The Three Rules of Cancer Club

By Mark Russell Dean


There are three rules of Cancer Club:

1. Have a party
2. Buy some shoes
3. Go on holiday

This is how we lived, because cancer is not about death, it is about living. Live you must when your mortality is challenged. And live we did.

Under these rules... I have watched Tash twirl for hours, shoes discarded, her feet bare on dance floors, front rooms and backyards of London, Sydney and Verona.

She would dance, she would smile, she would move, twirling one hand in the air and the other piloting its own upward spiral holding a Jack and Coke. There she would stay into the early hours, until the party would end, and home we would go, my wife whooping, punching the air in celebration of a good night out. She always looked wonderful, not glamorous in hiding, but luminescent for now. From her head to her toes a glorious escarpment of the best you could buy. Our flat overflowed with clothes and shoes, so much that she would hide her illicit scarpe at work, sneaking the massed footwear back on nights I was out. When we finally took her home, we made sure she looked good: her best shoes, her best frock, her best as ever, her last. Always the most beautiful Bella Figura.

There was always a holiday before treatment, a piss off to the prescription.

The first: back home to be married. 'Don't try to arrange your wedding from the other side of the world in six weeks,' she informed our guests triumphantly as we dined at Aria embraced by the Opera House, Bridge and Harbour.

The last: to Iceland. Really she was too sick to fly, but wanted to go, so we went anyway. From Sydney through Siciliy, Verona to Paris, Mallorca, Sweden and around again, everything was always possible. My albums of photographs now digital chronicles of life once lived; bright sunsets, close poses, pictures of living as statements full of intent. Only now I see, in the back of her smile, the knowing that we could never avoid the-what-might-happen-next.

When I held her maybe, maybe she could. In those moments I would write cheques I knew I could never cash, borrowing the strength to keep ahead of her by sacrificing any of me. I did this because I loved her, I did this because I knew I could, because I wanted to. All she wanted was to lead a normal life and all I wanted to do was make sure that she could.

In the end perhaps, we lived more than that.