Losing Someone You Love to Cancer

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We lost my Father in Law (second right) to Cancer.

**For the next month I am dedicating Mother of All Lists to Stand Up to Cancer. Each week will be an account of one person’s experience of Cancer.**

First up; me. We lost my wonderful Father-in-Law Mike to Cancer. We miss him everyday. But his spirit lives on, particularly in his grandchildren. Bertie reminds me of him in so many ways even though they never got to meet one another. Genes are amazing aren’t they?

I originally wrote this account of his battle with Cancer for the Huffington Post:


  • Cancer. You can’t escape it.

  • You may be one of the lucky ones who avoid getting cancer. Unfortunately that means someone you know will almost certainly be diagnosed with some form of the disease at some point.

  •   It’d be easier to bury your head in the sand about it.

  • Pretend it won’t ever happen to you.

  • But one way or the other, that choice of blissful ignorance is likely to be   taken out of your hands.

  •  We lost my Father-in-Law to cancer six years ago.

  •   He was just 60. We lost my Granny at a similar age a decade before that to cancer too.

  •    I haven’t chosen to write about her.

  • It was an unconscious decision. Though her death was every bit as devastating, in fact the shock of losing her still catches me sometimes. It’s like my head hasn’t truly accepted she isn’t here. Perhaps because I was younger when it happened? Or that my Dad sheilded me from the reality of her battle? Who knows.

  •      Anyway, this is about my lovely Father-in-Law.

  •   With any passing of someone you love it’s impossible articulate the  ramifications.

  •       That fateful phone call.

  •       Watching your husband receiving the news that his father has cancer.

  •       The immediate mix of emotions: fearing the worst, but hoping for the best.

  •       From there the cancer happened slowly. Even in a relatively aggressive      form.

  • You go to bed that night as you always did. But wake up with that unconscious innate knowledge that something isn’t as it was.

  •       And then you remember.

  •       But still life carries on.

  •       The first time you see the person that’s been diagnosed they seem, well, the       same. They don’t look like they have cancer. They look like the same person.

  •       There’s always a reason to stay positive.

  •       A milestone to look forward to.

  •       A person with a positive story you can to cling on to.

  •     And of course the potential of a breakthrough thanks to the wonderful                research and work that campaigns like Cancer Research UK’s Stand Up To          Cancer funds.

    7CCEF297-5268-4ECA-AE51-A5DCDC4B66F1 (1)
    They both have traits of their Grandad, even though they never got to meet him.
  •       And so cancer seems OK.

  •       The effects are more a sum of lots of small parts than anything sudden, big         or frightening.

  •       A loss of appetite here.

  •       A persistent cough there.

  •       A secret wince.

  •       A frailer hug.

  •       But then before you know it, it’s taken hold.

  •       The brave faces are harder to maintain. 

  •       Plans bought forward.

  •       Each moment more pertinent.

  •       Goals shrunk. Priorities shifted.

  •       No sky-dives or epic trip. Bucket list ideals go out the window. It’s about              comfort. Laughter. Enjoying that favourite meal. Opening that special bottle      of wine.

  •       All the while without anyone having admitted that things have changed. If         you love someone you ‘just know’.

  •       Those last days of someone’s life aren’t something you can easily describe.

  •       Sacred. Precious. Scary. Beautiful. Unforgettable.

  •       And then the unthinkable, ‘the worst case scenario’ is upon you.

  •       Bizarrely there is a peace in the reality of death rather than the dread of it.

  •       And the clichés of being glad the battle is over are very true.

  •      The endless cups of tea. The kindness of friends. The throwing yourself in             logistics of funeral paperwork.

  •     And the heart-wrenching truth that often the person you most want in those    awful moments is the person you’ve just lost.

  •       But you know the worst thing about cancer?

  •       It’s impact is felt  long after death. Birthdays. Christmas. The arrival of             grandchildren that person never got to meet.

  •       You feel sad for you, because you miss them. You feel heartbroken for your      husband for not having a Father.

  •       But you feel devastated for the person who was robbed of life.

  •       All the ‘should have, would have, could haves’.

  •       The same old jokes they never got to tell.

  •       The moments they would have relished and enhanced.

  •       So why have I got involved with this Standup For Cancer’s campaign?            Because I’d like to translate that sadness into a positive.

  • Take the anger I feel on behalf of my kids, my father-in-law, his family and my husband and turn it into a rebellion against cancer.

  •       Having spoken to professors, clever folks in research labs and the people working tirelessly at Cancer Research UK, I feel optimistic for the future rather than scared about the odds of diagnosis.

  •       They are making progress all the time, every day. All they need to continue to do it, is funds from people like me and you.

  •       Together we have got this.

  •       Cancer. You can’t escape it.

  •  Doesn’t mean we will let it defeat us


Blown away by the Cancer Research Labs


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  • Reply Stephanie Randle Solley September 18, 2017 at 8:20 pm

    Thanks for sharing Clemmie. I lost my dad a couple of weeks ago & my mum a couple of years ago both to cancer. And my gran. It’s bloody everywhere & I bloody hate it. But reading and sharing stories means & helps so much. There’s comfort in knowing your not alone. Thanks again

  • Reply Emma Thomas September 19, 2017 at 7:42 am

    I’m so sorry you lost someone so dear…my father in law died last Summer, brain tumour…he was the nicest, kindest man you could ever hope to meet, and amazing Dad and grandfather, I loved him almost as much as my own Dad. Here’s hoping we can eventually consign cancer to the history books…

  • Reply Sarah Murphy September 19, 2017 at 9:37 am

    We found out recently that my mother in law has liver cancer and will need to have a transplant, this comes with a 19-23 month average wait time so the coming months I feel will be tough and uncertain but hearing stories of other people’s experiences helps so thank you for sharing yours and we will all continue to support these amazing charities so that hopefully one less family has to experience this heartache x

  • Reply Martina Murray September 20, 2017 at 8:47 am

    Lovely article like your husband I lost my dad to cancer aged 62 way to young and lime you I feel angry that he never got to walk me or my sister up the aisle never met our husbands and never got to meet his wonderful grandchildren.

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