Everybody has a book in them, or so it's said. But it's something else again getting it onto the page and to a place where it might be shared.

I have been writing since I was a young child. Always, my dream was to see my name on the spine of a book. Books gave me life, a dream to live by. Through their portals I could escape so easily into other worlds. Books also saved my life ... yes, really!

This is the story of my books and my journey as an author, including a very personal view of my journey through Life. I hope it will inspire and give hope to writers and readers young and old.

Getting published can be a waiting game. It's hard .. and getting harder. But then sometimes it can happen in an unexpected way and suddenly, we truly are living our dream. And we realise that it isn't after all the winning that is important, but the journey that is ours along the way.

I would love to hear from anyone who connects with what is written here. A signed copy of any of my books is available. You have only to write and ask:

Friday 15 March 2019


Author as a Child dreaming Dreams ...

From the moment my fingers could hold a pencil and I learned to write, words coursed gleefully through my veins, spilling onto the virgin page from a place deep within, My mother taught me to write long before I stepped inside a school. She shared my passion. Both my parents were Wordsmiths. They understood the power of the written word. My bedroom quickly filled with all the classics alongside collections of Enid Blyton. I was in awe, surrounded by all these great names, eager to know what they had to say ... and to learn. The local library was a magical place. It stood alone, a monument marking the best works of writers resting within. Every Saturday my father and I went to choose reading material for the week ahead. But once through the glass doors, I could only stand and stare, caught in the annuls of history, hesitantly walking a familiar path between portals leading to worlds far beyond my wildest imagination. How could I choose just three of these wonderful worlds to take home from such a vast collection? Characters called to me, locked within pages which held them trapped. I had the power to release them, to set them free to share their stories, making them a part of me.

'Choose us ...' they'd cry.

'We have so much to tell you, so much you should know ...'

Promises. Hope. Stories of life stretching beyond distant horizons. Inspired, already having peeked at illustrations offered as windows into the heart of these new worlds; I couldn't wait to reach home where immediately I settled to write, words spilling onto the page as I caught hold of an adventure of my own making.

I still have these early stories ... stepping stones to the Author I would become.

Every book has a story about how it came into being ... and as I open the door to past memories, reaching in for clues, I find I'm standing in another library. This time each portal is waiting to lead me on a different kind of journey, back to where the story of each one of my books began. And so it begins:

'Once upon a daydream ...'. 

As we pick up the pace, we move with the little child that was, on through the years, to the point at which her first books are published. It was a long time in the making!

First official photograph as author of a series of three books

Becoming a published author was a dream come true.

Imagine a small child, legs caught in calipers, clomping into the silence of a small library, eyes firmly following the avenues of books, wondering where to begin. In her eyes, each was a portal. Every page taking her a step closer to another world - a world where perhaps she would be accepted as an equal. Maybe they could provide answers to her many questions bubbling just below the surface, offer a hiding place to escape bullies, show her a way out of a world where she felt isolated, vulnerable, insecure, unable to understand why it was happening to her, how to stop it, what her future might otherwise hold. All the while, her mind worked on gathering information, storing it in a place where later she could refer to those feelings and the abusive acts behind them, using them to the power of good.

Imagine in later years, stripped of confidence and self-respect, trying to find a sense of identify and freedom to simply be herself, she is confronted by a Careers Counsellor demanding to know what she'll do when she leaves school, intent on guiding her down a structured well-trodden path of life leading into a world of employment.

'You want to be .... What?'

'An author? Oh come on Girl, get your head out the clouds! That's hardly sensible, now is it? An Author indeed! Things like that don't happen to people like us. Yes, it's good to have a dream ... a hobby ... something to do in your spare time. But we're talking now about what you're going to do to earn a living, to make your way in the world. Now, let's clear your mind of such idiotic notions, and find something suitable for someone like you.'

'Someone like you!'

That was the phrase that stuck in my mind. I had a classic case of 'girl with her head in the clouds' syndrome with little hope of finding work. In truth, all I wanted was to marry the boy next door, raise a family, live happy ever after ... and write! Born with disabilities, it seems no-one expected me to achieve very much. I wasn't going to walk without aids. Or drive a car. I needed to accept my limitations, accept the box I'd been ticked into without seeking another niche in life. But then, they didn't know. They didn't realise the power of thought ... of imagination ... of belief ... of what writing could achieve!!

Years passed. I continued to write copiously each day. I'd written many stories, even had a couple of articles published in magazines. Now, as a married woman, I pushed the boundaries, worked my way outside the box to write my first book: 'A Crying Game' based on personal experience. Personal experience? But this was the early eighties ... you weren't supposed to do that ... not then anyway!! But then, I was different. They'd told me so often enough. So okay, I'd be different! In just six weeks, words spilled out of me, a cathartic experience, unleashing all the turmoil and emotion hidden for too long. The catalyst for this sudden startling revelation was the birth of my auburn-haired baby daughter born against all odds, after being told I couldn't have children. Something else I wasn't meant to do! But now, this was me, not just stepping outside the box, but leaving that wretched box behind; realising miracles really can happen ... they can even happen to me!! It was a wake-up call to be sure, and the start of something which was to grow beyond my wildest dreams ... 

My daughter was 10 months old when we moved as a family to Mull in the Hebrides, a magical island surrounded by sea, a three-quarters of an hour ferry journey from Oban. We were bringing technology to the Highlands and Islands, teaching shepherds to record their sheep. As a unique venture, a Sunday Times reporter came visiting. It was just as he was preparing to leave he asked what I did outside this work. I mentioned writing, showed him my book. Within a few weeks, I was contacted by his publishers in Edinburgh who ultimately accepted the book, sending me on a book tour the length and breadth of Britain speaking on radio, book and discussion programmes, appearing in the media and Breakfast TV, and a whole host of different outlets. This was February 1984. People didn't write personal experiences, especially their life as a battered wife. It led to a remarkable display of solidarity as newspapers displayed headlines, picking up on what I'd said about families needing a 'Lifeline', a point of contact and support even when still in danger, with information about what to do, who to contact, where to go, how to keep safe. Letters arrived in their hundreds. It seemed I'd arrived before I even knew I'd begun as I founded the national registered charity: Lifeline, actively campaigning for laws to be changed, supporting families in abuse ... including the abusers in jail. If you didn't understand the problem and where his/her aggression stemmed from, how could you resolve the problem, or at least find a way of managing the situation at home? Besides, I knew the mindset of being an abused wife, physical, mental and emotional control which made you 'obey' even when your abuser wasn't around. I directed the Charity on a national basis for ten years. Meanwhile, I was commissioned to write a further two books published in 1988 and 1989 - 'Behind Closed Doors, an advice book for people in abuse', and 'Home is Where the Hurt Is, surviving child sexual abuse', both published by Thorsons (now HarperCollins). 

After the birth of each book published, my mother ensured a proper launch took place, with a cake to celebrate. They spoke volumes about the pride she felt in her daughter who had dared to dream, to step outside her box! I shall never forget how she shared my life in becoming an Abuse Counsellor working alongside. Her loving words together with those of my father remain written on my heart.

Keyboard cake, copyright Janine Harrington
I should perhaps mention that music became my second language, writing emotion into my melodies and songs for which there were no words; played on a range of instruments including keyboard and guitar. Art was another language I used as a child, trying to illustrate what was really happening to me, using it to tell my forbidden secrets. But then, no-one understood the inner pain that still filtered through, despite the nightmares, the 'Fugues', the debilitating symptoms of abuse.

In more recent years, I revisited this series of three books, revising them in the light of what I now know, twisting the tales within to draw out truths, climbing inside the mind of the Child, portraying the world through her eyes, illustrating how impossible it is as a lone voice to be heard ... or believed:

Living with Abuse

Advice for living w abuse

Living w sexual abuse

Strange how, from the start, my books usually become a series of three. Somehow one was never enough, with the subject producing hidden depths still waiting to be explored.

Turning back the pages of Life, I arrive at my second trilogy. Again, it wasn't planned. My need to know more about my beginnings and those who came before, in order to better understand myself fascinated and compelled me to digger deeper into my past. The past defines who we are today. There is much that can be learned if we reach back in Time. Realising this truth, I became addicted to Genealogy, tracing the roots of my Family, both paternal and maternal, uncovering a fascinating array of people and stories reaching through the ages. During this time, I was living in a dark place filled with sorrow and pain. Urgently I sought answers as Post Traumatic Stress took a firm hold. Mum ached to find something new to inspire, comfort and encourage me. Finally, she shared her wartime experiences which ultimately were published in the form of our first book written together:
My mother's wartime story
We both believed that 'to deny one's experience is to deny one's self'. Ideally, we wanted to write further books together for the future. Sadly, it was not to be. She died of Cancer even before our first book was published. But in the writing of this book I came to know my mother as a Soulmate, a Best Friend, a woman in her own right, and still I feel so privileged and loved, treasuring that time shared. We'd pour over books, photographs, diaries, historical documents and maps, desperately trying to uncover the mysteries of war and what became of her beloved wartime fiance. I shall treasure these memories always ... especially as this was my first introduction to RAF 100 Group, serving under Bomber Command during WWII. Her fiance Henry Victor 'Vic' Vinnell was a Navigator/Special Operator based at RAF Foulsham, serving in 192 Squadron. It was this Squadron, because of the secrecy of their work and operations in which they linked with Bletchley Park, that had the highest number of fatalities. Today, his name appears nowhere other than at Runnymede, on a thick block of cold stone. He has no final resting place. But his name and that of his Canadian friend and pilot, Jack Fisher, are still spoken by veterans who knew them. They are remembered. Their legacy lives on. I remain passionate, inspired by my mother's wartime story, about preserving their history and stories. While RAF 100 Group veterans and their families remain a valued part of my worldwide Family of Kindred Spirits today ... RAF 100 Group Association, founded in 1994.

My great-uncles Will & Arthur
 'Brothers' is a prequel to 'Nina & Vic', reaching back to the First World War, following the stories of my two great uncles, my maternal grandmother's brothers ... how they lived and died. This in turn was revised a few years after, and took the name from the Battle for High Wood in which both brothers took part in their own individual regiments. I'm still left wondering: 'Did they know?' 'Was Will the elder brother, aware Arthur was badly wounded?' 'Did he see him before he died?' 'Did Will ever visit Arthur's grave before he himself was killed one year on ... 4 weeks before the end of war?'

A place of warfare and secrets

I travelled to Belgium and France on a coach trip to visit the graves of both great uncles, and was fortunate in being taken to where each brother fought and died. My Guide did copious research on my behalf to make this happen, and was able to talk me through their movements at the time, showing me the place they each fell. Again, memorable moments. Something I never expected, yet came to be. On the coach, drowning in an ocean of tears, I wrote a poignant poem which others on the coach asked me to share, standing in front of the graves of their own loved ones:


Graves, like markers,
map lives snuffed out before their time.

Set out in random Regiments
standing on parade
a permanent reminder
of a country saved.

Next to each a stranger
with a story all his own
buried deep within a field
a long long way from Home.

In the air around them
I feel their Spirit near:
'Remember how and where we died
and why we're lying here.

Please do not forget us,
we didn't die in vain.
Let our Life and Death have meaning:
One day we'll meet again.'

Men who died in battle,
brave boys who went to war,
each and every one a Hero
left ... on a foreign shore.

Copyright: Janine Harrington

Written in memory of my two Great Uncles

Arthur Birkett CROMAN,
died 1917, aged 26 years.

William James CROMAN,
died 1918, aged 37 years.

The third book in this Trilogy is written as a novel: 'Sealed with a Kiss'. 

A Love Story

This was the first time I had my own photograph accepted by a publisher for the front cover, and I was absolutely thrilled!

In more recent years, I've become known in the Aviation genre focusing on veterans of RAF 100 Group. Again, a trilogy offered them a voice. I remain passionate about preserving their history and stories, with too many already having taken their secrets to the grave, as with Vic and Jack. I made a my promise to their memory that, working as a collective with veterans and their families, we would ensure their lives as a collective would not be in vain, that their legacy lives on.

Vic, Mum's wartime fiance, was a writer. During the summer of 1944, he promised 'His Nina' he would write a book about their love and become an author. This promise was, in turn, handed down to me, and fulfilled with the publication of 'Nina & Vic' published on 26/27 November 2004, marking the 60th Anniversary of Vic and Jack's untimely death that same night in 1944.

For over twenty years, I have been a founding member of the RAF 100 Group Association. In time I became their worldwide Secretary, and Editor of our quarterly Association magazine: 'Confound & Destroy' (their wartime motto). It was my promise fairly early on to one day publish their stories, written in their own words, under the same cover name as in wartime. Twenty years later, it came into being when Austin Macauley took on the challenge:

Published by Austin Macauley
This is a weighty volume with a huge number of pages, but it shares my passion for preserving the history of both RAF 100 Group and the U.S. 8th Air Force's 36th Squadron. The book is filled with their voices, telling how they flew combined operations, living and working together on airfields across Norfolk in wartime. However, after so many years, so many pages of writing; you wouldn't believe the difficulties I faced getting it published. So it was 'WELL DONE' and THANK YOU Austin Macauley publishers! It was a huge relief when finally it surfaced on bookshelves in bookshops and Amazon. Oh, if only I could visit the library I knew as a child! Oh, to speak to ladies behind the counter and show them the reality of a dream come true!! Oh, to visit old schools, to confront the bullies, and to urge children to hold onto their dream ... no matter what! Don't let anyone take your dream away from you. You never know where it might lead. Life is a journey. You learn from your mistakes. Every experience teaches you something of value. And all this knowledge should some day be collated and reverently used towards a positive outcome.

This book also offers a blow by blow account written by veterans of what it meant to be part of this ultra-secret RAF 100 Group in wartime. Many share operations in which they were involved. And the man sitting astride the front cover above is a living hero of our times: George Stewart DFC, living in Canada, whose two sons carry on his legacy of flying their own planes. His story is a remarkable one, made all the more fascinating as it comes together from notes he wrote as a nineteen year old away from home and country for the first time. He is one of my valued Kindred Spirits in my worldwide Family, sharing one another's lives, keeping in touch daily. It's a wonderful, privileged and humbling position to be in today.

RAF 100 Group Association ... you are each very special, valued, loved.
A remarkable collection of people xx

Published by Fonthill Media
RAF 100 Group gave birth to Electronic Warfare, using experimental equipment on board their aircraft, tasked with identifying and jamming enemy Radar, creating mayhem and confusion from the skies. Again, this book is written in an easy-to-read language. Yet it became another tremendously difficult book to have published! Despite signing a contract for a series of three books, the first two written and forwarded well within the time limits, it was only the one above which was ever published ... even then, without warning, all the rare RAF 100 Group photos, maps, illustrations, etc. had been taken out. It just goes to prove that these days, writing a book is the easy part, however difficult you might believe that to be. Be warned! When it comes to publishing, getting your writings out to a wider audience, it's never the way it seems. I have many would-be writers as well as already established authors contacting me about this very subject, asking that I vet contracts, advise them what to do, who to avoid. Writing books has changed radically since I had my first come out in February 1984. Now there are so many in the market place publishers can pick and choose ... yet without writers and their books, where would they be?!?

However, the good news is that I have absolute faith in FeedARead who now publish my books. Backed by the Arts Council and five top publishers, I have placed a fair number with them now. It was to them I turned last year, all ready with a wartime picture for the front cover, and they did me proud!

Published by FeedARead
This book came out last year to mark the 100th Year of the Royal Air Force, and also the 75th Anniversary of the formation of RAF 100 Group in November 1943.

An evocative book, it evidences the impact RAF 100 Group had in the global theatre of war, offering a unique and telling insight through the words of those who were there at the time, explaining what was happening prior to its inception as well as after. It is written as an urgent response to veterans who survived the war, and to those who took their secrets to the grave, letting them know how much we honour, admire and respect them. To their families and friends seeking answers to what a loved one did in wartime, it offers a fascinating glimpse into times past, asking that finally we give recognition, credit and reward so richly deserved.

This book does include rare RAF 100 Group photographs, maps, diagrams, illustrations of the day.

Again, thank you to all who made this book possible, to help us remember the many who gave their lives that we may live in peace ... although saying that, I'm keenly aware that, with our world in turmoil right now, this isn't the case for everyone, sad to say.

My forage into fiction carried me on a strange yet fascinating journey, where quickly I realised that fiction, as such, doesn't exist. When writing, an author inevitably uses their own view of the world, emotions from past and present events. Characters can be shaped by the characteristics of people known or seen from afar often without realising it, and in this way, the work becomes what I choose to call 'Faction' ... a mix of imagination caught in the entrails of past truths.

'Secrets of the Grimoire' is certainly set in this category. It started out as the first in a Trilogy a long while ago, the second is written and ready to role, while the third still needs work. It was inspired by a dream, in which I was gazing into a mirror where no image stared back. I woke, wondering why this might be. A whole set of different scenarios queued in my mind, waiting to be assimilated. I recalled other parts of the dream in which I was living in a dust-filled ruin of a cottage. Through the grime on the windows, I could see nothing but weeds growing up the sides of the walls, fingers reaching in through sills like claws ready to strike. Yet my heart was racing. Someone was coming ... coming to visit. Friend or Foe? I had no idea. My only companion was a spider which continued to weave webs around sparse items of furniture, but at the same time seemed somehow to be ... watching me?

I lived this book for a long time. Nights became filled with screaming nightmares. I'd wake, convinced I was covered in cobwebs ... and I can't stand the idea of spiders!!!

Published by Pegasus
However, the unique thing about this book is that it is illustrated using images evoked by my dreams. It also inspired a series of paintings bringing the characters to life on canvas, providing hours of immense pleasure and which still decorate my walls today. Each carries its own pictorial story. There is Nihamana in her shop of ancient healing herbs in Cobleton Bray. Catchpole working on a new scheme. Captain Firebrand and Minty, his cabin boy, pirates who get washed up on the shores of the Kingdom of Paragon. Not forgetting Jeremiah Jones. These are just a few of the many characters I came to know and love. Set in North Yorkshire amidst the many legends of these parts, I found it compelling to prize open secrets forgotten in Time, including shipwrecks, smuggling, 'Orb Art', and so much more. I keep telling myself I should resurrect this book, publish the second in the series, and finally finish the Trilogy it was always meant to be.

'Soul Sister' I wrote after the death of my mother. Again, the cover picture is my own photograph, taken at Bempton Cliffs where a range of birds nest on ledges reaching down the cliffs. On the day I visited it was cold, a curtain of mist hanging heavy over the scene. The perfect setting for a story already slipping through my mind. The book is steeped in Greek legends, and follows the parallel world of Pandora who comes through into present day where a young girl is grieving. She wants to follow her Mum to wherever death has taken her. She loved her so much, unable to erase 'Mum' from her phone, calling it over and over wishing she would reply. It is when her computer suddenly begins to write her strange yet powerful messages stretching across the screen that a portal is opened. In stepping through, she is led into another place, another time, another ... dimension.

Published by FeedARead
This became a book fed by my own feelings of loss. I identified with the young girl. It taught me so much, helped and supported me through grief, and gave me something of value born out of a time of immense depression, sadness, pain and need.

My final forage into fiction ... or 'Faction' I should say! ... features a three-part series starring unlikely hero Joe Maddison, although each book can be read as a separate thriller. 'Stone Cold Dead' came from my wanderings through a graveyard. Always peaceful and tranquil places, I find each stone representative of the cover of a book, where inside lies a hidden untold story aching to be shared. From details carved into the stone, it's impossible to imagine what the person was like other than a male or female and approximate age. But then, I've come across many, particularly high on the cliffs at Whitby by the infamous Abbey, where salt from the sea far below has eroded the stones, rubbing them clean. One day, I stood, imagining what it might be like to suddenly see my own name carved on one of these gravestones, the date of my death below ... suddenly, a story was born!

Published by FeedARead
It was the perfect opportunity to mix past with present day, and just as my earlier book 'Brothers' involved me having to learn how to shoot an Enfield rifle to get my facts correct; in this instance it was about knowing how to fly a Cessna aircraft. It was a book I enjoyed writing ... but then again, not as much as the second in the three-part series which followed: 

Published by FeedARead
I was staying in a Bed and Breakfast in Warwickshire where I became their 'Writer in Residence' for a long while. Such happy days, sitting idly by the canal, watching narrow boats drift by, heading for the tunnel further along their watery path. Again, it meant copious research, learning about the lives of families living and working on barges, carrying cargo back and forth. My daughter that year, bought for my birthday a huge book about London reaching back through the ages. It offered a fascinating insight, even more when I discovered I had a relative in the not too distant past reported in a Census as being 'a Gentleman of Marylebone'. So many unexpected titbits of information gathered gradually drew the story out, making it close and personal. It was one of those books where I find myself living the story, not just watching from the sidelines. The characters and I connect in a strong meaningful way. And even as I write this now, I can reach out and draw them to me, admiring young Isabella and her soft vulnerability. Then again Connor, a dark, broody Heathcliffe kind of guy trapped in forbidden love.

There is yet one further book to be written which will complete this three-part series, so still work to be done. There is always something still waiting for a writer which, in turn, will take her on new exhilarating journeys. For me, it's not about beginnings, middles and endings. Never have I written in this way! It is the book that yawns a story into existence, working with its writer, informing her when something doesn't work and a re-write is due. Whether I'm writing a letter, an email, or a book, I write from the heart in a steady stream of consciousness. I never edit as I write, but let the story first take care of itself and make itself known, before going anywhere near clearing up grammar and punctuation, etc. Leaving writing at any point means when you return it changes, you slip into a different rhythm. Reading it back together with the part you wrote before, you'll find it's like two separate pieces on the same theme. I like to continue on for as long as possible, uninterrupted. When I return, I'll re-read what I've written still without changing anything, climbing back into the mindset I was in before I left off. This works for me, but then again, every writer has to find their own way of working.

Factual writing obviously means research is crucial ... and that doesn't entail reading and copying from books! I still have endless manuscripts sent to me which are basically 'dump boxes', places where endless facts have been spewed onto a page from a number of sources. That isn't writing a book!!!!!  To use that material would be plagiarism! Books need to be crafted like a piece of art in a very personal way, putting your own mark and signature on your work. Initially you have raw material to work with where, once stored, you spend most of your time putting it into some semblance of order. I generally divide it up into folders which hold endless documents each headed with key words indicative of what they contain. I never read one sole work, or even two or three, because there is a very real risk of inadvertently using other people's ideas. Even the same phrases and wording can stick like glue to your brain! For a book to become yours alone, a unique piece of work, you need to own it and its contents. You may choose a subject about which there are already endless books written, endless screeds of documents on the internet. If you can't choose something new to write about, then the alternative is to find a new twist, a different way entirely of telling the story or writing the facts.

Of course, best of all is that you need to write what you know ... using your own experiences, good and bad. Include wherever possible your own thoughts and feelings and emotion relating to those experiences. Climb back into what happened to you, and write down the raw essence of how that was for you. Test out theories. I did this during a day spent in a canal boat, which I took to like a duck to water! Rudder right to turn left, then left to turn right. Simple!!


I would urge any new writer, anyone with an issue regarding their contract, or with a query concerning their publisher, to become a member of the Society of Authors ... note their new address as from 20 March 2019:

The Society of Authors
24 Bedford Row
London WC1R 4TQ
Tel: 020 7373 6642

They have proved a tremendous help to me, both with gaining back Rights to my work when placed with a publisher who paid no royalties and sent no statements at all. They guided me through the process when publishers altered works which I was contracted to do. Remember, a contract works both ways. The onus is on the publisher just as it is on the author to fulfill their/your obligations.

Writing has become a cut-throat business!

I have even had a book pirated, my book brought out by the publisher I sent it to, but under another name as author, someone from within their own.

My final two books which came out weeks apart I felt an incredible urgency about writing after being diagnosed with Cancer. Faith wasn't a subject up until now I had written about ... yet it seemed to be time. I truly felt 'Called' from the moment I began writing each of these books, woken from sleep in the early hours of morning. My heart opened wide, embracing this new experience. I never once struggled to maintain what I was already begun, but felt guided by another's hand. The writing of these books brought me immense Peace, and a Quietness of Spirit in my soul. There are other books I have written through the years, but these outlined above are a cross section of the 29 currently published, with these two books taking me to a new level:

Published by FeedARead

Published by FeedARead

The best advice I can possibly offer anyone who feels they want to write a book was given to me by my mother:

'Be True to Your Self'

When you come to publishing your work, research your chosen publisher. Make a list of possibles. Then go through them one by one. You may choose to self-publish. There is no shame in that. It's simply another way to go. Never skimp your work. Never rush. Enjoy the journey ... for it's a wonderful journey, one I always find takes me to new, exciting and inspiring places where I meet new people, and learn from the experience.

'Write from your heart in order to feel at the end,
when you hold that first copy of your very own book,
you truly have given your best!

Wednesday 6 March 2019


Broken-Hearted Clown
In my last Post I shared my own personal experience of living with Cancer. I'd like to be able to say it as it is, but often there are no words to adequately describe emotion. You have to feel it, to live it, to truly understand. Most of the time I feel out of kilter with the world. People talk of Summer. Look forward to spending time with family and friends. Book holidays in the sun. They have a future. Something to reach for, to live for ... dreams just as real to them even on a cloud-filled day.

As I write this, I am exhausted. It an exhaustion reaching right through to my soul. Life comes one small step at a time. A challenge a day - a letter to write, nothing too drastic like cleaning or clearing out a cupboard, something I'm longing to do! On really bad days, it's simply about getting up, sitting on the sofa, having something to eat, reaching the end of the chapter of a book. It sounds pathetic ... but it's just the way it is.

Cancer isn't the only thing going on with me. A lot of mental/emotional symptoms are indicative of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress) which I've lived with ever since I was young. I struggle to walk because of chronic osteo-arthritis. I can't write or draw or grip because of arthritic hands. My only consolation is that I can still speed type which is a Blessing. Meanwhile, the Cancer travels on, perhaps reaching into my bones with time, adding further layers of pain, difficulty and frustration I have yet to face. People try to push me into treatment.

'There is another way!' ... they say.

Saying 'No' to treatment doesn't mean I'm in denial. Nor am I running away or quitting. No-one can run from Cancer. As I've said before, I believe in 'Quality' rather than 'Quantity' of life. I don't want to spend the end of my days, however long or short that might be, recovering or going through treatment ordeals which leave me weak, vulnerable, and in constant need of care. I'm not afraid of reaching the end, of Death itself. But right now I'm still on the journey towards that state of being. Once begun, it can often prove agonising, always challenging, fraught with difficulties and upset, disillusionment and an over-riding sense of loss and grief and pain ... and yes, Fear!

No-one can forecast how the end will come. Everyone is different. Even the same Cancers react differently in people.

In the past, I have used pain in the aftermath of challenging experiences as a way of sharing openly with others who feel equally devastated, abandoned, betrayed, alone. It's a positive way of showing others they're not alone. We can reach out ... connect ... help one another through.

I have sat in cold dark places with young people who feel they have no future, listening and learning from them what brought them to this state of being. Writing books about pain has been both a cathartic experience and a strength, creating a voice and a space for others to identify with and share, learning that there is a life beyond this physical, emotional, mindless pain they feel now. I have spoken at Conferences, teaching professionals what it feels like to be the other side of their desks, to be the one not listened to or understood, the one left abandoned, isolated, insecure, alone in a dark and desperate place where no-one wants to be.

Yes, there can be a positive purpose to pain.

But right now, for me, no-one is listening. No-one is hearing how it really feels.

Who do I turn to as another agonising migraine shifts my sight, creating swirls and patterns, which morph into an endless tunnel of darkness, a pinprick of light shining far far away, where at the end of which is ...


TOTAL BLACKNESS rules my world.

I feel my way around my home. Seeing it in my mind's eye. Climbing stairs. Finding my bed using instinct, sinking beneath the duvet exhausted by the dread that my sight may never return. The dawn of a new day brings light, exploding, paralysing, blinding, intrusive, unyielding. I draw the curtains, blocking out the day. Yes, I can see again, but pain implodes in my head. The cycle repeats, happening over and over again.

I've got to make some positive out of all this madness and pain, and all I can think of is separating out the confusion of stress busy knitting itself into a garment which tightens its grip around my head for another round. Once I have my list, however small each stress might be, it's about dealing with them one at a time:
  1. One-to-one support is something I urgently need. A Cancer Specialist to talk with and share my fears ... what to expect, who and when to call rather than waiting for an emergency. I've had pens and leaflets given me, each of which presents the clear message: 'For as long as it takes ... no-one need ever be alone with Cancer!' It's a wonderful, inspiring message offering Hope. But it's not true, or I wouldn't be where I am right now, in such a dark place that folds in on itself, making me feel like a small anxious needy and very frightened Child.
  2. Finance ... I need someone who can give constructive advice and support, working through my income and outgoings, discovering if there is anything I'm entitled to and not getting,
  3. End Days ... ensuring I have my Will, and a signed certificate saying 'No Resuscitation'
  4. Travel is totally out of the question. I need to stay with the familiar or it presents another frightening scenario. Without transport of my own, going anywhere involves some kind person offering a lift, hiring a taxi, or travelling by train. I cancel my forthcoming annual journey to Norfolk where veterans and families of RAF 100 Group Association gather in May. It will be only the second time I have missed this annual event in over twenty years, shared with my Family of Kindred Spirits.
  5. Group involvement ... being with people is something I just can't handle right now. That might change in the future. But for now, it becomes a stress when it means keeping up a 'front', holding it in place long enough. I exclude myself from groups.
  6. Pain Management
I keep switching the heating off to save energy, power, money. I eat a small bowl of cereal for breakfast, bowl of soup for lunch, slice of toast for tea. Living frugally is the order of the day. But then we were poor in childhood. I learned from experience how to cut corners and save, to 'make do and mend' ... as they used to say. There is the ongoing dread about Council Tax due to start again next month. Yes, I do it in easy stages, paying monthly, but it still takes from what little I have.

Pill Party Zone!
Latest news in is that finally, I've had an upgrade in medication and a higher dosage of Morphine manages pain to a better degree, alongside a cocktail of pills for other disabilities. These disabilities mesh with the Cancer so it's not always possible to know the source of pain. Pain doesn't come labelled! So when asked where pain is coming from ... hey, it isn't that easy! I don't always know. Yet I'm the one experiencing it! I live every moment of life with a symphony of different kinds of pain working in grating harmony throughout my body.

Oh joy!!!

It can be hard to understand why we suffer, why people live with pain, how pain becomes a living breathing entity with a life all its own caught within the entrails of our body. Usually the worst kind of pain comes from within, hidden in dark places others cannot see. It's impossible to explain. To make sense of, to understand, even for the person in pain.

Yet it is this very Pain that provides a connection with others in a profound way ... enabling, empowering, embracing, connecting with people on their own journey of pain, providing companionship, and the means to help and support others. This in turn provides a unique blend of comfort, understanding, warmth and love, drawing people out of dark lonely places, and on into the light.

God can use our suffering in unexpected ways.

Pain can become a Gift.

Through sharing how we feel, we touch lives ... lives which otherwise would remain stagnant and still, unaware they are not as alone as they feel. There are so many others in the wider world who can accompany them on their journey ... there for them when they stumble, picking them up when they fall, holding on during those times when you just want to let go and die.

There is purpose in pain.

We don't have to deny or try to block out or ignore our pain, but instead, find ways of using it to the Power of Good.

God is using me now.

I know this is true because ...


Aching for a cuddle, comfort, company ... a Friend!

Then again, what about the pain inside as well as out?

Bandages identify physical pain. They indicate where that pain is, making it easier to understand. It's pain that will heal ... maybe. While inside, there is so much more going on for which there are no words. If only it were as simple as handing over emotional pain and the experience from which it came to someone and saying:

'Here ... hold this for a while so that you can understand how I feel and what is happening to me.'

We can't do that.

Mental and emotional pain cannot be seen.

If you haven't shared the experience, you can't truly understand. So people with this kind of pain pretend they're okay, trying to become the way people need them to be. Yet all the while, inside, it feels like the long silent scream that goes on ... and on ... and on. It grows, festers, clogs, stopping healing taking place. Healing in this instance takes time, trust, patience, sharing, and more than anything else, finding someone to trust, to share with and believe in, knowing they will treat you as an equal rather than a broken person.

There's another name for what I'm talking about here. It's called: 'Holding Space'.  It means opening our hearts to someone in need, offering unconditional support, letting go of judgement and control ... simply being there for another human being, treating them with dignity and respect and as an equal no matter what their experience, who they are, however much you know about them.

Heather Plett's blog about just this touches me deeply, and I feel the most positive step I can take now is to pass this on to my readers:

Heather was able to offer her mother a gift just when she needed it most ...


I'd love to be in the same position as her mother when my time comes.

Held in love, copyright Janine Harrington

Sunday 3 March 2019


Sunset over Cayton, copyright Janine Harrington

This time was different as I stood at the door waving after the departing figure of my daughter. This time it felt as if I was saying a final farewell to all that has been and still is. 

Memories and experiences shine like bright stars in a night sky.

Each morning was remarkable because there was someone else in the house. I felt reassured. Safe. Unexpectedly looking forward to what the new day might bring. We'd share breakfast, then wander into the village, mooching around the shops, wondering which cafe to pick for lunch. Yes, the pain kicked in even as I left the house. I yearned to be able to get down the cobbled hill trailing down to the sea. I stood at the top, watching longingly the blue calm waters stretching out in the sun below, aching to have a cone in my hand, licking at ice-cream, rather than constantly having to rub my legs back to life, easing them tenderly one to the other, pushing my back against a wall to ensure I remained standing.

The days we spent together were like summer, enriched by new blooms out early, children with buckets and spades, jackets laid aside in favour of 'T' shirts, and bright colours everywhere I looked. I hadn't been out in so long. My home is my world now. I found it invigorating to see everything looking so vibrant, so rich, filled with life, laughter, chatter, noise. I wished I could keep pace with my daughter's quick steps as she flitted here and there, yearning to have the ability to 'speed walk', to be without pain.

In an evening, we'd settle to a film before playing a board game from childhood, smoothing back the pages of Time to when she was a child ... then again, to when I was young playing these same games with my parents.

Happy Days!!

The same warmth and glow of love reached around us like a fluffy blanket on a cold winter's day.

The house settles and becomes still. Silent as a grave. I wander aimlessly from room to room as if seeking all our yesterdays, while the echo of her voice trips and follows, laughter rippling the air.

Slowly, shadows deepen. Darken. Lengthen. Stretching out to become permanent night.

The familiar returns, dragging me reluctantly with it, reminding me of the way things really are. My bubble bursts, and with the death of a memory comes a sick, draggy, groggy, achy, ill feeling reaching in and through me, invading my body which suddenly becomes a stranger ... yet it is the reality of the way Life is today.

Pain kicks in despite the Morphine ... then something more. Something unexpected. My head pounds with pain, a drum about to burst. The rhythm and beat grow stronger with every heartbeat, and suddenly I lose vision either side which morphs into a long dark endless tunnel, a tiny pinprick of light at the farthest end.

My hands reach around me, seeking the familiar, but everything has changed. Different. Darkness is always the enemy, and I struggle to block memories pushing through from bygone years. I can't afford to lead into PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress) ... not now!!

Within the hour, I am experiencing the worst migraine I have ever had in my life!

I recall my first when I was around eleven years old. I can still feel the stool beneath me, the keys at my fingertips as I play the piano for the morning service, my father in the pulpit. Notes blur. The music slips and slithers. All I can see is one small note at a time. Somehow I finish the piece, listen to people sit down in their chairs, before slowly I make my way, feeling along the far wall, out to the toilet where I'm violently sick.

I thought I was going blind!

I told no-one at the time, just went to bed, drawing the curtains, the blankets rolled comfortingly around me, gripped in a vice of fear. Only years later did I share this experience with Mum and discovered she too used to suffer with bad migraines. It helped to know I wasn't alone.

But this is different because ... I AM ALONE!

I can't see the phone never mind the numbers on it to ring. But then, who would I ring anyway? Like the Child of yester-year, I crawl up the stairs to bed ... the safe, the familiar, snuggling down beneath the duvet, wishing the world away.

Trapped in Winter, artist Janine Harrington

It has been a week since all this began. Nobody knows. What makes the isolation worse is that I still don't have one-to-one support as promised by Macmillan. I feel abandoned. Betrayed. I went into the Hospice just before Christmas ... every Thursday for eight weeks. It was wonderful! So bright, colourful, everyone so kind and patient, listening and understanding, cups of tea on hand, people who feel the same. Since then, I felt calmed and secure in the knowledge I need never be alone. Always, there would be someone to talk to, to care, to listen and understand what it is I'm going through.

But then, in the outside world, it's different. Reality kicks in. I live alone. I AM alone.

I am learning there are many layers to Cancer. It isn't just the physical that interrupts Life as it was, leaving you on 'Pause'. A sadness reaching in and through my whole being is a natural occurrence. A reaction to loss ... loss of the way things were, how I could be, where I was going in life, dreams, what I'd love to do whenever my daughter comes to stay. There are no longer new beginnings ... only an End. I think about how hard it must be on her, the incredible patience she needs, the frustration she must feel. We don't see one another that often, so it's all the more wonderful when she comes to break the monotony of days alone. But then, this sadness can take me into one further level, carrying with it depression, fear of anything I'm not used to, even fear of going outside, being in the world around me, part of the cluster of people, even having friends visit.

Feeling frightened and anxious is also a natural reaction, especially as it affects my ability to cope with day-to-day life. I wake with a terrible feeling of dread. Panic attacks are rife. It quickens the heartbeat. Steps across the border between emotional/mental and physical, to include:

  • an inability to concentrate
  • frustration at not being able to do the things I used to
  • restlessness
  • constant feeling of dread
  • breathlessness
  • dizziness
  • sweating
  • a dry mouth ... especially sucked dry at night by the tablets I take before sleep
  • utter exhaustion most of the time
  • digestive problems
  • loss of interest in food and other things I enjoy, including writing

These are indicative of the next layer to anxiety ... Depression.

Cancer can make you feel sad. It's a natural occurrence. A low mood can continue to get worse. I've had depression before in my life, and had a breakdown. I understand these emotions. But understanding them doesn't make them any easier to cope with, or help relieve their symptoms:

  • I cry oceans of tears
  • My mood is low most of the time
  • I feel very alone, very afraid, especially during evenings and at night
  • I have difficulty making decisions
  • I find it incredibly difficult to see other people, even putting up my usual 'front'
  • I'm awake early
  • I have an overwhelming tiredness and exhaustion
  • I also have a loss of appetite ... and I love my food!!

The stress of having Cancer, not knowing how long I have, causes me to manically list things I need to finish before 'The End'. It gives me something constructive to do, something positive which can come out of all this negativity ... and there's also the book I've promised to write for St Catherine's Hospice. I'm having no treatment. I now have pain management by way of Morphine, and my usual cocktail of pills for other serious disabilities. But there's no-one to check on the progress of the Cancer or how far its spread. 

All these listed above are emotional effects of Cancer.

In this, I know I'm not alone.

There must be thousands of people out there in the wider world who feel exactly the same way. It would be wonderful to come together, to find out how each of us copes, or not, with feelings which create barriers to our everyday lives. I believe in Self-Help Groups. Sharing is an extremely positive way to identify new and innovative aids.

Just knowing you're not alone is a main source of strength, offering the ability to face another day.

Copyright: Janine Harrington