I met my beautiful wife Ange in Canberra 2001. She was best friends with my Aunty and it was a chance meeting that changed my life forever. We had two beautiful boys and she was an amazing step mum to my two older daughters. In 2009 we made a huge decision to take our family to PNG and we spent 4 years living in PNG as a family while she worked on the Aid program over there.
We moved back to Brisbane in 2012 and I still worked FIFO to PNG until 2013. In 2013 Ange found that her nipple was a little sunken and looking strange and then after scans and a biopsy our worst fears happened. Ange was diagnosed with stage III metastatic breast cancer. I remember the phone call like it was yesterday and our world was turned upside down.
Within days Ange had a mastectomy and the removal of her nodes under her armpit. After a year of intensive chemo and radiation she was given the all clear and our life although wasn’t back to normal had become a bit more normal.
In 2014 Ange went back to playing the sport she loved Softball and made new lifelong friends and had so much fun but in December that year she had a pain in her lower back. At first we thought it was just a pulled muscle and that she was getting too old for softball but after scans we found that the deep dark demon called Cancer was back. She had stage IV metastatic breast cancer that had spread to Ange’s bones. We were both devastated and it was now real that this was going to take the love of my life away from me and it was so unfair.
Like many things, cancer treatment seems much simpler in the abstract or on television than in the messy reality of life.
Instead it is a process where you are forced to make life changing and often heartbreaking decisions armed with only limited information while all the time dealing with the physical, mental and emotional side effects of the disease itself and the punishing treatment. Ange was stronger than anyone I’ve ever known before or since and to see this debilitating disease slowly take over her body was devastating.
You don’t get to see real bravery very often, however there was something quietly heroic in the way Ange handled the myriad of issues she was going through all the while taking care of the thousands of little details that go along with being a Mum to a young family. No matter how much pain or distress Ange was in, the kids always got cuddled, school lunches got made and their fears were soothed. Looking after young kids isn’t easy when you’re well, but being able to do it and face the world when you’re in the midst of cancer and chemo and countless radiation treatments is something else altogether.
Ange often said that in among all the injections and chemo treatments and hours spent in the hospital that our children were her best medicine.
We knew Ange’s prognosis was bad (though we hoped and yearned for a miracle) but we became conscious of ‘building memories’ for our family.
One of our last memorable trips before Ange passed was whale watching up at Hervey Bay with the boys. Although Ange was so sick I still remember her beautiful smile as the boys were in awe of the whales jumping in the ocean next to our boat.
I wish this story could have a happy ending. I wish I could tell you that Ange had a miraculous recovery and is here with me right now. I wish that so much.
Instead Ange’s health declined. Breast cancer is an insidious disease.
The cancer spread to Ange’s lungs and other organs and on August 17th 2015 she passed away. Ange was 45 when she died and our kids were 4 and 8. It was the worst and darkest day of my life times a thousand.
That was 3 and years ago now. I’ve learnt that grief isn’t linear. People talk about ‘time being a healer’, but when someone close to you dies you realise that’s not true.
It gets me at the strangest of times. I can cry when Ange’s favourite Cold Play song plays as I walk around the supermarket (kind of embarrassing when it happens!) or when we visit somewhere we went when there were four of us and I realise that there’s now only three.
I’m grateful that since Ange died a lot of people have given me and the kids love and support. Ange is still very much a part of our family, her love for life is still talked about over the breakfast table and I tell the kids about kind things she did or values that she believed in.
Of course I wish I could put things back the way they should be but I can’t. As well as being my wife Ange was also my best friend and she will always be in my heart.
As the years have passed I have been lucky to find a new love in my life Lisa and although it is so hard to move on I know that this is all that Ange would have wanted and she would be so happy that I have found such an amazing person for not only me but my children.
I have learnt that grief never leaves you it is with you forever but over time you gradually learn how to accept it and find space in your heart to start again.
Thank you for reading my story and I hope reading it may help you or others in similar situations to mine.