Yesterday, just right after I posted my article on How To Reset Your Wife When She is Falling Apart, I read an email from a friend. I was on the list of people she emailed with the devastating news: she had been diagnosed with third stage breast cancer.

“Why? Why? WHY?” She raged. No one in her family ever had cancer, going back a couple of generations. She had always ate well and exercised regularly. And she is only 32.

I too have asked myself this question. WHY? Like her, no one in my family ever had cancer, I ate well and I exercised regularly.

Over the years, many theories and hypotheses have emerged though we do not know for sure what causes cancer.  Maybe it is multifactorial. I have read many books and acquainted myself with the theories, but going back to first principles (which I always do when there are no definite answers), cancer happens when cells go crazy and keep on making more and more copies of themselves in response to certain triggers. Because those cells are fighting back and via some primal logic embedded within them, they are triggered to make more “troops”.

But for me, the “whys” are not as important as the “what next?”

I knew the why in my case, but it served no purpose other than kicking me into touch. To live, I had to severe myself from the toxicity of a family that had driven two people to suicide and caused several broken lives in their wake. I was meant to be the next casualty, but my very strong instinct to survive fought back and gave me this serious illness as a fire alarm bell. I had to learn to be grateful that I only lost two years of my life to pain, rather than my whole life. Learning and loving are never wasted.  And my children still have their mother. I  was forced to take stock of my life, to get it in order, so that I have a happier future if I survive this bout.

I  learned to be grateful for small things, because they are what that makes the difference. Who walks by your side daily means a lot more than those fly-by-nights with grand but empty promises. For the meaning of life is to be found in the small things of everyday.

Two sisters – I wasn’t even particularly close to them – who used to work for my family, stopped by almost everyday and pulled me out of my despair. They brought me flowers and cheer everyday, yet before this happened, we were just ship passing in the night. I mean, how amazing is that, the generosity of the human spirit, the way it rises in times of need?

Cancer had also brought me a whole lot of good things, such as my closer relationship with my aunt who had provided me with a sanctuary, and her daughter who had given me wisdom of soul groups. Through Carlie’s belief in soul groups, I learned that we meet each other to fulfill each other’s destiny, be it good or bad. Thus, we must be grateful for all who came into our lives, difficult as it may be, especially to those who bring us pain and darkness. But we must recognise that they are part of our life’s journey, to make the next step possible.

For in my darkness, I saw my partner’s star, which I did not see when I was well and flying high. 10 years ago, he had left this stuck on my locker door at work, no message, just this.  But I had not seen the red beating heart and the tulip that blooms for it until I got sick, for when you are down and out, that’s when you know who the true people in your life are, who will be there for you instead of running away.

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My friend is about to enter the same grueling treatment as I did: six days a week of radiotherapy for six weeks (she elected not to go for chemotherapy and mastectomy). My heart goes out to her: I know how  hopeless those days can be.

Thus, having hope – however unrealistic – is key. I could not see my way out of my darkness (and fell more ill) until my partner pointed out how lovely the houseboats on the Thames were on a cold dark winter’s evening, and maybe we can buy one to sail away together, when I wasn’t sure if I wanted to live. We still have not bought the houseboat, but maybe we will one day, when our life’s work is done. But for now, houseboats on the Thames are a symbol of hope for me, my next step when I wanted to jump into the abyss.

He made a whole world of difference to my survival, when I looked forward into the future which began to glimmer tentatively, starting with my partner’s star. I knew we still have adventures to live through together, many more. So I have to live.

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Recently, I met a lady from the Czech Republic called Radka, who was diagnosed with cancer about the same time as I. She and her husband immediately sold everything they owned to go traveling as soon as she was well enough. En-route to Australia, her husband died unexpectedly in Phuket: his heart just gave up on him, despite him being a fit 58-year-old. She scattered his ashes in Rawai in a beautiful ceremony and vowed to spend as much time in Phuket as she could, to be close to him. We can never know about life, only love.

She is blessed to be so loved. As is my friend, whose husband had taken a six-month leave to support her.

For love is all that matters, as Einstein said. Without it, we are nothing.

Get well soon, Susie ❤

Related article: “How to reset your wife when she is falling apart”