Peter Wells felt unwell while on a trip overseas and on his return to New Zealand made an appointment with a doctor who ordered a PSA test. When it came back he was told he had prostate cancer and it had spread into his bones, giving him the symptoms he had experienced while on holiday.
He soon found himself in Auckland hospital to undergo intensive treatment in an attempt to arrest the cancer. He began writing of his experience on daily posts on Facebook, which were also reprinted on The Spinoff, and later published into this book, Hello Darkness.
In his Foreword, Wells explains ‘This book, then, is the story of six months in my life, told in diary segments… not merely the sum of the original FB posts and the Spinoff version… I have added in private diary musings I did not put up on FB.’
The November 15, 2017, post is accompanied with a view from Wells’ hospital room and the photographs throughout the book include many from his youth, as well as friends and family and special places which have helped shape the man, and add to the story.
Six months later Wells records on his FB post ‘I had lost most of my hair; my eyebrows had gone fugitive; I was the weight I was when I was in my twenties…but the fact was I was alive, I could walk, my cancer had been challenged, called to a halt – be it momentary or permanent, nobody knows.’
Peter Wells is an award winning author and filmmaker, and most recently Hello Darkness won the 2018 Media Voyager Award for best personal essay, the work being described as ‘Wry, acute and confessional but, most of all wise.’
I found this an interesting but at times an agonising read, having brothers as well as my husband requiring treatment for prostate issues. It is however a beautifully written, honest account of a man who at times was in great pain but still clinging desperately to life. In his final chapter entitled Down to Daybreak, Wells said ‘I began to see daily life itself was a form of a gift- just to be alive was a prescient thing…I also had this constant almost shrill sense of astonishment at just being alive.’
So it’s a book about taking stock, looking back to what matters in life, but also forwards, towards coming to terms with the remainder of life.
Reviewed by Lesley McIntosh
by Peter Wells
Published by Mighty Ajax Press
We publish this review of Peter’s last book a few days after his death, in Auckland, of cancer. A service for Peter will be held at St Matthew-in-the-City Anglican Church, Corner of Hobson and Wellesley Streets, Auckland City on Monday 25 February at 10.30 am. Vale Peter Wells, who did so much for so many.