.

'When you deal with something like cancer, parts of life become a blur and other parts are like watching on an HD TV. I can remember the conversation Simone and I had in the car coming home from dinner. The bumps in the road were causing so much pain to her abdomen that I almost had to stop the car. The next day, I persuaded her to visit the hospital - she only went because it was a Thursday, which meant she didn’t start teaching until lunchtime. We are extremely lucky that living here (Phuket, Thailand) we have great medical insurance which bypasses the need to see a GP. She went straight to the gastro specialist. He prodded and poked a bit and dismissed any tummy related problem, however decided to do an ultrasound just in case it was her appendix. This is when our whole life changed. Within 72 hours of this ultrasound, she had various other tests and assessments. We then learnt that she had cancer. 29 years old, less than a year married and cancer. Surgery would happen in 14 days time.'

'Those 2 weeks were the worst 2 weeks of my life. We didn’t know what we were preparing for and I was constantly fighting away the voice in my head that told me I might have to prepare to say goodbye. Cancer is not an object or person you can get angry at. It doesn’t hear your fears or thoughts. This was not the plan and this was certainly not how life was supposed to be. We spent two weeks hibernating in the house, trying to keep busy and too scared to talk of the "what ifs". At times like this you see love manifest itself in different ways. We showed our love through silence, neither of us dared to talk about how we were feeling and share just how scared we were. I would spend hours emailing Ovacome for help and advice, trying to find some good news amongst all of the devastating ovarian cancer statistics.'

'Eventually surgery day came round and we both felt a sense of relief. No more waiting. She was wheeled into the anaesthetic room and we said our "goodbyes". There are so many things no one prepares you for, and that was one of them. "See ya later" didn’t seem adequate. A life being wheeled away, not sure what state it is going to come back in. My wife who only 9 months previously, I had told "til death do us part". Is this what I meant? I fell into my friends arms and let everything out. The next 7 hours were filled with calling her friends and family and clock watching.'

'I remember hearing the lift doors open and seeing the porters pushing a patient. I will never forget that long blonde hair. Her hair. It was falling off the bed slightly. Angelic, she looked angelic. Simone was only just beginning to wake up. She had specifically requested that I break the news to her when she woke up. I had to be strong, but how can you be, when a force gale wind is trying to knock you over. I held her and told her [that it was confirmed as cancer]. I knew she was strong but this was the first time I felt it. Her long blonde surfer’s hair was going. Her uterus, her womb, her tubes, her eggs, her fertility... gone. But, she was alive. I spent the next week too scared to show her how I was feeling. I would leave her room and sit outside on a chair and just cry and cry and cry. I felt so small and fragile. I don’t think anyone really knew how I was feeling, I couldn’t go there. I was so scared to let go in case I could never come back. She needed me more than I needed myself.'

‘The next week was a total blur. Doctors, nurses, friends, visitors and love came our way. I was surrounded by many people but I’ve never felt so alone in my life. Holding my wife in my hands, who didn’t even have the energy to hold her own head up. Cradling her like a baby, telling her, promising her that everything is going to be okay, and that one day we'll look back and laugh. I told her over and over again, hoping that if I said it enough times, I would convince myself too. I remember the smell so vividly, of everything I am not sure that will ever leave me. My wife, the woman whom I married so recently was changing in front of my eyes.’

‘Being the sole support for someone in this situation is relentlessly tough. You spend your time trying to build them up, protect them so much so that you drive yourself into exhaustion. I began to think of life without her and how I would cope. If life would be worth it. I was so desperate for help but we didn’t dare let anyone in. You somehow find something within you that says “keep going” and then you have no choice but to get on.’ 

‘You live in a perpetual state of helplessness, not being able to do anything or say anything that can change the situation. I’m a doer and I had to do something, to put my energy into something. I contacted friends and family and began trying to raise funds for Ovacome. It didn’t seem right that so little is known about such a horrific disease. We sold running vests and held a bake sale here on our tropical island. Our community really came together and we raised over 70,000 thb for Ovacome. It was my way of trying to do something so that people wouldn't go through what we had to endure.’

‘The next 10 months came and went, just like the cancer. She completed 6 rounds of chemo and enjoyed all the benefits that brings. The sickness, the hair loss, the fatigue and the suffering. Our journey was almost over. Check-ups come and go and for now, the cancer has stayed away. I’m not sure if we will ever feel free though. This was all too much, too young, too soon and far too painful.’

‘Looking back on our experience, medically, we were very lucky. Our relationship was never questioned by doctors and it was certainly never a barrier to her care. I was allowed with her all day and all night. We were treated by them like family. As time has gone on, we have begun to have the conversation which for a very long time was delayed: parenthood and having children. We had previously discussed it and it was always the plan that Simone would carry a child produced from my egg. However, this is no longer an option. Simone was robbed of her ability to carry or produce her own biological children. It hurts and it’s painful. It bothered us for a long time, the “what ifs”. We asked Simone’s doctor if actually we could have saved any of her eggs. The answer was a resounding no. They were too cancerous and nothing would have been worth keeping. The time scale of all this is forever frustrating; could we have caught the disease earlier? Could we have acted sooner to preserve her eggs? I don’t know and we will never know the answer.’

‘In life, there must always be positive, somewhere, and for us, this is now. We are starting our IVF journey this summer. I would have loved to have little Simones running around the house, but must be grateful for what we have and the options available to us. I cannot wait to see her as a mother. She, and the way she lives life, are an inspiration to many. And if having a hero for a mum isn’t cool, then I don’t know what is.’