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  • Hodder & Stoughton

Miles To Go Before I Sleep: Letters on Hope, Death and Learning to Live

Claire Gilbert

7 Reviews

Rated 0

Memoirs

The diary of an incurable cancer diagnosis, and finding hope in the face of mortality

'Claire's honest, raw, authentic diaries will be a source of comfort to many'- Miranda Hart

At the age of 54 Claire Gilbert was diagnosed with myeloma, an incurable cancer of the blood. The prognoses ranged from surviving only a few months to living for several decades, with no guarantee of which outcome was to be hers. It was a shocking diagnosis into uncertainty, or rather, into only one certainty: death. But Claire discovered that facing her own mortality was liberating.

She discovered this through writing letters. Claire asked her siblings and a small group of friends if they would let her write to them with total honesty about what she was going through, as she was going through it. These letters turned out to be a great solace, and gradually her group of 'dear readers' has grown; what she had to say wasn't just of value to herself, but to others, too.

The letters chart Claire's journey through diagnosis, chemotherapy and a brutal round of stem cell treatment, and end with the rest of the UK joining her in her immuno-compromised isolation in March 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic hit. Unflinchingly honest and wide-ranging, Claire writes about the restorative role of nature, politics, poetry, humour - and a restless exploration of the spiritual dimension of death and dying.

This is an honest, luminous account of what Claire has gone through and what keeps her going, a deeply spiritual meditation on life and suffering, and an exploration of how faith is no simple solace but provides a whole new plane of meaning during these liminal moments.

'Claire Gilbert's account of the progress of her fatal illness, from diagnosis through various traumatic treatments, is in turn candid, painful, funny, tender, fierce and philosophical. But most of all it is a marvellously enjoyable read depicting the human spirit at its finest: defiant, exuberant, joyous. An example to us all that we can triumph over the cruellest adversity'- Salley Vickers

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Praise for Miles To Go Before I Sleep: Letters on Hope, Death and Learning to Live

  • This is not and is not meant to be easy reading, but it is a book of exceptional weight and depth. We are invited into the experience of a body - a mortal body, a body in pain, a body thinking and imagining its way through pain and feeling for the deepest roots of trust. It is about the way faith has to be sensed in body and spirit together, even in the face of the harshest of threats. - Rowan Williams

  • Claire's honest, raw, authentic diaries will be a source of comfort to many. - Miranda Hart

  • Claire Gilbert's account of the progress of her fatal illness, from diagnosis through various traumatic treatments, is in turn candid, painful, funny, tender, fierce and philosophical. But most of all it is a marvellously enjoyable read depicting the human spirit at its finest: defiant, exuberant, joyous. An example to us all that we can triumph over the cruellest adversity. - Salley Vickers

  • This very special and beautifully written diary describes the travails of major cancer therapy, relentless for both the body and the mind. Claire Gilbert takes us on a journey that recounts her sometimes brutal therapy, shares her pain and on occasions her despair, and reveals how she maintained her resolve and inner strength throughout. Her account constantly reminds us of the important principle too often neglected: that the treatment of disease should always be delivered with humanity. - Paul Nurse

  • Miles to Go before I Sleep is searingly honest, confronting, full of doubt and faith, brimming with existential courage. Claire Gilbert's terrifying privilege of having death in her sights, knowing there is a mountain of pain to endure, gives her a clear-eyed eloquence that is utterly compelling. - Emily Watson

  • Faced with cancer, Claire had promises to keep to herself and her readers. She has delivered brilliantly. - Maurice Saatchi

  • You won't regret taking up Claire's invitation to 'Walk with me.' Her journey is as much about hope as despair, joy as bitterness. It has something to teach us all not just those living with cancer and those who love them. - Nick Robinson

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