Book review: Wordsmith: The Gift of a Soul by Megan Young and Merrilyn Thomas

‘This is a gift of my soul. All that I have, all that I am is here. I am a scientist, an artist, a Wordsmith.’

Tuesday, 30th July 2013, 10:00 am
Wordsmith: The Gift of a Soul by Megan Young and Merrilyn Thomas
Wordsmith: The Gift of a Soul by Megan Young and Merrilyn Thomas

These are the emotive words of a remarkable woman called Megan Young. She wrote them in a dilapidated old file in which she kept her poetry about 12 years before she died from cancer aged just 32 in 2010.

Megan, who lived in Kent, wasn’t an ordinary woman – she was a talented equine vet, poet and musician – and the cancer that took her life was no ‘ordinary’ form of this devastating disease.

Within four months of her diagnosis, Megan died from Cancer of Unknown Primary (CUP), a type of cancer that has fallen below the radar of public knowledge despite the fact that about 14,000 people are diagnosed with it each year in the UK, enough to fill more than 35 jumbo jets.

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CUP is a hidden cancer which has spread but its origin cannot be identified and to treat cancer successfully, doctors need to identify the primary site.

The premature death of Megan – daughter of Merrilyn, wife of Toby, mother of Amos and sister of Morag – was an almost unbearable tragedy for her family but Megan’s legacy is to have the last word on her inspirational life and talents, and to raise money to help others.

Wordsmith is Merrilyn Thomas’s lovingly collated collection of her daughter’s lyrical and spiritually uplifting poetry and prose which speaks so movingly of the mystery, beauty and joy of the world, and of the pain and grief that it brings.

For each book sold, a donation will be given to national registered charity, the CUP Foundation - Jo’s friends, which was set up in memory of Jo Symons, 46, of Brockham, Surrey, who died from CUP in 2006 and provides information and support to patients and their families as well promoting research.

Megan, whose roots were in the North Pembrokeshire countryside, was ‘gifted, headstrong, compassionate, tempestuous, beautiful and wise’ and on the day she died her mother pledged to publish her amazing poems.

Despite her career grounding in scientific rationality, Megan’s work is suffused with an awareness of the spirit, an integral part of her being that she rarely expressed explicitly in her everyday life.

Apart from her family, Megan’s great love was her horses. She wasn’t born into a ‘horsey’ family but by the age of three it was obvious to all where her affections lay. ‘A horse makes a man a god,’ Megan wrote in 1997. ‘They don’t love us because we are beautiful or clever or funny or kind… their love is simply a reflection of ours for them.’

Megan saw the natural world around her with the freshness of a child and yet the keen observation of a scientist. From the ‘velvet sand-spread’ of a cliff that looks out to sea to a face ‘whipped by the West Wind,’ Megan’s verse is totally in tune with the spiritual joys of nature.

Whether she is railing at the death of her father when she was only 13 – ‘sweet liqueur of your life gone past’ – extolling the happiness of her marriage – ‘in your eyes I am love itself/And for me you are the only truth’ – to the birth of her son Amos in 2008, Megan’s original, innovative and moving poetry comes straight from the soul.

`Walk beside me./Neither pull ahead/Nor hang back/And do not follow me/But I know where I go/And walk beside me there.’

For more information on Wordsmith: The Gift of a Soul (Medlar Tree Publishing, paperback, £9.99), which is available from Amazon, visit If you wish to make a donation or would like more information on the CUP Foundation - Jo’s friends, visit