Lesley’s posts


About Lesley

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.

The online private GP


I wasn’t very well last week. This was really rather annoying as we were just back from a lovely holiday in Wales and I had plenty of work to catch up on. So when I woke up on Sunday morning … Continue reading


Do doctors talk about dying?


Many people think that having a conversation about dying is reserved for those with cancer. We tend to forget that there are other, often chronic, illness such as heart failure, which also need careful management of the expectations of end-of-life … Continue reading


Who do you turn to when your Mum is dying?


I have very mixed feelings about the support we were offered towards the end of Mom’s life. Everyone was lovely and kind to Mom, but nobody would talk about her dying. Even the Macmillan nurse wouldn’t broach the subject because … Continue reading


The Christmas Gift


I love Christmas. I love the build-up to Christmas. The crazy running around, gift-buying, baking, visiting, carolling, then the peace and quiet of Christmas Day. To reflect on the year, on life, be thankful, happy and sad. Christmas will never … Continue reading


Autumn colours


Mom always enjoyed the autumn colours on her birthday. She would have been 70 today. We will be going for a walk in the woods later, to enjoy the colours and to celebrate. Mom’s cancer was aggressive. The first round … Continue reading


Sea shell whispers


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This lovely cowrie shell was collected on Durban beach a long time ago, when Granny was a girl. She treasured it. She gave away all her earthly belongings before she died. She was bed-ridden, on a high-care ward, dying from … Continue reading


Always on my mind


I’m not used to people telling me things I didn’t know about my Mother. In the weeks leading up to her death from lung cancer, we talked a lot. She told me many personal things, and we shared the most … Continue reading


Walk and talk


Just when I thought there was no more to say, a simple comment to Dad today brought out another level of reflection from us both. Time has given us the space to listen and so nearly three years since Mom … Continue reading


The chair


Please don’t sit in her chair, It makes me ache that she is not here. Two Christmasses gone, Her place at the table will never be forgotten. I know you are a nice person, Not wanting to hurt me – … Continue reading


I’m not dead yet


Anniversaries focus the mind. Bring back memories. A talk radio discussion this morning reminded me how angry I was in the month before Mom died. How determined we were that Mom would not die in hospital. Mom was admitted for … Continue reading


Time passing


The every-day hum drum of life is OK. It’s the quiet times that get to me. The times when grief is close to the surface of my heart, and erupts in a harsh sob, that I can’t even tell the … Continue reading


Dear Friend (sharing grief)


Dear Friend, I am so sorry to hear that your dear Dad has passed away. I know your pain. The sadness. The overwhelming emotion of dealing with the death of a loved one. Your Dad’s death has brought back memories … Continue reading


Long-distance grieving


They say that the world is getting smaller, meaning it is easier to travel to or communicate with loved ones, friends, family and colleagues. But what about when someone you care about is ill, terminally ill? And living 10,000 km … Continue reading


Death in a care home


I am an advocate for dying matters. I believe that when your loved one is nearing the end of their life, you and your family should be told about the choices for their care. It is not an easy conversation … Continue reading


Close one door and another one opens


When Mom was diagnosed I was angry. So angry that her retirement had been ripped apart so cruelly. So angry that her life would be cut short and there was nothing we could do about it. Angry that my job … Continue reading


Don’t sweat the small stuff


I have changed. I used to be a worry-pot. I used to get annoyed at the slightest thing. I could get in a real temper. But that was before Mom became ill and died. It was a life-changing event. I … Continue reading


Could all the money in the world find a cure for cancer?


I honestly think the short answer to that is no, but I would love to be proved wrong. Funding shortfall There are any number of high-profile cancer research campaigns, all begging and pleading for funding. The UK medical research funding … Continue reading


Your choice


Sometimes, when things get a bit tough, it is easy to forget that we have a choice. We have a choice about where and how we die. With a diagnosis of terminal illness, we are given plenty of time to … Continue reading


When your time is up


I am writing this today, the day after Tony Nicklinson died. I don’t know his family, but I do understand how brave they are. To see your loved one suffer is so very hard to bear. We knew that Mom’s … Continue reading


Get your ducks in a row


That’s what Mom always said. She was a wise woman, right to the end. And her clarity and comprehension of her situation helped us to help her. My wonderful husband was pro-active in getting Mom to decide where she wanted … Continue reading


Isn’t it time we changed the way we do bereavement?


Bereavement doesn’t have to mean suffering. It can be a period of reflection, from which we, the survivors, draw comfort and strength to face the future without our loved ones. I have been close to my Dad this week as … Continue reading


Can General Practice handle the emotion of terminal illness?


Reading a GP’s Twitterings made me realise that we have very different ideas about what patients should expect from GPs. GPs expect patients to fit into the numbers game (alcohol consumption, weight, blood pressure, cholesterol). Patients expect GPs to treat … Continue reading


Sometimes, death is a negative


I enjoy reading grief blogs. They are often witty, inspirational and always personal. But some are written by cynical ‘grief specialists’, each with a unique process for dealing with grief. Now, this is OK for some, but for many of … Continue reading


Things my mother never taught me


My mother was a fine woman. She was strong and jolly and independent. She was not a stay at home mom. She worked full time and I went to pre-school when I was just two years old. I loved it, … Continue reading


Dying Matters Awareness Week


The support we had when Mom was dying was second to none. The group of people who rallied round and made sure that Mom’s wishes were met, were angels to her and to us. Mom found it difficult to accept … Continue reading


Be clear on cancer: what the NHS ads don’t say


Let me first be clear – I whole-heartedly support the NHS lung cancer campaign to know the signs and go to your doctor if you have a persistent cough. But ours won’t be the first you’ve read, or the last, to say … Continue reading


Tea and sympathy


I’m a great fan of the cup of tea. My favourite is Earl Grey made with tea leaves and beaming with bergamot. I don’t like it particularly strong. I take a little milk, but not sugar. I vividly remember my … Continue reading


Physiology of grief


As the impact of my Mother’s death lessens, I can now put into perspective the way my body reacted to the grief at losing my Mother to cancer last year. Some have likened the grief process to accelerated ageing, with changes … Continue reading


Mesothelioma in the UK and throughout Europe


I received an email  from the Mesothelioma Center. Although based in the US, I agreed to host a guest post. Jensen Whitmer has written the post, which I hope will get more of us thinking about the risks our loved … Continue reading


A more gentle approach to grief


Perhaps I was a bit harsh last week. I was feeling particularly vulnerable. It’s my birthday this week and I’m missing my Mom. My Dad has been leaning quite heavily on me and the emotional strain is getting a bit … Continue reading


De-clutter your life: moving on from grief


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. … Continue reading


The invisibility cloak


It has occurred to me that society has a way of cloaking the difficult aspects of life, death and some things in between. I assumed that because I was OK to talk about Mom’s cancer, everyone else would be OK … Continue reading


Let’s talk about dying


I have been looking at cancer blogs and forums and have noticed something quite disappointing. They are filled (quite rightly) with inspirational survivor stories and battle cries, but are lacking in discussions on death and dying. The two largest cancer … Continue reading