So yesterday we were supposed to go for a picnic to celebrate with some friends on the first birthday of their little boy. But mum and boy were ill and the weather turned up shit, so picnicking was off  which at least saved me the bother of having to be vigilant about ticks (agreed venue was Bradgate Park, home to many deer and thus many many parasites). Instead we packed ourselves into the car and took a wending road trip through Leicestershire’s villages to Twycross Zoo. Little B seemed much more interested in the human specimens wandering around, but Mr and I had a lovely time examining the monkeys and apes and taking great lungfuls of animal air. We stopped in a cafe so Little B could throw his lunch around; we marvelled at how constructed and dinosaurish giraffes look in real life; the rain fell, on and off. And then we came home.

What we didn’t do was drive down to London to celebrate with my brother on the occasion of his 37th birthday, because my brother is no longer here. He didn’t even see 35. Mesenchymal chondrosarcoma came and ate him all up. How long was it in there, curled around his spine like a soft, patient slug, sending out its heralds to the lungs and leg and optic nerve? We don’t know, will never know, just like we’ll never know what activated it or why it had to be him, my big brother, my kind, loving friend. Cancer took him away from me and the thought of living the rest of my life without him makes me feel sick.

Happy birthday Simon. I know life is busy and I’m full of joy at raising my wonderful son. But I miss you every single minute of every day. I can’t put you in the past because I can’t bear the idea that you are not with me. The cancer grew in you but it left its shadow behind in all of us. Our faces are not the same and the knives in our hearts will never come out.


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