The sun was pelting down as I drove home yesterday when I heard the news of David Bowie’s death on the radio. My stomach flipped, blood ran cold and I concentrated extra hard on the road ahead as my mind fumed with one thought:“Fuck you, cancer”.
Fuck you for taking our talent, our loved ones, friends and family.
Fuck you for spotting heroes, brave men and women with meaningful lives ahead of them and whisking them away.
Cancer is the dark scourge lurking around every corner; the black, insatiable beast that growls in the faces of our most cherished and selfishly plucks them from our sides leaving a heartbreaking void. This is the foul face of evil, the terrorist of health and thief of opportunity.
Every single one of us has been touched by cancer in some way; a health scare, a loved one’s battle or loss, an emotional story of a stranger’s battle that’s moved us to tears. It’s as rife as it is unfathomable – but we must not admit defeat and let this bully win.
On Sunday September 28th 2014 my dear friend Gavin Reeve-Daniels lost his fight with pancreatic cancer. Years before, I had sat next to him at the magazine we worked at where we named each other ‘Robin’ and ‘Robin’; double the energy to empower our editor, ‘Batman’. Gav creatively sketched his way through meetings, fizzed through brainstorms and brought warm, amusing tales about his beloved wife to the office. With a courage, bravery and strength I’d never seen before, he broke the news of his diagnosis on social media so his friends and family could rally round with what we termed ‘Chumotherapy’. This bubbling banter and unwavering support proved to be a welcome antidote to his gruelling chemotherapy.
One day, drained by the devastating disease, he curled up in the garden with his two-year-old son and shared a bowl of strawberries. Beautifully, he coined the term ‘strawberry moments’ for those sweet moments in life we share with our loved ones. He inspired all of us remain upbeat, courageous and positive in the face of sheer horror.
The UK media rallied with various fundraising events raising funds for ‘Gav Aid’ in conjunction with Macmillan Cancer Research. He and his wife had t-shirts made up with the slogan ‘C**ting Cancer’ on which set social media alight with agonising, raging defiance. They both wrote heartbreakingly honest posts on social media, breaking down stigma, letting people into their brave battle and shining a spotlight in the face of a demon who likes to hide in the dark.
He made us more conscious of what a beautiful life we have and most importantly encouraged everyone to keep fighting against cancer. Be warned, cancer: the brightest medical minds are onto you, working towards finding a cure and all around the world, money is being poured into research because this is a fight that we will win.
It feels like yesterday my brilliant, talented fantastic friend lost his fight. It feels like yesterday because, yesterday another star lost their life to the same monster. We all have had stars stolen from us. It makes me sad – and it makes me sick.
Watch: In memory of David Bowie.
As I blinked away tears yesterday after I heard the news, I kept my eyes on the road ahead. And so must we all.
We must not lose our focus or take our eyes off the important journey we are on. We can’t get distracted, close our eyes, give up or recoil in sadness. We will win this filthy fight.
At Gav’s funeral the words sung out from the hymn sheet, “All the stars are coming out tonight, they’re lighting up the sky tonight for you…”
Tonight, we should all take a breath and look up. Look, there they are; our friends, our family, all the stars that we’ve lost. Each one a glorious star which lights up our sky, inspires our fight and strengthens our wings.
As the world mourns David Bowie, we must remember to stand together and stand firm in the face of cancer.
Like standing up to a bully, after taking blow after blow after blow, we pick ourselves back up. We take a step forward, bravely stand toe to toe, square up to cancer and say: “You may have won the battle, but you haven’t won the war”. Look out, cancer, we are coming for you…