Death of newspaper columnist Sue Carroll on Christmas Day

Sue Carroll

I was deeply saddened to read of the death on Christmas Day of newspaper columnist Sue Carroll. From time to time I had read her down to earth columns in the Mirror newspaper and admired her sharp-eyed,  no nonsense approach to life. Her writing was full of  fearless honesty, warmth and humanity.

“My job is a privilege,” she explained once. “The most rewarding thing about it is the letters I get from people who say, ‘You just said exactly what I was thinking’. I love the fact I’ve been able to put a voice to their feelings.”

In July 2010 Sue was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Later she wondered “How long had this b*****d alien thing been attacking my pancreas – a part of my anatomy I barely knew existed until a surgeon helpfully drew a graphic map of where, at this early and highly optimistic stage, he planned to remove the two small cancerous tumours?”

Surgery failed to remove the tumour, then, during the chemotherapy, she suffered a stroke which left her paralysed down her left side. Sue was determined to get back to work  and eight months later she used her one good arm to tap out an article telling readers where she’d been.

Getting the news

I suspect we all harbour fears of how we might react to being told that, in life’s great lottery, we’ve got the disease neither money nor the best brains in medical science can guarantee to permanently eradicate. I always imagined I’d rant and scream: “Why me?” Instead, I froze and stared at the floor as my doctor revealed the results of a CT scan. There were no ifs, buts or arguments – this technology is cruelly accurate.  Of course, the words “Why me?” flitted through my mind. But seriously, since one in three people are diagnosed with cancer every year, it’s been more a case of “Why NOT me?”..

Learning that life is fragile

For someone who has survived childhood and a few risky adult escapades without ever injuring a limb and who only rarely saw a doctor, the past months have been like sitting on my own personal earthquake and the aftershocks still reverberate to remind me that life is fragile.

On positive thinking

From the very beginning I knew a certain amount of strength was required of me to get through this stuff… and those immortal words “positive thinking” were repeated often. Only now do I appreciate that, like happiness, you take positive thought where you can find it… a new crop of daffodils by the roadside, the eternal power of laughter with friends, every small ­kindness or prayer offered, my godson Theo’s contented gurgles.

The day after this article appeared, Sue went on TV and thanked friends who had rallied round.

At times like this you think ‘what I could do with now is an angel’ then you suddenly find you are surrounded by them – in the shape of friends. You think you can count friends on one hand but you have no idea how many people love you.

Reading those words made me reflect on all the kindness, support and love you have shown me during this difficult time, and how much strength and comfort it has given me. Life is very hard sometimes – illness, bereavement, separation and divorce, bitter disappointment and a myriad of losses can break us – but   when the difficult times come, it is the love, compassion, kindness and support  of family and friends which carry us through. And if we have that in our lives, we are truly blessed.