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Personal cancer story

Carol Godfrey

You know your life has changed when you see a four-letter word and your heart beats a tune that only he can hear. 

My husband David and I have been in love since time began and that love will go on forever. But in 2011 he broke a promise. He had promised that he would never leave me.

It all started in late January 2011 when he spoke words that sent cold fingers around my heart: "I have a bit of double vision." I remember thinking that this was quite strange as he had only just been to the optometrist and been told that he had 20/20 vision. I insisted that he visit our GP. 

That visit to the doctor led to a series of tests, a specialist appointment and finally admission into hospital. After an MRI – one of many – the words "lesions on the brain stem" were bandied around. 

A biopsy of his brain stem was performed (that in itself is an amazing feat by the surgeon – just one twitch of a finger and it would have been lights out immediately) and then, on a day when people were dying in Christchurch from a horrific earthquake, my life crumbled just like the buildings. 

David was diagnosed with a glioblastoma multiforme tumour on his brainstem – one of the rarest in adults. I learnt how to spell this disease before its full implications were able to set in. 

The following seven months were full of tests – chemotherapy, radiation, hospitals, specialists – a pirate outfit (he wore a patch for his bad eye), knitting of an ugly rug (very therapeutic for me when sitting for hours in a hospital), our marriage at Westmead Hospital, no sleep and so many tears. But we also laughed. 

It is hard to imagine that smiling could even be possible when going through such a terrible time. But without the laughter, the darkness wins and the one you love is full of sorrow. There is time to cry when there is nobody there to give you that special hug. 

To keep my life on a level that allowed me to cope, I wrote a blog. 

But sadly, even my hero could not fight the insidious tumour that grew (we called it ‘the squatter’), no matter what we threw at it. 

On a beautiful sunny day in September 2011, my life became suddenly black as he took his last breath. On 12 September 2011, a man that the world could not afford to lose, lost his battle. And his wee General became a widow. 

Grief is a mistress I have learned to live with because it does not leave. But you do find that the smiles become less tearful and you realise that the sun still shines. 

My heart still beats to his tune and it remembers a four-letter word, because it conquers the darkness: Love.

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