A new review of “Journeys with 1000 Heroes

Here’s a very nice review from experienced book review writer and editor, Anne Boches…

“Journeys with a Thousand Heroes:  A Child Oncologist’s Story, by John Graham-Pole, MD, MRCP-UK

As a boy of twelve, John Graham-Pole lost his mother to cancer. That loss and his vow to defeat the disease informed his career and his personal life. In this memoir, he recounts with rare insight, honesty, and humility his medical training and career as a pediatric oncologist. He focuses on his young patients – his heroes – and what they taught him. Readers will have to seek other sources to learn about his international fame, the honors he received for his research and innovations, and his achievement as a writer of award winning poetry, non-fiction and fiction. He does not shine a light upon himself.


But in telling the stories of his young patients, he illuminates his evolution from focusing on the science of cancer to focusing on the art of healing. He goes beyond treating failing bodies, and confronts the damage to a child’s psyche and spirit in the face of an often terminal disease. He asks the existential questions for a pediatric oncologist. Should children be told they are likely to die? Should they make their own decisions about treatments and when to stop them?

It is ironic though hardly surprising that he struggled with the ethics of giving a child knowledge and choices. When his mother was dying of cancer he was told nothing. He had no opportunity to ask what was happening to her, to deal with the fear and anger that accompanies death, to talk to her, to say goodbye. He was informed she had died and shipped off back to boarding school. Years later, he defied the conventional wisdom and practices of oncology, especially pediatric oncology. Whenever possible he gave his young patients the truth, and he let them call a halt to treatments that could prolong but not save their lives. He gave his dying heroes the love and attention he had no opportunity to give his own mother as she died. He stayed by their bedsides for countless hours, he sang with them, danced with them, created art with them, amused them. He answered middle of the night calls from their distraught parents.


As a medical researcher, innovator and practitioner he made great progress in the fight to save young lives. As a courageous, creative and loving human being, he gave his heroes more than science alone can give. He gave them dignity, respect, compassion and autonomy. As their bodies failed, their spirits soared.

Reviewed by Anne Boches, Professor Emerita, Miami Dade College”