John, London

Feb 2022

To have known that she was not alone would undoubtedly have helped her in ways that she could not even conceive.

Mum died of cancer 20 years ago. Dad never spoke about it until one time, some considerable time afterwards, when his own health was failing. For the first time he told me the story.

That fateful day Mum had gone to the doctors to get her test results and typically not wanting to make a fuss, had told Dad that he didn’t have to go to the appointment with her but that a lift home would be most welcome.

She got into the car as if nothing was wrong and then announced, quite calmly, that the doctor had told her that she had cancer, that it was advanced and that there was nothing they could do. She then said that she didn’t want to discuss the matter further.

Dad described the shock as feeling like being hit over the head with a cricket bat. His head was literally spinning, and he was struck completely speechless. He said that he couldn’t quite remember how on earth he drove home.

Mum was good to her word and to her dying day would never speak about her diagnosis and would never countenance any discussion about it by others.

What she did do however, quietly and calmly, during her last 10 months was to get Dad ready for life without her. A man of his generation couldn’t cook beyond toasting a piece of bread, so Mum taught him to cook. She taught him how to use the washing machine and all the domestic tasks and duties that she had always sorted out for him.

It was some 10 years after her passing that Dad shared this story with me and told me of the admiration, respect and indeed gratitude that he had for Mum, the undoubted love of his life.

She paved the way for Dad. They were of course both of a wartime generation who had learned by necessity not to complain and to buckle down and get on with things.

With the benefit of hindsight, I have to wonder how much better the quality of my Mum’s live would have been if she had had the opportunity to share her fears and concerns in a safe and sympathetic environment. As the first of her family and group of friends to experience such a devastating diagnosis there was nobody there to counsel, to advise or to specifically care for her.

To have known that she was not alone and that others who were more fortunate and better informed than her, prepared to share their own experiences, would undoubtedly have helped her in ways that she could not even conceive.