Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Mermaids, monsters and movie-making

The story of Mermaids and Monsters, my book about mastectomy and the history of breast cancer surgery, is being made into a short documentary. The director, James Williams, is a final-year BA TV student at Bournemouth, and originally contacted me for advice only; his intention was to explore alternative treatments and approaches to breast cancer. After reading a few chapters of Mermaids, he decided he wanted to make a film about my quest to put my experience in the context of 200 years of surgical, literary and women's history. I was chuffed.

We just wrapped up a week of filming, which started in Cornwall. My children were thrilled to have four exciting new people to stay and loved it. The film crew followed me around as I spoke to my surgeon and the head breast care nurse at the Mermaid Centre. We had tea and scones at Dolly's Tea Room and Wine Bar in Falmouth — a favourite hangout for us mermaids (you can get a taste for it here!). And we went for dramatic walks along the amazing coastal path near Lamorna and the nature reserve belonging to the Minack Chronicles Nature Trust, a place that puts human experience into humbling perspective.

We headed to London and spoke to experts at the Old Operating Theatre and Herb Garret museum in Southwark and at the Wellcome Collection, as a result of which I was given a mock amputation while lying on an operating table dating from 1820, and was later able to pore over original copies of the Lancet medical journal from 1851 about fears of surgical "mania" resulting from the invention of anaesthesia. (Who'd have thought anyone could look back at the good old days of no anaesthesia with fondness? Cripes.) Now I can't wait to see the final film, which James has agreed could be screened at a fundraiser for breast cancer. Cheers James, and thanks to your fab crew too - Jacob, Clare and Harry!


  1. cant wait to see all this hard work pay off...good luck to you all xxxxx