Thank You, Love

When love is the way

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On 19th May I watched Doria Ragland eyes fill with tears as she sat alone in St. George’s chapel at Windsor Castle. I felt so moved, I wanted to reach out and give her a warm hug of support.

The emotional impact of being Mother of a Bride is not to be underestimated. It’s a moment of huge pride but can also be stressful depending on what you have been through in the days or even years leading up to the event.

A month earlier this year I watched my daughter walk down the aisle to marry her Italian boyfriend in Richmond Upon Thames. There was a time when I seriously doubted if I would be present for such an important event or even live to see any of my three children become adults.

In 2004 my children were young teenagers and life was busy. I was teaching English in Italy, which was exhausting, poorly paid and frustrating but I loved it. Everything in my life appeared to be going well and in fact I felt extremely healthy and content.

I was saying goodbye to a class of Italian adult students of English on 29th July 2004 as it was the last lesson before the summer recess. I was mildly worried about the lump I had just discovered that morning after showering. I assumed it was a cyst as it was quite hard. It’s discovery was an accident and a total shock. I am ashamed to say I never checked my breasts previously for lumps. I do now.

A week later a mammogram showed very clearly there was a tumour and a biopsy confirmed that it was cancerous. I was also told firmly that there was no time to waste. I was in the operating theatre before the month was out because at the rate the tumour  was growing it was reckoned any later would be too late..

When I noticed my daughter’s radiant expression as she said ‘I do’ in the River Room of The Petersham Hotel, I remembered how I desperately ‘prayed’ to be present on future wedding days (should any of the children decide to get married of course.)

I felt so totally calm and present as I watched her smile and then found myself recalling the ‘third person’ moment, when as I sat in bewilderment in the surgeon’s office, I left my body behind. The moment I was told I had breast cancer it felt like the surgeon was talking to someone else. I almost looked over my shoulder in fact.

On the way home as the shock subsided my mind started to question.. ’What have I done to deserve this?’ I felt punished; Had I eaten the wrong things? I should have exercised more. Had I been exposed to radiation? Was it stress? I’d had quite a lot of that over the years for one reason or another. The pointless questions just went on on and on. 

Then a sense of inner peace overwhelmed me and I felt my heart open, as if a ray of light had entered it from a place unseen. This sounds bizarre I know but this experience gave me the strength to face the fear.

I decided to place my fate in unseen but trusted hands. If my time was up I would accept it as bravely as I could. I wasn’t afraid of death as I have always believed that nothing and no one ever truly ‘dies’ but just takes another form. Death is part of life. There is surely much more to the mysterious workings of the universe than our limited human brains could ever comprehend. I wasn’t afraid for myself but for those I loved.

So I unburdened my worries for them in an internally expressed plea to the force which is responsible for the endless cycle of birth and death. I have never given it a name when I have addressed it as such. ‘Love’ will do for want of a better word. I asked as humbly as I could manage for help. It went something like this, as I recall:

“I place myself in Your hands. If You feel I serve no further purpose here upon this earth, then I will gladly go, but I would really love the opportunity to accompany my children as they navigate their journey into adulthood. I love them with all my heart and soul. My husband is my true love, my once in a lifetime soul mate. I have so much love still to give, not only to my family but to the world. I want to make a difference in whatever way I possibly can. I would be grateful for the chance to live still, to be of use but if I am no longer needed here, if my work is done then I accept I have to leave for a journey I must make alone.”

I know this may seem really strange to some but it’s just the way I am and I was prepared to accept whatever would happen.

I did my best not to let the children see how hard the effects of the subsequent chemotherapy was upon my body. My gums bled even after gentle brushing and my scalp was so sensitive after the second round of chemo that I couldn’t physically stand the sensation of hair on my head. When it started to shed upon my pillow in clumps I asked my hairdresser to shave it all off and wore a jaunty little cap.

I have so many people to thank and I do so with every fibre of my being on a daily basis but I am especially grateful, to ‘Love.’

In those days chemo was a lot more severe than it is now and I thought I wouldn’t be able to continue once cycle 5 came around. But after six months of intense therapy and six weeks of radiotherapy I began to slowly get my energy back. My body had been so blasted that most days I could barely eat or walk. I lost a huge amount of weight and had to use a stick at first to help me walk in the early weeks. Five years of taking Tamoxifen followed and yearly mammograms and post cancer check ups, for which I am hugely grateful.

My husband and children were courageous throughout but I know they suffered deep down. I was determined not to add to their stress or whinge when I was in pain as I didn’t want them to worry. I had been given this chance to fight so I made friends with my juicer, maintained my sense of humour (which has always got me through most things) and lived each day with a sense of positivity and gratitude.

I still live in this spirit. Never a day goes by when I don’t say a silent ‘thank you’ for this gift we call life. 

I have been blessed to witness my two daughters and son grow into beautiful, intelligent, open hearted young adults. They each have a social conscience and great sense of humour. I am incredibly proud of their academic achievements but much more of who they are as people. 

When my daughter beamed at me as she walked back down the aisle as a married woman my heart leapt up inside my chest – so very near to the breast that I miraculously did not lose. I had been granted my deepest wish. I was a Mother of The Bride and present at my own daughter’s wedding. 

Me and my daughter Rachael at her wedding this year

I have so many people to thank and I do so with every fibre of my being on a daily basis but I am especially grateful, to ‘Love.’

Doria has been thrust into the spotlight of the world’s press for her past to be dissected and discussed by strangers. Quite enough has been written about her possible thoughts and feelings but her eyes communicated all you needed to know. 

She was present and blessed to witness such a unique moment in her daughter’s life – and surely, that’s what counts the most.



Main image via
Me and my daughter by Jules Bower

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  • Oh Diane – this is beautiful and heartbreaking.

    First of all I do hope that you are now well and cancer-free and living a wonderful life.

    Secondly, thank you for these sentiments of love and gratitude…sometimes we need a little reminder to appreciate what we have.

    Thirdly – that image of you and your daughter says it all (and has me weeping into my laptop!)…you are an inspiring mother and person – thank you for that!

    Much love – Cx

  • What a beautiful read …. from a beautiful person .
    The love was really felt that day .. I am privileged to have met you all … and Life is a gift …. for sure xxx

    • Thanks so much Tanya…

      I have only ever had professional and make-up done twice before and wasn’t happy each time. So I was very nervous (as I’m sure you could tell!) when you came to my room at The Petersham. I am so thrilled with the fabulous job you did on my make-up and hair. Being allergic to parabens is a real nuisance and the fact that you researched products especially for me was so thoughtful.

      But even more than your professional work I was impressed with you as a person. I enjoyed our conversation over the two hours we spent together so much that I almost forgot there was a wedding to attend!

      You are an incredible person and I hope with all my heart that our paths cross again!

  • Ciao Camilla and thank you for your lovely comment. It was my experience with A Life Loved that inspired me to finally write about this very challenging period of my life. I actually wrote it before the Royal Wedding took place and then after I watched Doria Ragland’s emotional but quiet dignity as the ceremony unfolded I felt inspired to write something in praise of Mother of Brides.. and when I sat down all came tumbling out.

    So many people have written about the historic importance of Doria as a woman of colour and her role on the day. I wanted to focus upon the emotion and love that is evident between her and Meghan… plus the central importance of LOVE as a force.. because I honestly think I am still here because of it. So far cancer free since 2005 and fingers crossed!

  • Your article really touched my heart, Diane! I have a picture of my mom and me at my wedding that is so incredibly special for me, because she battled breast cancer as well, and I was so scared she wouldn’t be there for my wedding one day. I remember when she told me her diagnosis, I thought ahead, and my wedding was one of the moments I knew I couldn’t, wouldn’t be able to have without her. Through chemo she beat it too, and I was so very, very blessed that she was there, sharing every moment, and that you were as well, making my wedding day so breathtakingly beautiful! I know your daughter felt the same joy I did on her special day, with her stunning mom watching proudly! Thank you for this, and for the love you send out into the world! ❤️

    • Emily this is so beautiful, thank you so much for taking the time to comment and share. I will never forget your wedding and the emotional vibe on the day. I was totally unaware of your situation and am celebrating in my heart with you your family right now. Your lovely mom is a fortunate woman, not only to have beat this terrible disease but also to have an amazing daughter. Your photo (which you shared with me on facebook) is absolutely gorgeous!

  • How very moving Diane, thank you for sharing this experience. You both look so radiant l in the photo – no-one would guess the personal trauma you have been through and how much it meant to be present on that day. Love to you and your family xx

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