Seven years ago I published The Year of Drinking Water, a pamphlet of poems, about my experience of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (Exeter Leukaemia Fund, 2007).

These were the first poems I wrote about my cancer, mostly in a rush, after my treatment had finished in September 2006.

I published the pamphlet under the aegis of Exeter Leukaemia Fund, who fund the haematology unit where I was treated, to help raise funds for their vital and ground-breaking work. It felt it was the least I could do.


We rearranged the furniture, ordered some wine, and held the launch in the very waiting room I had sat in only months before.

The pamphlet takes its name from my doctors’ instructions to drink three litres of water a day, which they said would help flush the chemotherapy poisons from my system.


When I began writing the poems I did not know how long the eventual, book-length sequence they would go on to appear was to be. All I could be certain of was that I now felt poetry returning to me, something I had much cause to doubt during my chemo and radiotherapy treatments.

In no small part this was due to being able to concentrate on reading once again, specifically the marvellous poetry of the late Julia Darling, collected in Sudden Collapses in Public Places and Apology for Absenceand The Poetry Cure, the anthology she edited with Cynthia Fuller. I owe a huge debt of thanks to Babs Short for introducing me to her work.


The Year of Drinking Water  is now out of print. It later became a full-length collection of poems called Riddance (Worple Press, 2012).

For one week you can download the poems of The Year of Drinking Water in the format that they first appeared, for free. If you have been touched by cancer, or know someone who has, do feel free to share the pdf link above with them.

You can learn more about Exeter Leukaemia Fund here.