The Dance


Recently, I had to take my 10 year old daughter to an “immersion day” at a local high school, where she hopes to attend an accelerated sports program.

This presented something of an emotional challenge to me. At the end of last year, I was diagnosed with stage 4 terminal bowel and liver cancer, and the “best case scenario” for time I would see on this earth did not include walking my eldest daughter into her first day of high school. The best I could hope for was to see her graduate from primary school, and although I could expect to be at the very end of my days, I might be lucky enough to see her frock up, and stand next to her peers, on the cusp of a new life, one that would be exciting, and brimming with possibilities, but also all the angst and pain of the teenage years – difficult years which I would not be beside her to help her navigate through.

In the last few months, the situation has become somewhat more hopeful. I have a brilliant team of surgeons on my side, and have recently embarked on a series of operations with the aiming to prolong, and possibly even save my life. However, I am still left with an odds on chance that none of this will work, and I will still only see two years from diagnosis.

And so, I live my life standing on a small thin wire between hope, like the feeling I got in the high school gym that day – hope that I will be able to see my daughter begin the next stage of her journey, with stars in her eyes; and despair, at the possibility that she will look around at the love and pride on the faces of everyone else’s mums on her first day of high school – and wish that hers was there. Yes, it is a very thin wire, and one that is stretched between two points over a precipice, and sometimes it seems like every minute of every day is a struggle to keep my balance.

Lying in bed some sleepless nights, in those seemingly interminable hours before the darkness becomes the dawn, I have been given to resentment of the happiness that I have known these last few years. Years where I lost an ordinary love, and found a great love. Where side by side we saw four beautiful and long dreamed of daughters into the world, and watched with wonder as they grew, and changed and wove our family more tightly together, and quite frankly gave me a stability and contentment that I never thought I would know. And now, creeping resentment because I wondered why I had been given all this, only to have it taken away. If I wasn’t so happy, would it be easier to face death?

But mostly, I have wondered if I would have done things differently if I had known. Would I have run a million miles in the other direction from the man I adore, if I knew that one day, so soon, I could have to look into his face and say goodbye? Would I have had my four girls, if I had known that one day, so soon, I may leave them without a mother?

And lately, I have decided that I still would have done everything the same. This happiness that has allowed me to embrace life with such gusto these last few years, is the very thing that won’t let me give up on it very easily. While there is still another day to feel a small hand slip into mine, to embrace a good and loving man, to talk to a friend, to turn my face to the sun, I am determined to become ever better at tightrope walking, in the great hope that one day I can plant my feel on solid ground again.


Garth Brooks said in his song, The Dance, (this has become a bit of a song for my life),

I’m glad I didn’t know,

The way it all would end,

The way it all would go.

Our lives, are better left to chance,

I could have missed the pain,

But I’d have had to miss the dance.


I still don’t know how it will end, any more than the rest of us do, but I do know that regardless of this, I would change nothing. Because yes, I could have missed the pain, but I’d have had to miss the dance. And I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

5 Comments on “The Dance

  1. What a gift you are teaching your children and your fella and us who are following your journey. We can’t avoid the pain it comes to us all at different times of our lives. We all hope it will be later so we can see the ones we love independent and settled but it is what we do here and now that will teach the resilience to face life’s ups and downs, big and small. Thank you for making me find those little things in the everyday that make me happy and grateful.

  2. Love this. I cried reading this. When I was first diagnosed I sometimes wished I was childless as it was so painful to think I might not be there to see her grow up. Now I am mostly just glad to have her with the odd pang of grief and horror.

  3. There is so much to love about life, for however long we have it. So enjoy every moment, make it all special for all of you. Keep up the strong and valiant fight. Get every bit of love out of every day. Trust in your medical team it sounds like they are fantastic. Have a beautiful Christmas with your beautiful family.

  4. Hi Julia, you make me smile, you make me cry but most of all you make me feel grateful, we all have our struggles along the way but my goodness yours is a doozie, so you just keep on keeping on girl. Enjoy the graduation, enjoy Xmas, enjoy the first day of high school with your first born fairy and enjoy the same when the time comes with your other fairies, grow old with Gaz, I’m sure you can do it, Merry Xmas to all of you xx

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