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Poetry a saviour

SARAH MOYES
Last updated 05:00 16/04/2010
journey
SHANE WENZLICK

REMARKABLE JOURNEY: Mother of three and cancer sufferer Sarah Broom has just launched her first poetry book Tigers at Awhitu.

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SARAH Broom has beaten the odds.

The mother of three is in the rare position of having her first collection of poems published by an overseas publisher.

But what makes it more remarkable is that for two years the Glendowie resident has survived stage four terminal lung cancer.

In February 2008, Mrs Broom was 29 weeks pregnant when she was given the devastating news that she had a terminal illness.

Her doctor later told her she was expected to live no more than a few months.

A non-smoker, Mrs Broom had been experiencing an irritating cough throughout her pregnancy but both she and her doctors were reluctant to x-ray.

Her youngest child, Amelia, was born safely at 30 weeks.

Mrs Broom then went through chemotherapy which resulted in an 80 to 90 percent reduction of the main tumour.

The now 37-year-old sought out other drug therapies and came across a drug trial in Melbourne at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre.

Mrs Broom was one of the first in the world to undertake the new Pfizer drug trial and she's had significant response to it.

"People with lung cancer, and particularly non-smokers, should push for genetic testing of their tumour," she says.

Mrs Broom was born in Dunedin and grew up in Christchurch.

She graduated from Canterbury University with an arts degree in English and psychology before going to England to study.

She has a master of arts in English from Leeds University and a doctorate in English from Oxford.

She lectured at Otago University and has written a book on contemporary British and Irish poetry.

Mrs Broom's poetry book Tigers at Awhitu has just been published by English publisher Carcanet, as well as the Auckland University Press.

She had written most of the book before the diagnosis. While she was in hospital her friend in Ireland offered to act as her agent and sent the manuscript to Carcanet, who accepted it. Auckland University Press soon followed suit.

She added to the book for nearly a year and these poems became the second section.

"I guess writing poetry became more of a necessity than ever after the diagnosis. I was turning the experience into something."

The book has now been published and the feedback she's received in England has been overwhelming.

"I've had a really amazing response from people. I was an academic before – you certainly don't experience the same responses to academic writing.

"People have been very open to me about how it's affected them."

As well as the drug trial, Mrs Broom is undergoing a number of alternative therapies which she believes are vital for her recovery.

She does acupuncture, reiki, psychotherapy, meditation and has an extreme diet.

Mrs Broom says she's had tremendous support from her family.

"I'm not planning on dying of this. I'm still aiming to get rid of it completely but even if I can't I hope that I can live with it as a chronic illness.

"I think cancer is going to become like that, people will live with it for much longer due to the new kinds of drugs that are emerging.

"It might become a bit like AIDS – you co-exist with it."

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Mrs Broom says she is healthy at the moment.

"I am living a very normal life."

She still writes poetry and is working towards a new book she hopes will be published in a few years.

"Perhaps some day I will try a novel but I just want to write poetry at the moment. It fits in with my lifestyle – I can always start something new depending on my mood."

Tigers at Awhitu is on sale at Unity Books and The Women's Bookshop in Ponsonby.

- East And Bays Courier

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