Reading Peter Wells' posts about living with cancer is not as morbid or frightening as one might think.

What began as musings the author wrote on his phone in hospital have since grown to be a popular first-person series titled "Hello darkness", published online in four instalments by news website The Spinoff.

"It's the way I make sense of the situation and it was a complete surprise to me that I would end up be so public about my thoughts and feelings," he said.

"Initially when I did the first post in hospital I just thought I was communicating with friends who were interested or concerned about what was happening to me."


Wells was diagnosed with prostate cancer in November last year and began writing on his private Facebook page that month.

The posts trace his journey from diagnosis, through chemotherapy and, most recently in late March, to the point where his oncologist told him his tumours had shrunk by half.

"The whole area of cancer, and probably a lot of illnesses, is this huge area of uncertainty about how you have to live.

Peter Wells' tumours have shrunk by half. Photo / Duncan Brown
Peter Wells' tumours have shrunk by half. Photo / Duncan Brown

"No one will tell you because nobody knows so you're in this strange no man's land really where you just have to live with uncertainty."

For Wells, writing the posts made him feel surrounded by people in what was perhaps the loneliest period of his life.

"It's just taken off on its own momentum really and it's something that helps me, it keeps me alive.

"The worst thing about being sick is the isolation and just being on your own because then all you do is worry about yourself, feel sorry for yourself and think about your aches and pains."

The response to his personal, at times revealing, thoughts had also been of a personal tone, he said.


"It seems a phenomenon, the posts, Hello darkness, it seems a phenomenon that has its own life which for a writer is very encouraging or pleasing.

"It seems to reach out into the world without me consciously reaching out into the world. It seems to have that effect, that very personal note," Wells said.

Wells' new book, Dear Oliver. Photo / Supplied
Wells' new book, Dear Oliver. Photo / Supplied

One Napier resident bakes him a banana loaf when he's in town - he and partner Douglas Lloyd Jenkins divide their time between Hawke's Bay and Auckland - while others send him simple Facebook messages reminding him to keep breathing.

"That really, really surprised me because I just kept thinking everything I was writing was very personal and that nobody much would be interested in it apart from friends but then it seemed to touch some sort of nerve with a lot people which mystifies me still, it really does."

With the cancer currently quiescent, he plans on working the posts into a book in the not-so-distant future, but for now, is focused on enjoying the present.

His newest book Dear Oliver: Uncovering a Pakeha History has been well-received by the public.

"I have to think in a very sort of limited timeframe. I can't look too far ahead so I just have to enjoy the present. That's not such a bad thing in life, to actually enjoy the present."

Those wishing to read Peter Wells' series of posts can read them in full at