fault when we stumble from one calamity to another. We must be doing something wrong. They look at us quizzically when we relate the latest disaster, as if they don’t believe we can really be so inept.

      This book is dedicated to those like myself, who somehow get through life and enjoy it despite whatever it throws at us.

      There are some incidences of very bad behaviour. If you are likely to be outraged, you can’t say you haven’t been warned. 

1. The Big C

I never expected to have cancer, nor did I ever expect not to have it. I never gave it any thought, but I clearly remember the moment I knew I had it.

      You’ll know the jokes about how to prepare for a mammogram: 

      Lie down on a cold garage floor and ask somebody to drive the car over your boobs until they are squashed flat. If that’s not possible, find a strong person and get them to slam your boobs in the fridge door as hard as they can. 

Of course, these are exaggerations. It isn’t an enjoyable experience but it only lasts a few seconds and has the potential to save your life.

      My mammogram reminder arrives in January. They come every two years in France, until you are 74. This is the final time I’ll be invited. I add it to the pile of ‘deal with this some time’ papers on my desk. Each time it reaches the top, I pop it back to the bottom, because there is no urgency. In fact I may not bother this time, because I’m sure I’d know if there was anything wrong.

February and March come and go. I’m just about to screw the paper up and throw it away when I decide, no, I’ll make an appointment.

      Once the deed is done, and after an ultrasound scan, the radiologist calls me in to look at the results. He points out small white dots, tiny clusters of calcium. They may mean nothing, he says, but will need a further examination, which he will arrange. 

Writers’ antennae are finely tuned. We are alert to fleeting expressions, a change in voice tone or body language, anything that diverges from the norm (because we may want to use it in our writing). 

      Handing me my X-rays, the radiologist takes my hand in both of his and says he hopes everything will be OK. That’s when I know, because usually – I’ve been seeing him every two years for a decade – he just shakes my hand and wishes me bonne journée.            This time he is sending a message.

      I decide not to worry, and not to mention anything to anybody until I know more.

      Three weeks later, I’m having a stereotactic biopsy procedure, lying face down on a hospital table with a hole in it through which the suspect boob is inserted. The table is high enough from the floor to enable the technicians below to do their job, which is to precisely locate the suspect cells and remove them for examination. 

      It’s painless, done under local anaesthetic and takes about half an hour. I suppress a small giggle, thinking this is how a cow must feel during milking. The nurses and doctor treat me as gently as if I were made of spun sugar. One nurse talks to me, occasionally patting me on the back and asking if I am OK. I mention that my neck is uncomfortable after lying on my front for 15 minutes, so she massages it until the procedure is finished, then she wraps me in a warmed blanket. 

It will take a couple of weeks before I have the results confirmed, so in preparation for treatment that I know will make my hair fall out, I start looking for headwear, and am pleasantly surprised to see what a wide selection there is to choose from. There are colourful turbans and glamorous jewelled beanies, silky scarves and cute little cotton hats with faux fringes. I select a couple to order when the time comes.

      It’s been five weeks since the mammogram, and today I’m back at the hospital for the results of the biopsy. 

      When I go into the breast doctor’s office, the first thing she says is: ‘Have you come alone?’ The antennae twitch. That’s a very strong signal. When I reply that I have, she glances at the intern who is there with her, and I read the silent signal in her eyes. Twitch, twitch.

      Their discomfort is tangible; they don’t want to be doing this and I want to say to them: ‘It’s OK, you can tell me. I am not afraid. I am ready.’

      The doctor asks whether I understood the purpose of the stereotactic biopsy, and I reply that I do.

      So, she says, it shows two tumours, each of two centimetres, and they are cancerous. She is looking right into my eyes as she says it. The intern is also watching me intently. I feel I should be doing something theatrical. They are expecting me to scream, or faint, throw a fit of hysterics or burst into tears, but I am completely, absolutely calm and simply nod. 

      She continues gently. ‘It means a total mastectomy, which I will perform. There will be no further treatment necessary because the tumours are contained. They have not spread.’

      Inappropriately, I feel a fleeting disappointment that I won’t need to buy the pretty headwear.

      She goes on. ‘At the same time you will have reconstructive surgery.’ 

      She explains there are three options: a silicone implant, tissue from my stomach, or a muscle from my back. I can go home and think about it, or decide straight away, which I do. I go for the back muscle option.

      She says: ‘I’ll see if the plastic surgeon is free.’

      She makes a phone call, and a few minutes later the door opens. In walks the plastic surgeon, straight out of a Mills and Boon novel, or a television medical drama. He’s young and extremely handsome, with long lashed brown eyes and a generous, kind smile.        Beneath his white coat he’s wearing jeans and trainers.

      He asks politely if I will remove my top so he can have a look, and then he asks what cup (bonnet is the French word) size I’d like.

      I look at him blankly. I’m stuck for words. It’s all happening so quickly. 

      ‘Um, smaller.’ I say.

      ‘How about a ‘B’ cup?’ he suggests.

      ‘Yes, that would be perfect.’

      ‘OK.’ he says, shaking my hand. ‘No problem.’

      While I put my clothes back on, he and the breast doctor synchronise their diaries and set a date for the operation.

      ‘Don’t worry,’ the doctor reassures me, ‘there is no urgency. The tumours are in situ, and they have not spread. And you’ll have a wonderful view of Poitiers from your room on the ninth floor.’ she smiles.

      She couldn’t have said anything more alarming. My heart thuds and I feel a red flush of panic. There’s the ground floor, then floor 0 where the operating theatres are and then the technical floor before you even reach floor No. 1 which is actually four floors and 66 steps up, so technically the ninth floor is 13 floors up, and I am extremely claustrophobic. I always walk up the stairs to the first floor, arriving wobbly-kneed and breathless, but there is no way I can climb 13 flights of stairs.  

      ‘But, I’m claustrophobic, I can’t go in a lift!’ I squeak. She looks at me in silent astonishment, as if she cannot understand anybody who finds the prospect of having to get in a lift a million times worse than facing a mastectomy.

      In the last half hour, I have had the most other-worldly experience of my life.

                                                                                                                      *****

Driving home, my only worry, aside from the lift, is telling my daughter. Some years ago, she lost her dearest friend as a result of breast cancer, and I know that my news will cause her immense anxiety. I decide not to mention anything about it to anybody until the day before the operation, except to my husband Terry, who is understandably shocked, and my lovely editor and publisher Stephanie because I planned to deliver a new manuscript this year, and I’m not sure I’ll be able to do so.

      Having always been squeamish, I’m surprised that I spend several hours watching videos to see exactly how the latissimus dorsi procedure is performed, and am left in awe of modern medicine. With my curiosity satisfied, for the next couple of months I put it out of my mind. 

      A week before the operation, I need to have another mammogram. The radiologist asks if I am anxious about having the operation. I say that I’m not, I have total faith in the French health service. He asks about the reconstruction, and I tell him that I will be having a reduction.

      His eyes shoot open and his face is a picture of dismay. ‘A REDUCTION? Why?’

      ‘Because,’ I reply, ‘I want them to be smaller. They are too big.’

      He takes my hand, and says slowly and very clearly: ‘Madame, they are NEVER too big.’ I leave there laughing…    

Purchase Link ~ It’s A Mad World: Travels Through a Muddled Life

[ Bio ]

Born a Londoner, Susie Kelly spent most of the first 25 years of her life in Kenya. She now lives in south-west France with her husband and assorted animals. Susie sold over 50,000 copies of her travel memoirs with Transworld and has sold over 80,000 copies since joining Blackbird.

Twitter ~ @SusieEnFrance

The Spirit of the Horse Blog Tour: Janet Daykin

So many reasons to enjoy this book, and none not to...

 

This book works on so many levels. It’s not necessary to be familiar with horses although if you are you will love it even more.

 

It is a lovely, charming read without the need to look into it any further at all. But for me it felt like therapy in a very good, helpful way. It tells Pam’s story, which is enough in itself to sell the book to me. But running through it are stories of many of Pam's clients. They were the gems that got me thinking and examining my own life. Where could I have done better? With more knowledge or self-awareness, when should I have just forgiven myself and got on with life? And much, much more.

 

But enough of that please just enjoy the read - if you love horses so much the better!

 

Janet Daykin

Proofreader

The Spirit of the Horse

 

Something a little different for today's stop on the blog tour, as we pause on our home turf for a little reflection.

 

The Spirit of the Horse was a difficult book for a publisher to categorise as it fits into so many genres. Yes, it's a cracking page-turner of a memoir. Yes, you will encounter many case studies (fictionalised to protect client confidentiality) involving horses. But, looking back at early editorial meetings with the author, when her first book, The Spell of the Horse, was still taking shape, I know that she always saw her writing fitting in to the self-help genre. Books that could help readers and give them pause for reflection on their own lives, just by reading the case-studies and seeing exactly what went on in Pam's horse-led therapy sessions. By discovering how her clients reached their own release from their troubling situation, be it individuals or corporate groups, through their encounters in the field with Pam and her horses at their sides. There was no need for an affinity with horses, or to know anything about them, to enjoy and get something from this book. 

 

This is why today we've handed the reins over (sorry) to our proofreader, Janet, who has no horsey background or knowledge at all. She sang lyrical to me so much about how much she'd got from The Spirit of the Horse as a self-help book, that I thought her feedback would be useful to share. 

 

Thank you, Janet.

 

Pam's editor, Stephanie

The Spirit of the Horse is available now

£9.99 paperback, £3.99 ebook

 

Paperback, to order from Waterstones smarturl.it/waterstns and all good bookshops.

 

Ebook and paperback, Amazon: smarturl.it/spirithorse.

 

 

Repost: Being Anne Blog Feature, Pam Billinge

#Feature: The Spirit of the Horse by Pam Billinge @pam_billinge @Blackbird_Bks #publicationday #blogtour #guestpost #memoir #horses #healing

By  | March 16, 2021

With thanks to Stephanie Zia at Blackbird Books, I’m both honoured and delighted to be launching the blog tour for The Spirit of the Horse by Pam Billinge on publication day. The paperback is £9.99 and available to order from Waterstones, all good bookshops and the usual online platforms: the ebook is £3.99 and available for kindle via Amazon, through iBooks (that’s the US link) and for Kobo. I’m so sorry I wasn’t able to review this one – but instead, I’m featuring a guest post from Pam that her publishers called “elegant”, and that I thought was absolutely beautiful and a privilege to share. So I’ll hand over to her without further ado, and you’ll find the usual book description and author details at the foot of the post – she’s called it This one is for you, Mum.


That my second book The Spirit of the Horse should be published just after Mother’s Day was not planned. Yet when I realised this was the case it seemed so right.

My mum died 17 years ago. Sometimes it still seems like 17 months, or even weeks. That urge to pick up the phone to her still seizes me, to share news or amusing anecdotes. On days when I’m hurting or sad I long for the comfort of her embrace. I wonder at how I miss her given the lapse of time. Her loss shook me to my foundations, and jolted me onto a path of discovery which changed my life, and that of others too through my work as a horse-led therapist and coach. A process which has led, more recently, to the publication of two books and emigration to France. How proud she would have been.

My mother, Brenda, like her own parents, buried deep a desire and an ability to write. Lack of resources, education, confidence and time meant that these seeds lay dormant. I have early memories of my grandmother, Lilian, crippled with arthritis, holding a rubber-topped pencil in both frail hands and painfully typing one letter at a time on an ancient typewriter. She was creating stories for me and my brothers. My grandfather called himself Chas ‘The Bard’ Ellis and wrote limericks and rhymes to make us laugh. When I was emptying Mum’s house after she died, I found a notebook of his, dating back to the war, containing the beginnings of a novel he had scribbled in pencil. The curves and flourishes of his old-fashioned hand are so faint now that the words are mostly illegible. And my mother. Well! I found journals she had written on her travels through Europe with her beloved second husband. Describing, in far too much detail for a daughter, the passion they had known and her love for both him and the country of Spain to which she longed to move. Amongst blushes I decided to lay her work to rest, allowing their intimacy the privacy which I felt she wanted.

Born into a poor family in wartime Liverpool, my mother’s education ended on her 14th birthday when she became the main breadwinner for her family of four, both my grandparents being unable to work. ‘You must get a good job. Never be poor!’ she drilled into me as I grew up. Becoming an accountant, or a solicitor, were high on her list of desirable professions for me and equally low on mine. Sitting down to read for pleasure was rarely encouraged yet she was never without a stack of novels at her bedside, borrowed from the local library.

So it is no surprise that as a young woman I worked hard to develop a ‘proper career’ in business and later as a psychotherapist and coach. Literary ambition was not even on the horizon of my dreams. And then one day someone said, in the course of a conversation about my work as a therapist and the spiritual world which my love for horses had opened up for me: ‘You should write a book.’ And those generational seeds, fallow for so long, received their first drops of spring rain.

‘What if I could?’ I asked myself. Then … ‘Maybe I can.’

And so it began. I did not have the physical disability of Lilian as she placed one letter at a time with the tap of the pencil. However I faltered just as much, encumbered with uncertainty and shame. ‘What if I fail? What will people think? Who would want to read what I have to say anyway?’ So, like my grandfather and my mother had done before, I kept my writing secret.

In time my first book took on a will to live all of its own which even my lack of confidence couldn’t quash. As it did, my purpose in writing became clear – to speak out for the often-misunderstood horse. Creatures to whom I owed so much, whilst helping other humans to feel supported and inspired through their troubles. I began to care more about the potential of my book to serve its purpose than I did about what people thought of me. Instead of being gripped by the fear of being vulnerable I glowed with hope to make a difference. And in 2017, beyond my wildest fantasies, The Spell of the Horse was published by Blackbird Books. And today, my second book is set free to do its work, also with the same publisher.

The adventurous spirit which has been nurtured both by my relationship with horses and my debut as an author, has also brought me to live in France where I spent several years as a young woman. Here for the first time, I am able to live alongside my herd at last. By doing so I am fulfilling another dream of my mother’s albeit a little further north. But all that is another story which you can read about in my book…

So today, as The Spirit of the Horse opens up its own world of possibility for me, and for the reader, I remember Brenda, Lilian and Chas The Bard and say: ‘This one is for you.’ That I love to write is your legacy and gift to me. That my books are published and read is mine to you.

Pam, thank you… that was just perfect. And here are the book details…

Sequel to The Spell of the Horse. Pam continues her exploration into the true nature of horses, their power to heal and the spiritual dynamic between human and horse.

 

When Pam follows her dream to a farmhouse with five acres in northern France, she is able to live alongside her horses for the first time. Here, in the heart of nature, deeper insights are revealed into the healing connection between horse and human and the incredible power of presence to transform. Might it be that learning to honour and communicate with another species helps us to reframe the way we perceive each other, as well as how we might see ourselves?

 

A pioneer in embodied horse-led therapy and leadership development, Pam’s story is interwoven with those of inspiring individuals and groups she has supported: from people experiencing relationship breakdown to large organisations looking for culture change; from the bereaved or lonely to the confused wishing to explore what next. Steeped in simple wisdom, the stories offer the reader a pragmatic, mindful template for personal transformation.

 

‘It is with grace that horses lead us gently to a place where forgiveness is possible and self-compassion takes the place of contempt. They draw us into a non-linear dimension where we can sink into the infinity of the moment and know deep peace and harmony.’ – Pam Billinge

About the author

Pam Billinge is a therapist, coach and author who specialises in embodied horse-led learning. This unique approach relies entirely on the emergent relational process between horse and human. At her bases in the UK and in France, Pam supports people of all nationalities, ages and walks of life with their personal and professional development. Through her workshops and her writing Pam wishes to share the healing wisdom of horses whilst advancing the cause of this sometimes much-misunderstood species. She hopes also through her work to reconnect us with the natural world from which we are too often separated.

Website | Twitter

Blackbird authors on the radio

Two Blackbird authors were on the radio this week.

 

Susie Kelly was on the Talk Radio Europe (TRE) Bill Padmore show, talking about

It's A Mad World: Travels Through a Muddled Life.

 

Susie and Bill really bounced off each other, a real tonic of laughs. Listen here:

 

https://soundcloud.com/susie-kelly-234346817/talk-radio-europe-in-spain-2021-03-12-10-00-00

 

Pam Billinge was on BBC Radio Wiltshire's Lessons in Lockdown with Sue Kinnear. They chatted about

The Spirit of the Horse - More Stories of Life, Love and Leadership  and  therapist Pam's own lesson of lockdown. 'Resilience isn't about toughing it out or pretending everything is OK,' she said.  'It's about recognising our vulnerability, being able to express that, & asking for the help we need.'

Blackbird 2021 Catalogue

Download
Blackbird Books CATALOGUE 2021.pdf
Adobe Acrobat Document 3.7 MB

New Susie Kelly title: It's A Mad World - Travels Through a Muddled Life

 

‘Memories warm you up from the inside. But they also tear you apart.’ Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore

 

Unlike her daredevil husband, Susie Kelly is afraid of water, elevators, heights, skiing and flying upside down and she hates being in the spotlight. 

 

No matter how hard she tries, things seem to go wrong more often than they go right. Fortunately she can see the funny side of most things, even her cancer diagnosis. However, snoring transforms her from a sweet little thing into a pitiless monster.   

 

These often funny and sometimes poignant tales of travels through Susie’s muddled life confirm that, as Simon Reeve writes in his autobiography Step by Step, ‘…it is always worth remembering that some of the most memorable times can happen when things go a bit wrong. 

 

*****'Great storyteller and very funny.' Goodreads

 

***** 'There are a handful of authors who will achieve that elusive trick of making you laugh out loud. For me it's James Herriot, Bill Bryson & Susie Kelly.' FrenchEntrée Magazine

 

*****‘I just love reading Susie's books. Her travel books contain loads of helpful information, plenty of humor and often the odd tear. I even slowed down my usual reading pace to try and make it last longer. ’ US Amazon

 

 

*****'Reading a Susie Kelly book is like sitting down for a cuppa and a chat with your best friend... your funny, witty, generous, big-hearted, kind, eloquent, compassionate, intuitive, sometimes poignant, often hilarious best friend.' Author Tanya Bullock

 

Introduction

 

There are two basic types of people.

      Those whose lives run smoothly. Their horses never sneeze and deposit green snort on their clean white shirts just as they are due to enter the ring. The heel of their shoe does not snap off on their way to an important interview. They do not arrive at work still wearing bedroom slippers. Their holidays always go exactly as planned and expected. They never lock themselves out of their own car. Their printer never breaks down without warning when it is most urgently needed. They never arrive at friends’ for dinner a day early. Their cakes always rise and their dogs never jump up on the mayor covering him with mud. Neither does the mayor arrive unexpectedly when they are still wearing their pyjamas at lunchtime.

      I am not one of those people. I never have been and by now I accept that I never will be. It is not that I don’t try. I really do. I prepare carefully and plan ahead, but if something can go wrong, it will. It is what it is. It does make life interesting.

      I have found that those people whose lives do run smoothly, even the most tolerant, tend to think it’s our own fault when we stumble from one calamity to another. We must be doing something wrong. They look at us quizzically when we relate the latest disaster, as if they don’t believe we can really be so inept.

      This book is dedicated to those like myself, who somehow get through life and enjoy it despite whatever it throws at us.

      There are some incidences of very bad behaviour. If you are likely to be outraged, you can’t say you haven’t been warned. 

 

1. The Big C

 

I never expected to have cancer, nor did I ever expect not to have it. I never gave it any thought, but I clearly remember the moment I knew I had it.

      You’ll know the jokes about how to prepare for a mammogram: 

      Lie down on a cold garage floor and ask somebody to drive the car over your boobs until they are squashed flat. If that’s not possible, find a strong person and get them to slam your boobs in the fridge door as hard as they can. 

Of course, these are exaggerations. It isn’t an enjoyable experience but it only lasts a few seconds and has the potential to save your life.

      My mammogram reminder arrives in January. They come every two years in France, until you are 74. This is the final time I’ll be invited. I add it to the pile of ‘deal with this some time’ papers on my desk. Each time it reaches the top, I pop it back to the bottom, because there is no urgency. In fact I may not bother this time, because I’m sure I’d know if there was anything wrong.

February and March come and go. I’m just about to screw the paper up and throw it away when I decide, no, I’ll make an appointment.

      Once the deed is done, and after an ultrasound scan, the radiologist calls me in to look at the results. He points out small white dots, tiny clusters of calcium. They may mean nothing, he says, but will need a further examination, which he will arrange. 

Writers’ antennae are finely tuned. We are alert to fleeting expressions, a change in voice tone or body language, anything that diverges from the norm (because we may want to use it in our writing). 

      Handing me my X-rays, the radiologist takes my hand in both of his and says he hopes everything will be OK. That’s when I know, because usually – I’ve been seeing him every two years for a decade – he just shakes my hand and wishes me bonne journée.            This time he is sending a message.

      I decide not to worry, and not to mention anything to anybody until I know more.

      Three weeks later, I’m having a stereotactic biopsy procedure, lying face down on a hospital table with a hole in it through which the suspect boob is inserted. The table is high enough from the floor to enable the technicians below to do their job, which is to precisely locate the suspect cells and remove them for examination. 

      It’s painless, done under local anaesthetic and takes about half an hour. I suppress a small giggle, thinking this is how a cow must feel during milking. The nurses and doctor treat me as gently as if I were made of spun sugar. One nurse talks to me, occasionally patting me on the back and asking if I am OK. I mention that my neck is uncomfortable after lying on my front for 15 minutes, so she massages it until the procedure is finished, then she wraps me in a warmed blanket. 

It will take a couple of weeks before I have the results confirmed, so in preparation for treatment that I know will make my hair fall out, I start looking for headwear, and am pleasantly surprised to see what a wide selection there is to choose from. There are colourful turbans and glamorous jewelled beanies, silky scarves and cute little cotton hats with faux fringes. I select a couple to order when the time comes.

      It’s been five weeks since the mammogram, and today I’m back at the hospital for the results of the biopsy. 

      When I go into the breast doctor’s office, the first thing she says is: ‘Have you come alone?’ The antennae twitch. That’s a very strong signal. When I reply that I have, she glances at the intern who is there with her, and I read the silent signal in her eyes. Twitch, twitch.

      Their discomfort is tangible; they don’t want to be doing this and I want to say to them: ‘It’s OK, you can tell me. I am not afraid. I am ready.’

      The doctor asks whether I understood the purpose of the stereotactic biopsy, and I reply that I do.

      So, she says, it shows two tumours, each of two centimetres, and they are cancerous. She is looking right into my eyes as she says it. The intern is also watching me intently. I feel I should be doing something theatrical. They are expecting me to scream, or faint, throw a fit of hysterics or burst into tears, but I am completely, absolutely calm and simply nod. 

      She continues gently. ‘It means a total mastectomy, which I will perform. There will be no further treatment necessary because the tumours are contained. They have not spread.’

      Inappropriately, I feel a fleeting disappointment that I won’t need to buy the pretty headwear.

      She goes on. ‘At the same time you will have reconstructive surgery.’ 

      She explains there are three options: a silicone implant, tissue from my stomach, or a muscle from my back. I can go home and think about it, or decide straight away, which I do. I go for the back muscle option.

      She says: ‘I’ll see if the plastic surgeon is free.’

      She makes a phone call, and a few minutes later the door opens. In walks the plastic surgeon, straight out of a Mills and Boon novel, or a television medical drama. He’s young and extremely handsome, with long lashed brown eyes and a generous, kind smile.        Beneath his white coat he’s wearing jeans and trainers.

      He asks politely if I will remove my top so he can have a look, and then he asks what cup (bonnet is the French word) size I’d like.

      I look at him blankly. I’m stuck for words. It’s all happening so quickly. 

      ‘Um, smaller.’ I say.

      ‘How about a ‘B’ cup?’ he suggests.

      ‘Yes, that would be perfect.’

      ‘OK.’ he says, shaking my hand. ‘No problem.’

      While I put my clothes back on, he and the breast doctor synchronise their diaries and set a date for the operation.

      ‘Don’t worry,’ the doctor reassures me, ‘there is no urgency. The tumours are in situ, and they have not spread. And you’ll have a wonderful view of Poitiers from your room on the ninth floor.’ she smiles.

      She couldn’t have said anything more alarming. My heart thuds and I feel a red flush of panic. There’s the ground floor, then floor 0 where the operating theatres are and then the technical floor before you even reach floor No. 1 which is actually four floors and 66 steps up, so technically the ninth floor is 13 floors up, and I am extremely claustrophobic. I always walk up the stairs to the first floor, arriving wobbly-kneed and breathless, but there is no way I can climb 13 flights of stairs.  

      ‘But, I’m claustrophobic, I can’t go in a lift!’ I squeak. She looks at me in silent astonishment, as if she cannot understand anybody who finds the prospect of having to get in a lift a million times worse than facing a mastectomy.

      In the last half hour, I have had the most other-worldly experience of my life.

                                                                                                                      *****

Driving home, my only worry, aside from the lift, is telling my daughter. Some years ago, she lost her dearest friend as a result of breast cancer, and I know that my news will cause her immense anxiety. I decide not to mention anything about it to anybody until the day before the operation, except to my husband Terry, who is understandably shocked, and my lovely editor and publisher Stephanie because I planned to deliver a new manuscript this year, and I’m not sure I’ll be able to do so.

      Having always been squeamish, I’m surprised that I spend several hours watching videos to see exactly how the latissimus dorsi procedure is performed, and am left in awe of modern medicine. With my curiosity satisfied, for the next couple of months I put it out of my mind. 

      A week before the operation, I need to have another mammogram. The radiologist asks if I am anxious about having the operation. I say that I’m not, I have total faith in the French health service. He asks about the reconstruction, and I tell him that I will be having a reduction.

      His eyes shoot open and his face is a picture of dismay. ‘A REDUCTION? Why?’

      ‘Because,’ I reply, ‘I want them to be smaller. They are too big.’

      He takes my hand, and says slowly and very clearly: ‘Madame, they are NEVER too big.’ I leave there laughing...     

 

Publication date: 17th February 2021

ISBN: 9781838278649 

Ebook £3.99  Paperback £9.99 

Pre-order Amazon: smarturl.it/madwld

More about Susie Kelly

New Pam Billinge title The Spirit of the Horse - Cover Reveal

Delighted and honoured to reveal the stunning cover to Pam Billinge's sequel to The Spell of the Horse. The Spirit of the Horse is out 16th March 2021. 

 

Photography is by the equine portraitist Emily Corcoran.

 

Check out her beautiful work at Emily Corcoran Photography.

 

Design is by the brilliant Aimee at Bookollective.

 

The Spirit of the Horse is about following dreams, finding your truth and how much stronger joy can be when we learn to interconnect with all that is. It is the perfect companion to The Spell of the Horse as Pam reveals more evidence of the ability of the horse to sense emotion, energy and spirit far beyond what most of us realise.