In the book I mention that after selling my café and property I spent a couple of months helping my sister Marie nurse her husband Ralph through his terminal brain cancer. I would like to expound on that experience as it was so life-changing.

I need to back up here and mention that almost eighteen months earlier Ralph had been diagnosed with stage two brain cancer in his right frontal lobe. It was a miracle they found it, as he had needed an MRI for an ear problem and they picked up some ominous shadows which a later biopsy confirmed. He was determined to beat it, changing his diet and researching every natural therapy he could. The doctors said that to operate was too risky and he didn’t want to undergo chemo therapy. He wanted quality of life, not quantity. He was 71 at the time of diagnosis and since he was a teenager he had known he was going to die at the age of 72. A premonition or a self-fulfilling prophesy? Things went well for the next ten months or so with Ralph and Marie having the gift of spending quality time together travelling around Australia, until a grand-mal seizure upon returning home left him paralysed down his left side. This signalled that the cancer had become more aggressive and he was now in stage four; terminal.

About two months after the seizure, Marie, Ralph and I went to the movies then lunch afterwards, as we often did. We were all very close, as a family but also on a spiritual level, and they had been there for me in some of my darkest times. Sadly, this day Ralph was barely able to make it through the movie. He was visibly weak and very tired, now dependent on a walker for mobility, but he did his best to appear perky, trying to make jokes through his slurred speech.

Marie was an experienced aged-care director of nursing, now retired, and wanted to care for Ralph at home, but she had a bad back from years of nursing and was despairing that she didn’t know how she was going to manage it alone. Then it came to me…once I was free from the café and property, I had all the time in the world and would be able to help them. When I said that to Marie she burst into tears, relieved and grateful that her prayers had been answered.

So a couple of months later on the day I picked up my van, my son Jamie towed it less than an hour away to the coast and the caravan park which was to be my home for a while. He gave me a quick lesson on towing on the way there as I had never pulled anything larger than a 6×4 trailer! By this time Ralph had deteriorated quite rapidly and Marie wasn’t coping too well, getting sick in the process as she often did when stressed, so he agreed to go into a nursing home for care so Marie could get some much-needed rest.

Marie and I visited Ralph every day, making an effort to remain positive and reassuring. He wasn’t the easiest patient, being a strong willed and independent man. To have his mobility and bodily functions slowly taken away from him was humiliating. We watched him go through the stages of grief, the slightest thing, memory or regret sending him into fits of inconsolable sobbing. Despite being deeply spiritual and knowing that death was not the end and that he had many family members waiting to greet him on the other side when he went home, he has saddened to leave the rest of his loved ones here.

Continued in Part 2