here we go again

January 2014, so far not so good. January 14 2000 was also not so good. That’s when it all began, Duffy’s cancer. Chemo and radiotherapy and big surgery and recovery and work and holidays followed that first day of findings and fear. And now Duffy has to endure more pain and surgery, intrusion and inconvenience, yes inconvenience and uncertainty about what the coming weeks and months will bring. Cancer (illness) is so inconvenient and takes up such a lot of time and our time is for us to play and be together, with family and friends, to swim and eat and walk and work, and not spend endless hours waiting in hospitals. But if that is what we have to do to get the best results possible, so that Duffy can keep doing what she does best – live – then we’ll do it.

I’m lucky I’m married to one of the most positive women in the world. She is bright and beautiful, funny, has immense knowledge (never watch University Challenge with her) a great teacher to all who meet her, an absolute inspiration, and the hardest worker I know. She champions me every day. See, lucky me. Given all that is yet to come, she takes hold of her life and goes with it. She doesn’t complain, doesn’t shed many tears, is strong and most of all, she loves her life, she loves living. And if I have anything to do with it, she’ll keep living for at least another forty years. She is also scared. That’s okay. I’m scared too. But it’s okay to be scared. Fear can reside alongside happy, content, excited. Cancer will not take away our excitement. I have no intention of being a carer, I care and will care for Duffy, but I’m a worker, I have my work just as Duffy has hers. We will continue to make work, create and imagine.

The other day, while I was driving around in a rage because I couldn’t quite believe that my darling had cancer again, I took myself back fourteen years and thought about all that has happened since 14th January 2000, specifically all the positive things, I left the negative ones out. I don’t need any more negative energy in my life. There’s been enough death, enough sadness, there will be more, I know. Today I choose to be positive.

Fourteen years ago, our relationship could not be recognised legally. Now we are safe from those who oppose everything we stand for.
Fourteen years ago my parents had only met Stella a week before her diagnosis. Now they have known her for longer than they haven’t.
Fourteen years ago I couldn’t swim. Stella taught me, believed in me.
Fourteen years ago I couldn’t play the ukulele. Now I can.
Fourteen years ago I couldn’t tell the difference between a flameproof casserole dish and one that would shatter into pieces…and did…I’m a good cook now.
Fourteen years ago Facebook and Twitter didn’t exist, so we couldn’t share the way we do.
Fourteen years ago the treatment for breast cancer was not as advanced as it is now.
Fourteen years ago Stella was 36 and I was 40. Sometimes we are wiser.
Fourteen years ago my sister, my only sibling, was still alive, was still well. Who knew that she and Stella would become cancer buddies.
Fourteen years ago I knew I was lucky, but now I know just how lucky I have been, how lucky I am.
Fourteen years ago the NHS was not in the danger it’s in now. I’m grateful to the NHS.
Fourteen years ago I had no idea how strong I could be. And how weak.

During those years we never put Stella’s cancer out of our minds. Every cough, every cold, every ache was accompanied with worry, we just didn’t go on about it. The ‘all clear’ doesn’t exist, we know that. Fourteen years is a substantial time for a cancer free period. Duffy has done extraordinarily well.

Many people have e-mailed with the most generous offers and love and words of support. This is my thank you. The love around the world is incredible. I honestly feel people are with us, carrying us in their hearts and minds. And while we go through our experience, Stella’s experience and my experience, I am well aware that there are a whole lot of people who have similar experiences, life and death and illness and pain and sadness and grief. We know who you are, and we send love and strength. You’re still in our thoughts despite our own derailment.

On 10th December 2000, when Stella’s treatment had finished, when she was exhausted yet energetic, we had our first wedding at home, with a few people, lots of champagne, a feast provided by our guests, rings made by a dear friend in Aotearoa and nice frocks, Stella’s in particular was outstanding. A friend made us a certificate, because there was no legal recognition and no piece of paper to bear witness to our union. This is what it said, these are our words to each other, our promise to each other, framed in our home and in our hearts. This is what we will continue to do, for as long as we can, until we are happy old ladies with a skip in our step, a cheeky grin and a story or two to tell.

Love honour cherish worship adore glorify discuss debate disturb challenge explore travel delight taste exalt enjoy nuffle play swim run jump skate scoot dance eat sleep wake smile laugh cry care dream create magnify identify breathe
keep going – together

26 thoughts on “here we go again

  1. How lucky you both are to have each other , It’s a Beautiful story of Love and Adoration ,I hope that your next 40 years are filled with the Love and Joy that you both Deserve !

  2. I’m so sorry to hear your news. To watch someone you love suffer is very difficult. My granddaughter just had a tumour removed from her pain and it feels like the issues connected to it are going on forever. I wish you both all the best. Your combined strength and positivity is fruitful for both you. Stella’s blog posting combined with yours were truly uplifting. Love and healing thoughts to you both. xx

  3. And that is partly why we all love you both, and we do, more than even you, with your wonderfully creative natures, can imagine. It’ll be all right. Xx

  4. Hi Shelley I’m sorry to hear your news but moved that you have allowed us to celebrate a piece of your happiness in each other. Lives are best lived positively and bravely, with some allowance for terror of the unknown. I have suddenly been forced to learn something of the fear that cancer brings, and the intense adjustment both to life and one’s expectations and presumptions. My husband is in the midst of his own treatment. He is being ironic and positive but pissed off at the way it intrudes on his busy schedule. Diminished by the pain and the treatment, but hugely impressed by the professionalism of the NHS. And grateful to have a chance at least of enjoying another chunk of life. I have just gone through a series of tests so I know the fear of the phone call, the worry that the ruddy antigen count has gone up. I’m lucky, mine has gone down and I think I’m ok but in an odd way I’m glad that for me, the unexamined confidence in my invincibility has been washed off by the caustic of shared . Keep loving, keep enjoying. I’m sure you will

    xxx Natalie

  5. Shelley, thanks to you and Stella for sharing. My wife also had to fight a second bout of cancer and every check-up now is a time with hightened apprehension. On the other hand the illness brought us very close together and we count our blessings as well: every day brings – sometimes in small ways – joy and strengthens the mutual bond. In this sense I wish you both to go through this together and keep the joy and love alife.

  6. Shelley, I love the way you write. A very worrying time for you both – I cant begin to imagine – but the love story underpinning this is moving and full of Joy and makes me smile. Sending you love and hope x x

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