me and my shadow story of cancer survival

After almost fifty years in the making, celebrated South Tyneside children’s author John Walker Pattison has released his brutally honest, but wholly inspirational, memoir ‘Me and My Shadow: memoirs of a cancer survivor’. Following on from two greatly successful children’s book releases Strange Trips and Weird Adventures as well as Blenkinsop Blabbermouth and the Ghost of Broderick McCaffery, Pattison is diving headfirst into non-fiction as he opens up to readers through a candid account of cancer diagnosis and survivorship.

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While many will know Pattison as the self-proclaimed “elasticated grandpa”, whose colourful tales of adventure and mystery have captured young minds worldwide from the very first page. Some might not be aware that John’s own story has been a rollercoaster in and of itself, that few could ever imagine. 

Hailing from the seaside town of South Shields, John’s life has been anything but ordinary. He started his career at seventeen as a welder in a local shipyard, but just ten months later, he fell seriously ill. At the tender age of 18, John Walker Pattison was diagnosed with ‘incurable’ cancer, lymphoma (a type of blood cancer) to be exact. With a 50/50 chance of survival hanging over his head, Pattison’s life was derailed before it even had a chance to really start.

Over the next three years, John underwent three different types of chemotherapy, relapsing each time. Then the radiotherapy began, where he relapsed once more. It was at this point he was told there was nothing else that could be done; his condition couldn’t be cured so they initiated palliative chemotherapy.

However, in an unlikely, but extraordinary, turn of events, John defied all odds and went into a miraculous remission, where he has remained to this day. Now aged 64, the Tyneside native is one of the longest-surviving cancer patients in the UK. 

Unfortunately, Pattison’s personal tragedies did not stop there. At the age of four, his adopted daughter Donna was diagnosed with an extremely rare adult form of leukaemia. To John this was his second battle with incurable cancer, but only this time he was experiencing this from the perspective of a parent. 

Shockingly, not only did the father and daughter share a cancer diagnosis, they also share their survivor statuses, because, just like her dear old Dad, Donna also defied odds and survived her incurable prognosis (becoming a successful international swimmer). 

With two spontaneous remissions under the Pattison belt, John decided that it was time to give back. And in a true full circle moment, he spent the rest of his professional career as a senior clinical nurse specialist in haematology at the same hospital that made his diagnosis decades earlier.

After recently retiring from hospital life, some would assume that John’s climactic story had reached its final page. However, in true J.W.P fashion, a new set of chapters emerged and a whole new adventure began.

Becoming a renowned children’s author was not something that John saw in his cards, but providing the youth of today (including his very own grandchildren) with the ability to transform into their own heroes is something that he is supremely proud of (and rightly so). 

However, now’s the time for John to separate truth from fiction, and pen the story of his greatest triumph: cancer survival. 

From early diagnosis to remission, then from impressive decade-long careers to newfound passions/beliefs (and maybe even a stint playing on stage with his space-rock heroes Hawkwind in 2007), John Walker Pattison wants this in-depth memoir to act as an honest re-telling of a life well lived. Of a life plagued by illness, but also a poignant reminder of how fortunate he is.

When asked about his over goal for this memoir, Pattison said: “The aim is to offer hope and inspiration to anyone in society touched by a cancer diagnosis. It is also intended as an educational resource for health care professionals, who don’t always (unless they have been touched themselves by the illness) understand the psychological burden of a cancer diagnosis – a considerable load to carry.”

“But moreover, it was intended as a catharsis – to eliminate those demons that lay in the deep canyons of my mind. It failed to do that, and they remain firmly planted there. Fortunately, my wife is always at hand, and ready to top up my glass with optimism, and importantly pragmatism. In life, nothing is more important than family.” 

‘Me and My Shadow: memoirs of a cancer survivor’ is out now & available for purchase from all good online stockists. For more information head to:

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