A man alone with his hood up looking out at a valley

I reckon it’s fair to say that 2020 has not been the year that any of us dreamed of.

One day into learning from home, when DorkySon and I were both in tears at our complete inability to communicate, I thought that would be the hardest thing we’d have to deal with this year.

A month or two later, sitting at my desk and reflecting on all the lost documents on my crashed hard drive, I thought that would be the hardest thing we’d have to deal with this year.

But then… then. Then came July 29th, when DorkyDad was diagnosed with cancer. And every other hassle and stress of the year faded into insignificance. This was not just hard by 2020 standards; this was hard full stop.


Here is the strangest thing about a cancer diagnosis. In an instant, it changes everything and nothing. I had never understood what it meant when I read about people receiving bad news and feeling like all the air had been suddenly sucked out of the room. Now, having sat beside DorkyDad and held his hand while our kind, wonderful GP talked us through the results that were in front of her, I get it completely. Time really does stand still.

But when the telling is over, you still have to stand up and walk out of the surgery. Still give a cheery wave to the receptionist. Still head to the car and unlock it, and remember to indicate, to stop at junctions, to do all the normal things you do until you’re home and you can park in the garage and try to make it inside the house before you can cry and hug each other and cry some more.


DorkyDad has always hated the word ‘journey’. When colleagues or friends claim to have been on a journey of personal development, he has always rolled his eyes so far back in his head that I worried they were in danger of falling out.

But that was the word the GP used. “It’s shit news,” she said. “Completely shit. I’m so sorry. But now you start the process. Now you embark on the journey, and hopefully when you reach the end, you’ll be cancer-free.”

We are three weeks into this journey, and it is the right word. There has already been an overwhelming number of scans and appointments and phone calls. It has been an exhausting, terrible rollercoaster where every piece of news brings either despair or relief, and then you are left worrying, waiting again, for the next step of the process. You cannot help your mind from wandering to the very worst places, even when you’ve been told those places are unlikely stops on your particular journey.


There has been laughter, because with us there is always laughter – much of it inappropriate.

There has been love and support and kindness from people we know. The kindness is the worst. It sets us both off every time. Stop being so bloody nice, and we’ll be fine. It is a new and challenging thing to be vulnerable, to let people show how much they care.

There have been a lot of tears.

And there has been incredible courage from DorkyDad. I have never been prouder. I have never loved him more. He has approached this with grace, with good humour, with strength. Never once has he asked ‘why me?’ or ‘why now?’

We know that fighting cancer is not just about mindset. It is about being lucky enough to live in a place where there are effective, skilled, knowledgeable doctors. So far, the news from those doctors has been as positive as it can be. He is going to get through this. He is going to survive, and there are so many exceptional people who are going to help that happen.

But if determination does count for anything, I know no-one who is better placed to deal with what’s ahead.


There are likely difficult days to come. If I could go through this in place of him I would. If I could wave a magic wand I would. This is going to be a learning experience for all three of us – how to support each other, to let each other feel different emotions from one day to the next, to pick each other up… and to always keep in our minds a vision of what life will be like on the other side.

Maybe by Christmas. That is what we are hoping for. Maybe as the chook roasts in the oven for Christmas lunch, we will sit outside in the sun, sip champagne and breathe a long, slow exhalation of relief that things are looking better.

But in the meantime, we are focusing on one day at a time. That has always been our approach to life, and it has never been more important. We are prioritising the things that remind us how good it is to be alive. Warm pastries for breakfast on Sunday mornings. Long walks by the water. Fierce domino battles in front of the woodfire in the evening. And that magical moment just before sleep comes each night, when we tuck up tight together and almost, almost let ourselves forget.


Photo by Matt Sclarandis on Unsplash

48 responses

  1. This is beautifully written.
    I’m so sorry you’re having to go through this. It really is shit.
    I wish you all strength and love – it sounds like you have an abundance of both. Hang in there.

  2. We are, literally, with you on your journey. Wishing you strength, courage and love … 🌈🌈👍👍💕💕

  3. 2020 has been a shitstorm!
    I’m sorry your family is having to face this.
    Hope the road is smooth and the result all you hope for.

  4. This continues ripping the ‘shite’ out of me. Your collective attitude and strength is as solid as a meandering Crinkle Crankle wall, a winding in and out of emotion, supporting the road to recovery.
    This may not be your journey of choice, why would it be, but it will finish with a rainbow in your back garden. Love to light your path as you walk together. xx

  5. This episode of your blog has really touched me! With all the crazy COVID matters sometimes it’s easy to forget the other realities of life that can hot us.

    Wishing you great outcomes from the ‘journey’!

  6. Always, always here for my dear friend! I cringe every time I say ‘journey’ to clients but then I guess all cringey words and cliches have some truth in them! So much love to you all – you are doing so brilliantly well in the face of a very tough year and shocking news for DorkyDad. Everything crossed for a cancer- free outcome. XXX

  7. It is strange to talk to someone you have never met except on line. I have a friend and a family member following the same path, your description of the start of your journey is beautifully written and heartbreaking.
    I send my best wishes to you and your family

  8. So sorry to read this Ruth, best of luck to you all, my sister was recently given the same news. Never easy but you I hope it brings you closer of that’s possible. Love Mike

    • Oh Mike, I’m really sorry to hear that. What crappy news. I hope she is being well supported and that the COVID situation isn’t affecting her access to treatment. Love to your whole family xx

  9. Thanks for sharing this truly sad and difficult news. From across oceans and deserts and hemispheric lines, know that I am thinking of you and sending love and healing thoughts. You’ve got this. You’ll beat it. And you will be stronger…

  10. Ruth, I am so stricken by this news. I am glad that Young has you and Tom to help him through this “journey” and I am glad that you have access to excellent healthcare. Please tell young that Randy is thinking of him and including him in his prayers. Tell him that the Backbay Three are ready to join him in flighting cancer “under a black flag” and “taking this scumbag off the board.”

    • Haha, I will pass the message on for sure, and please feel free to check in with Young, he is always delighted to hear from you. It is lovely to feel he has a team of enthusiastic cheerleaders spread across the world x

  11. Thank you for sharing. A powerful and moving read full of love and strength. Sending love and so much more to an incredible trio.

  12. I’m so sorry to hear about this. The doctor is right, this is shit.
    Agree with DorkyDad about the “j” word but sometimes, and from the right person, it’s the right word.
    Wishing you all the best

  13. i am so so sad and sorry to hear this news. i wish you and your family all the best. what a bloody awful year this is. good luck and good cheer x

  14. So sorry to hear this news, Ruth. You will get through this. Holding you in the light (as we Quakers say) from across the ocean. Emma x

  15. Beautiful as always, but so hard to write and hear. I am sorry you had to write this. I hope that you will write another at Christmas filled with hope and the good news we want you to hear. In the meantime, I am here, now and always. Lots of love, Susan xx

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