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"Feeling broken-hearted and blessed": A country star's last days with her family.

“Feeling broken-hearted and blessed all at the same time this morning… watching my beautiful bride pour a lifetime of love into a few minutes a day,” country music star Rory Feek, 50, wrote in the caption of a photo he posted yesterday to Instagram.

His wife Joey Feek is an American country singer. She’s a 40-year-old mother of a baby girl, who has Down syndrome. She’s married to her musical collaborator Rory.

And she’s fighting a very public battle with terminal cancer.

Joey Feek has been cared for in her hometown of Alexandria, Indiana since stopping treatment for stage four cervical cancer, and her family and friends fear their time with her is coming to an end.

Her husband has been chronicling his wife’s illness in a blog called This Life I Live, and country music fans in the US have been faithfully following their story.

They know Joey might not live to find out whether she and Rory will win the Grammy and ACM awards they were recently nominated for, but they take comfort in the time they are able to spend together.

“Without realizing I was doing it, God has allowed me to capture hours and hours of Joey and her life at home on the farm, raising Indiana and playing music,” Rory Feek told People. “I can’t help but believe that those clips will be an important part of keeping Joey’s memory alive in Indy’s heart.”

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Rory Feek documents his wife’s cancer with great candidness but without self-pity. He records precious moments as well as the minutiae of living with a cancer-stricken loved one while also caring for a special-needs baby.

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Joey and Rory Feek. Image via This Life I Live.

A recent blog post describes the painful parting of his wife and her best friend, who came to visit the couple in Indiana from her home in Oregon.

“Joey’s best friend Julie has been here for a week and was supposed to leave this evening and fly back home to Oregon where she and her husband Joe live. But this morning as I sat beside my wife, and Julie started packing her things… Joey’s tears began to fall.

“She was inconsolable.

“I put my arms around her and asked what was wrong. As her lips quivered and she tried to catch her breath, the tears streamed her cheeks and Joey said, ‘I don’t think I will ever see her again…'”

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Joey Feek with her best friend Julie. Image via This Life I Live.

It’s an entirely different cancer narrative to what we are accustomed to.

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It was considered brave and dignified when David Bowie and Alan Rickman died of cancer without telling the world of their suffering earlier this year.

First we lost Bowie, which was a terrible blow. When I read the news, I said aloud: “But I didn’t even know he was sick!”

Rickman also suffered privately. Their families have asked for respect and privacy at this sad time.

The Feeks’ way of living with cancer is also brave, also dignified, albeit in a different way.

With each post about his wife’s day-to-day life, Rory Feek shows not just the wrenching sadness of watching someone you love die, but the pure joy of savouring every moment.

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Joey Feek has stage four cervical cancer. Image via This Life I Live.

In a blog post from November 2015, Rory Feek wrote that he and his wife had discussed just this issue.

“And we talked about how much is too much to share. How honest do we really want to be?

“… Sharing what we’re going through with others is really all we have to give. If you share what you’re going through with me… maybe I’ll be able to draw something good from it if I am one day in your shoes.”

After describing the last time he danced with Joey, on the last day she could stand up, Rory Feek concluded:

“Like dancing, she wants to do this right, or not do it at all… to share the good, the bad, and the beautiful.

“And so we will.”

There is a happy side to this existence, a side the public rarely sees. The way each interaction takes on heightened meaning; the way every quiet moment has poignancy; the rallying of family and friends.

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Rory Feek with his two daughters from a previous relationship, Joey Feek, and their baby daughter Indiana. Image via This Life I Live.
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When celebrities become ill, they often disappear from public view, their decline hidden as if it’s a shameful secret.

The next thing we hear: a beloved singer/actor/performer/public figure has died.

It makes cancer a terrifying unknown entity, to be suffered behind closed doors.

The spectre of cancer stalks us all: according to the Cancer Council of NSW, one in three women and one in two men will be diagnosed with the disease during their lifetime. We all know people who have fought cancer.

Rory Feek’s latest blog post about his wife’s best friend “Saint Jules” concludes heartwarmingly.

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“Saint Jules” was first to shave her head in honour of Joey Feek. Image via This Life I Live.

Rory wrote of Julie:

“She cooks, she cleans, changes the baby’s diaper, and does any and everything else that she can find to do that needs to be done while we’re living here out of suitcases… not waiting for someone we love to die. But helping the woman we all love to live.

“And so at the Indianapolis airport this evening, a plane will take off and Saint Jules (as Joey’s daddy calls her) won’t be on it. Instead, she will be with her best friend.”

Rory Feek wrote in his latest blog post that he can’t envisage a life back in Tennessee wbere they made their home without Joey.

“I cannot even begin to imagine going home to Tennessee without Joey, or living my life and raising Indy without her… but chances are, that day is coming.

“Joey and I both have questions.  Lots of them. Hard questions that we don’t have any answers for.  But still, we have faith – we choose to believe.  I think that’s why they call it faith.  If we knew all the answers, no faith would be required.

“And so Joey and I do our best each day to only see the plus’s [sic] in our life.”

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