The ‘Big C’ has an impact on far too many lives

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Cancer. The very word is enough to strike fear into the hearts of every one of us.

My own mother, who is in her 80s, had a bit of a health scare a few years ago and, by the grace of God, the tests came back all clear.

It was a bit of a wake up call for her and although she still smokes, she has now cut down from 30 to 25 cigarettes a day.

Yes my family have been very lucky, but, as they say, everyone knows someone who has been diagnosed with cancer and I have seen the devastating effect it can have on previously healthy people.

Two of my friend Seamus’s uncles were diagnosed with terminal cancer and the deterioration was so rapid he said you could not believe they were the same men.

Once strong and proud, in a matter of months they became as frail as birds and had to have round the clock care. Seamus said it was actually quite a relief for the family when the uncles passed away. They did not want their loved ones to die, but they did not want them to live on in agony either.

Seamus said both men were poor, pale reflections of themselves in the weeks before they died. What he noticed most about them though, the two of them coming from the generation of grafters and those who just get on with things without a fuss, was their eyes.

They still had that steely strong gaze and never-say-die determination in their eyes. Unfortunately their bodies were physically not able to cope.

My former husband was a big fan of the beat combo Doctor Feelgood and used to play their records around the house constantly.

The band’s former guitarist Wilko Johnson was recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer - the same disease which killed my all-time favourite Hollywood actor Patrick Swayze.

That never-say-die fire must be in Wilko’s eye too, because he plans to tour and play until he drops. A worthy desire, but one which his friends and family must be worried about.

It all comes down to quality of life.

You read about Terry Pratchett, one of my favourite authors, who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

Can you imagine a worse thing happening to someone who is known for his sharp wit and intelligence?

Stephen Hawking, one of the most perceptive and inquiring minds on the planet - and the man aliens would come to have a cup of tea with first if they did visit Earth - is stuck in a wheelchair.

I think what I’m trying to say is we have to count our blessings while we can and live every day to its fullest, because you never know what’s around the corner.