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 away. Battling a disease that is relentless in its attack. And your life here is busy anyway, with a career, children, husband, home.

When Mom was ill, I put that all to one side, but kept an eye on things to make sure that nothing was going too wrong. After all, Mom only lived a couple of miles away, and I knew that I could be with her in minutes.

We watched Mom succumb to her cancer, with dignity and humour. Day by day, we were aware of her growing weaker, less appetite, her eyesight dimming.

And when the day dawned that was to be Mom’s last, we were prepared. Hands-on, keeping her comfortable, touching her hand, playing soft music. We were told that the last sense to leave is hearing. So we told Mom we loved her.

I know it was a comfort to us and I hope it was a comfort to Mom. She died peacefully at home.

I heard about a young woman; wife, mother, career lawyer, daughter, sister. Her illness was swift. Her family did not get to see her before she died. Indeed, the last phone call was some weeks before. And because of the distance to travel, some family members decided not to go to the funeral. I understand their decision, made at the time with the best intentions. But it does worry me that the final goodbyes have still not been said, the tears not yet cried.

Grieving is a physical punch in the stomach. It messes with your head. How difficult must it be when your loved one lives so far away?

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.

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