I dream about my husband every night. In my dreams he often refers to me as “my darling” and I feel his presence as if he is physically in the same space I occupy.

Except he is no longer here.

I don’t know what it takes for our brains to process the permanent absence of a loved one, but I do know it doesn’t happen overnight. For me, it is as if his being or the essence of who he was has been permanently etched onto an area of my mind which constantly tries to recall him reproducing a hologram for me to hold on to. That’s how he appears in my dreams.

I shared nearly 18 years of my life with Michael, a long time, some might say, and yet not enough.

In that short time together we lived through a few upheavals, moving home, raising children, juggling work and family life; like all relationships do, and yet there was never a moment when I wished to be parted from him.

Ok, that’s not strictly true, there were times when he drove me up the walls and on occasions a heated argument would have me walking out of the house in a huff and a puff, driving away somewhere by the sea (always the sea) until I felt I’d regained some perspective and drove back home, where upon my arrival he’d insist on kissing me, making up and forgetting about the argument because  as he said “it wasn’t worth it”.

And he was right, no subject was worth the aggravation or the break up of our relationship. There was a bit of pride to swallow, a bit of negotiating, some compromising from both sides and finally an admission that one of us had got things wrong.  But I never wanted to be permanently parted from him.

So to find myself parted from him, without choice, has put me in a position I never wanted to be in or even imagined would be possible.

I don’t have bitter feelings about our life together, because, on balance ours was a good relationship, one based on mutual respect, love and admiration. However I do find myself wondering why life has turned out to be so unfair. There seems to be no logic to it.

Michael was so full of life, he loved life, he was annoyingly bright in the morning so happy to be alive and to be able to see another day. He would insist on recounting three good things that had happened at the end of each day, a habit he tried instilling in me; alas I was never enamoured with the idea, that was his thing. I’m glad to report, however, that our children seem to have inherited his chirpy, cheerful morning disposition; I’m working on the “three good things about today” bit.

I know Michael was preoccupied with what was his mission in life and often wondered whether his reason for coming into this world had come to pass but he had yet to realise what it was. When he was told treatment was no longer having the desired effect on the cancer, he mourned the fact that he wouldn’t have enough time to know whether he had completed his mission in life.

And I guess we mostly go through life without giving a second thought as to what legacy we will leave behind. It’s often the case that we don’t take stock of what we have done and how many lives we have touched or we don’t realise the ripple effect that our actions have on other people’s lives, until it’s too late.

The legacy of our lives 


Monday 9 May marked the start of Dying Matters Awareness Week during which time we are encouraged to talk about death and dying, not in a morbid but in a constructive way.

The hashtag #BigConversation has been used to instigate discussions around our last wishes as we face death, specially about how we want to die and what we want to happen when we are dying. This includes, amongst other things, whether we want to die at home, in hospital or in a hospice, what kind of treatment we would allow or refuse as we approach death, and how we want to be remembered.

Whilst all of these issues might sound scary, morbid and downright sordid to some, my experience of seeing my beloved husband dying has taught me that these conversations are better had when we are not in pain or suffering, when we are able to clearly express our preferences and when we are not vulnerable. It also allows time for reasoning, explanations and acceptance, all of which are difficult to attain when we’re reaching our last days and hours of life.

After my husband died I found a folder with neat writing on it which read “FUNERAL” and I thought “great, he has left it all organised, nothing to worry about!”  Little did I know it was just a smoke screen; on opening the said folder I found:

  1. A newspaper cutting of an article decrying the extortionate costs of funerals
  2. The name of two hymns written on the back of an envelope, and
  3. An email, dated exactly one year before his death, confirming that our priest of 12 years would be happy to conduct “the funeral”

And that was it!

I knew, from his will, he wished his body to be cremated. Other than that nothing, zilch, niente, nada.

You see, my husband did not speak of his imminent death, even though we had known for more than a year that the cancer no longer responded to treatment. He he did not allow the conversation to take place. It was too much for him. I can only speculate his reasons, he never said why.

This silence meant for us a prolonged suffering, a wanting to speak up but never feeling that we were allowed to. Not having those conversations means that at times I feel rudderless specially when trying to guide our children through life. I often attempted to ask him how he would have wanted me to, for example, advise our children on relationships, money, buying their first car, etc. only for the subject to swiftly switch to football or rugby or whatever other sporting event was his latest preoccupation.

For our children the silence now means a lot of questions which will remain unanswered, this makes their and my grieving so much more difficult. I am always mindful of honouring his memory and constantly looking for opportunities to put together a legacy to give to our children to hold on to. I am only hoping that it is just what he would have wanted.

So if there’s one thing I wish for you readers, is that you make time to talk with your nearest and dearest about dying matters, if not to ensure that your wishes are carried out and respected, then to save your loved ones the anguish of second-guessing what your wishes are.

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Dying matters


imageSo you know what they say, “lightning doesn’t strike twice…” Well, it’s a lie, or should I say a myth?

I was born in Venezuela where, by the Catatumbo river, lightning strikes not just twice but up to 280 times an hour… You don’t believe me? Read all about it and watch the spectacle.
So now I’ve got your attention here’s my story.

On 6 October 2015, two days after completing the Bournemouth Half-Marathon, I was given a diagnosis of cancer, more specifically Neuroendocrine Tumours (NETs) in the small intestine with metastasis (spreading) to the liver. The symptoms I had felt for the previous nine months were so common that my doctors were baffled, and to be honest so was I.

Up to that time I had been supporting Michael, my husband, who 30 months before had been diagnosed with advanced bowel cancer. You see, lightning does strike twice… Michael died on 15 January 2016; I now know he found it difficult to cope with the news of my diagnosis.

So this blog is about living, in every sense of the word, with cancer. I’m trying my best to stay alive for our beautiful children.

The views I express here are my own, unless of course I’m quoting another source in which case I will make sure to acknowledge it.

Thank you for reading,


When lightning strikes…twice!