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Win Good for a Grin – an uplifting book about men coming to terms with cancer

Good for a Grin is a collection of short stories by men coping with cancer. Their experiences range from prosthetic testicles and erectile dysfunction to the side effects of steroids and the mental adjustment of shaving your head – one guy in the book used losing his hair as a chance to dress up as Uncle Fester and go trick ‘n’ treating with his grandchildren!

We spoke to author Brenda Burling, from Henham in Essex, about the book, which includes contributions from grass-roots rugby players…

RW: Why did you write this book?

BB: “I’d written a female version called Might Make You Smile, about women’s humorous and light-hearted takes on cancer. And I realised that there was nothing out there at all for men. There are books on male cancer but nothing that is a collection of short, easy-to-read, humorous stories from men outlining their different experiences.”

Win Good for a Grin – book cover

Rugby connection: Bishop’s Stortford and Saracens are among those stocking the book in their shop

RW: How did you source the people in the book?

BB: “The Helen Rollason Cancer Charity put me in touch with a couple of people. The rest of them came from Maggie’s Cancer Centres and The Oddballs Foundation, my chosen charity. Oddballs did a shout-out on social media but also they did a ‘30 Days in November’ campaign that featured someone every day speaking about their experience, and I was able to get in touch with them. It worked really well.”

RW: Why are the chapters so short and the text so large?

BB: “The short chapters mean you can pick up and put down the book at any point; the stories are brief and to the point. The font is so large because often with cancer treatment your eyesight and concentration can be affected. So it’s easily accessible to anybody.”

Win Good for a Grin Matthew Rees

Opening up: Matthew Rees spoke about battling testicular cancer in his autobiography (Huw Evans Agency)

RW: Did you discover any shared traits among male cancer sufferers?

BB: “A lot of men don’t want to say there’s a problem in case it’s seen as weakness, even though that’s not the case at all. Often men aren’t comfortable talking about delicate issues or bodily functions, that sort of thing, unless they’re together, which is where the rugby club mentality comes in. It’s far better when you’re talking with a group of friends and then you find that men will open up.

“Hopefully this book will alleviate the isolation felt by male cancer sufferers. You can feel connected through the written word. If you’re not a member of a rugby club, you could read this and still feel the sentiment and humour and the connection.”

RW: So you feel men could learn something from women about how to cope with cancer?

BB: “Quite possibly. I have found, particularly with the rugby element, that a lot of men have discovered things (cancer-related issues) either on the pitch or after the game, and very often it’s their wives or girlfriends who have said, ‘Don’t you think you ought to get that checked out?’ If we can work together we might be able to help each other.”

RW: How has cancer touched your own life?

BB: “Ironically, I was already writing the book when my father was diagnosed with cancer last year. He passed away on 27 December. I also lost an uncle about ten years ago, he had a very rare form of cancer.

Win Good for a Grin Brenda Burling with her book

Forward-thinking: “It’s important to remove the taboos for the next generation,” says Burling

“So much of this is about the next generation. I have two sons. I want them to feel it’s imperative to check yourself. And if they don’t feel well, they need to tell me that. I think for the next generation it’s really important to get it out in the open, to remove the taboos. Get people really talking about it. ‘Mum, I’ve found a lump.’ ‘Right, let’s go and get it sorted.’ In previous generations that just wasn’t done.”

RW: How has the rugby community responded to the book?

BB: “Very positively. I feel blessed because I wasn’t sure it would work as an idea. The first club I approached was Bishop’s Stortford. They’re local to me and there’s a lovely man there called Bob. He has been nothing but supportive.

“We did a book signing and I found that men do open up, they will come up and talk to you. Once they feel you’re comfortable and they feel comfortable. And who doesn’t feel comfortable at a rugby club bar?”

Good for a Grin is published by Matthew James Publishing, RRP £7.99, and you can buy it here. European champions Saracens are stocking the book and For Ruck Sake are going to be involved with promotions. 10% of proceeds from the sale of the book will be donated to The Oddballs Foundation.

The publishers have kindly provided us with six copies to give away in a competition. For a chance to win one, look at the photo below and answer the question beneath it, filling in your details. The competition closes on Friday 21 June.

Win Good for a Grin Australia v Lions, 2013

Kicking Wallaby: who is this lining up a shot at goal against the 2013 British & Irish Lions? (Getty Images)

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Terms and conditions

The competition closes at 23.59pm on Friday 21 June 2019.

Six winners will be selected at random, each winning a copy of the book Good for a Grin by Brenda Burling.

Normal TI Media Limited competition rules apply. Competition details form part of these terms and conditions. Entry is open to residents of the UK, Channel Islands and Republic of Ireland except employees (and their families) of TI Media Limited, its printers and agents, the suppliers of the prizes and any other companies associated with the competitions. The winners must be aged 18 or over. Proof of identity and age may be required. Use of a false name or address will result in disqualification. All entries must be made directly by the person entering the competition. Entries made online using methods generated by a script, macro or the use of automated devices will be void. The prizes are as stated, are not transferable to another individual and no cash or other alternatives will be offered. Prizes are subject to availability and the prize suppliers’ terms and conditions. The promoters reserve the right to amend or alter the terms of competitions and reject entries from entrants not entering into the spirit of the competition. The winner agrees to the use of his or her name, photograph and disclosure of county of residence and will co-operate with any other reasonable requests by TI Media Limited relating to any post-winning publicity. The winners will be chosen from all correct entries received by the closing date stated within the promotional material. Winners will be confirmed in writing. Reasonable efforts will be made to contact a winner. Failure to respond and/or provide an address for delivery, or failure to meet the eligibility requirements may result in forfeiture of the prize. If they cannot be contacted, or are unable to comply with these terms and conditions, the Promoter reserves the right to offer the prize to the next eligible entrant drawn at random. Where applicable, the decision of the judges is final based on the criteria set out in the promotion and no correspondence will be entered into over this decision. Competitions may be modified or withdrawn at any time. The Service Provider and contact details are specified within the promotional material. When you enter this competition you are consenting to be added to the regular MBR newsletters and that TI Media Limited and its partners may contact you about relevant products or services and research via email. You can opt out at any time via the unsubscribe messages in the emails you are sent.