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​World Cancer Day Q&A: Jude

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02 Feb 2018

Ahead of World Cancer Day, we speak to Jude, a full-time carer for her husband Nige who is living with non-Hodgkin lymphoma

Jude and Nige walk along the beack in the sunshine with their young son. They are holding hands and smiling

Sunday 4 February is World Cancer Day. Collectively, blood cancers are the third biggest cancer killer in the UK. To mark the day, we have a very personal Q&A with Jude, a full-time carer for her husband Nige. Nige is currently living with non-Hodgkin lymphoma and is also one of Patient Ambassadors. Although Nige has not yet achieved remission and has been receiving treatment for over two years, every day he and Jude remain very hopeful.

When was your husband diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma?

Nige was diagnosed with a rare form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma on 2 February 2015 after becoming seriously ill very quickly.

How did you feel when you found out this news?

Part of me was glad they had found the reason for him being so ill but a much bigger part of me was devastated. I remember being handed a tissue by the nurse as I hadn't realised the tears were falling. I was acutely aware in that instant that our lives, and that of our young son, had changed forever.

How long have you been a carer for Nige and what does it involve?

I have done all I can to help Nige deal with his illness from the beginning. I love him and it's a privilege to do so – as much as I wish it wasn't in our life. I don't see myself as a carer but I strongly feel that what I can do is ensure that everyday things are taken care of. I don't see any point in Nige expending the little energy he has to clean, cook, do the shopping or washing – the list goes on. When Nige has treatment, I support him by taking him to appointments, asking questions, making notes and looking after him after each session of treatment. There are days, especially post treatment, when he's not able to drive, pick our son up from school, get up in the mornings to help with getting ready for school, take our son to his out of school activities, make dinner or help out with bedtime... I could go on.

Nige, Jude and their son are pictured on the beach in front of a cliff

What is daily life like for you and Nige?

Life isn't like it was, that's for sure. It never will be again. We have a young son who adores his dad beyond words and needs support as he sees the impact on his dad. We have always been very honest about it at his request. I work part-time and find it very hard to balance my professional responsibilities with those of my family and I often tear myself into pieces trying to do it all. I do have a very supportive boss which really helps. I find myself permanently exhausted as I worry daily. I smile and laugh too, of course, but the worry of the present, never mind the future, is real and logical in our world.

Nige went back to work after 16 months off. He isn't fit to do his previous job or to work full-time as he did and we have been really fortunate that his work have met his new needs with another meaningful role. They also fully support him with time off for treatment. Nige's cancer affects our life every day in lots of ways – his fatigue and other symptoms impact on where we can go, what we can do, what we want to do, who we see, the plans we can make, recognising the changing support needs of our son and each other and adds to the daily list of things I need to take responsibility for – and we do all this whilst trying to embrace, and even celebrate, our new 'normal'.

Nige and I spend as much time together as we can and try to make the moments meaningful – whether that's sitting in silence, organising Bloodwise fundraisers, watching a box set, going to the gym, taking a walk, or talking about our wishes for the life we have to live and love now. We probably feel safest when it is just us, which is probably hard for others to understand.

What does World Cancer Day mean to you and your family?

World Cancer Day gives us another chance to raise awareness and to help others recognise the impact cancer has on the whole family. We will spend some extra time counting the many blessings we have. We'll remember others who have walked this path before us, those walking their own path and those who'll find themselves here in the future and why it's important to do all we can so that others don't walk here. And, most of all, we'll consider ourselves lucky that we have each other as family.