From my lips to the world’s ears.

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Today is my father’s 70th birthday. His name is Edward, but we call him “Ted”. He looks pretty good for 70, doesn’t he? Well, that’s because he died in 1989 from cancer.

I wonder what my father would have been like as an old man. He’d have loved the technological revolution; we could have called him a silver surfer and I doubt he would have minded. My son would have been the centre of his world and would’ve been spoiled rotten. He would have been dry and witty and silly and he would’ve given all of my suitors a serious run for their money. It’s no secret that the last 24 years would have been significantly different if my father had not passed away. I would probably still be living in Australia. I probably would not have had my wonderful son, or certainly not at the age I did. I can’t picture it. My father was taken away so early in my life that had he lived, I’m not sure I would be recognisable as the person I am today, in both bad and good ways. I know for certain I would have been a better person for not having seen him suffer for so many years.

But I can’t change the past, and maybe my life would have been different, but hey, things aren’t so bad. Well – they are, but I’m still here, and I’m still in the game. But that doesn’t stop me feeling crippled and hopeless at the loss, especially when I have spent the days leading up to my father’s birthday, watching a dear sweet friend waste away from the same disease that took him from me.

Never without a smile.

This is my friend, Joan Swift.

She’s 33, married to the love of her life, and has been fighting against various cancers for a number of years now. Cancer has torn it’s way through many members of her family to get to her. This is a woman who is completely, universally loved. She lightens the life of anyone who meets her – she is kind, loyal, smart, honest and beautiful, inside and out. The world is a better place for having her in it. But she’s losing her fight. As I type this, she is more or less comatose in a hospice after having picked up pneumonia a few days ago. Anyone with experience of terminal cancer knows that pneumonia is a death knell; there’s almost no chance of coming back from it. The outpouring of support for her has been overwhelming. Through the power of the internet, over £3000 has been raised in 3 days to donate to the hospice she’s in – a hospice that she herself volunteered at after her diagnosis. Her friends and family have rallied around her, to such an extent that people have had to visit in shifts to avoid overcrowding. There are no words to describe how much she’ll be missed. I don’t want to consider a world without her.

It isn’t fair and it isn’t right.

Cancers like this come for the best of us, and the worst of us. Cancer is the great equaliser. No one is safe from it. And though survival rates have increased somewhat in the last 50 years, in many cases all the medical community can do is slow down the progression of the disease, and even then, the deceleration process is painful and debilitating. Cancer knows no forgivenness, no reason, no justice. Often, the best hope we have is that the journey through it isn’t so traumatic as to ruin what remains of the sufferer’s life. So, if you do one thing today, consider donating whatever you can spare to Willow Wood Hospice, Macmillan Nurses, or any cancer support charity of your choice. No matter how much goes into research, sometimes all we can do is make life easier and more comfortable for those already too far down the road. We’ve all lost someone to cancer. Ted, Joan and countless others may have lost the battle, but we can still fight along side them. We can carry their weapons. We can be their armour.

Fuck cancer. Fuck it in the face.

Epilogue: Joannie passed away in the early hours of the 11th of December 2011, with her father, and her wonderful husband, Mat, by her side. Beloved daugher, sister, wife and friend; there is a hole in our hearts that will never mend.