I am not a life coach or counsellor. I’m not even a really friendly ear. I’m outspoken and honest. And I say this, de-clutter your lives. Do it now. Do not surround yourself with people who are negative and unrewarding. Do not be sucked into the vortex by the time thieves. Stand firm against the energy drains.

Colourful flowers, photo collage, April 2012, Lesley Beeton

There was a care-free time when I had time for everyone and everything. I could chatter away to a soup ladle at a dinner party (that’s a euphemism for someone else’s boring husband). I worked overtime at work, especially at dissertation time when stressed Undergraduates are tearing their hair out trying to get everything done before Finals and Graduation. I said yes to charity events, just helping out here and there. I agreed to cater for family gatherings large and small; people who, I might add, have not been seen or heard from since Mom’s funeral.

I remained cheerful throughout Mom’s illness, not wanting to bring other people down. Some friends did ask more probing questions, but most backed off from the details. As Mom’s death approached, people close to the family could be divided into two groups: those who wanted to say good-bye, and those who couldn’t. We never judged anyone, but I know it saddened Mom.

And in the aftermath of Mom’s death, the next step in the grieving process is all about making a fresh start. It can be comforting to keep things as they were, but that way of life no longer exists if an important person is missing. I have made an effort to try something new (photography) and to meet new people – Twitter has been great for this, with two Tweet-ups under my belt already. But, in order to make space for all these new experiences, I have had to re-evaluate who and what to keep in my life. The process is not yet complete, but there are already a few people who won’t be on my Christmas card list this year. Several years ago, my New Year’s resolution was ‘say no and mean it’; I’m re-deploying this one now. The plan is to surround myself with positive people and experiences, and to make time for lovely, supportive friends and family.

You wouldn’t keep old stuff in the loft for twenty years, would you? Well, OK, maybe you would, but now is the time to de-clutter. Bin your old stuff, feel the energy, move on with your life.

Living with Mom’s cancer





I am a scientist and a blogger. I have a PhD in the genetics of cardiovascular risk. My Mom died of cancer last year. We learnt a lot and met some amazing people. I want to share with others how to live positively with cancer, and make choices in end-of-life care. My top tip: Ask the difficult questions.