A letter to… The children I’m forced to leave
Dear Louis and Ella,
Hearing those terrifying words, my first thoughts were for you.
‘Breast cancer,’ the doctor said. It was March 2014 and, aged 36, I knew I had to fight.
Louis, you were 12, Ella, 10, and you needed your mum.
Your bravery when me and your dad Paul, then 40, broke the news stopped me crumbling.
And, as I battled a double mastectomy and chemo, you’d make me cups of tea. So sweet!
With your dad by my side, too, I fought really hard.
By January 2016, I was in remission.
So, after 18 years together, your dad and I decided to get married – you were so excited!
I couldn’t wait to see you in your bridesmaid dress, Ella. And Louis, I knew that you’d look dapper in a suit.
Only, we were still making plans last January when the cancer came back – it had spread to my liver.
Dad held me as we both broke down.
You see, my darlings, the cancer was terminal. I was going to die. Telling you was so hard. Ella, you struggled to understand because of your autism.
But I put on a brave face, started palliative chemo.
It would only prolong my life for a few months, but I wanted as much time as possible with my family.
Wigs and make-up helped to hide my sickness, sadness and exhaustion. Your dad was my rock. Only, he’d been having agonising headaches...
Then, last July, he had a seizure and tests showed he had a arteriovenous malformation – a tangle of blood vessels – on his brain.
He was booked in to have surgery to remove it and was prescribed medication.
But as we didn’t think it was life-threatening, he focused on caring for me.
‘Thank God they’re still going to have you when I’m gone,’ I said to Paul.
In March this year, it was the month of our wedding.
Only, just a week before the big day, your dad collapsed in the shower.
Louis, you kicked down the door, panicking. Found your dad on the floor, lifeless.
You were so brave, putting him in the recovery position as I called 999.
But at University Hospital Coventry, we were told your dad had suffered a brain bleed and was brain dead.
The vicar due to marry us gave a blessing at your dad’s hospital bedside.
Then we said goodbye as his life-support was switched off. We were all hurting. But all I could think about was how you’d lost your dad and that your mum was dying.
So desperately unfair.
‘Who’ll look after them now?’ I wept to my mum Frances, 65. ‘They’ll never be alone,’ she promised me. And Nanny Frances will always be there for you. I’m fundraising to make sure that you’ll be OK. But, one day soon, I’m going to have to leave you… My health is rapidly deteriorating – I might not make it to summer. I know it’ll hurt. So, please, my precious Louis and Ella, cherish the memories we’ve made. You’re 16 and 14 now, and it breaks my heart I won’t see you grow up. But just know Mum and Dad are so proud of you and the people that I know you’ll become. Love you always… Mum xx Emma Maley, 41, Balsall Common, West Midlands
Precious family memories... I love you so much
In Florida, 2010