For four years Susan has lived in limbo, waiting for Peter to die from terminal cancer.

Susan and Peter Erskine have been together for 33 years, and for four of those they’ve been waiting for Peter to die.

Strangely, the diagnosis came at exactly 11am on the 11th of the 11th, 2015.

But the Erskines now have a completely different affiliation to Remembrance Day – it was the day they were told Peter had six weeks to live.

“He wasn’t supposed to make it past Christmas,” Susan told Mamamia.

Samuel Johnson was faced with her sister’s terminal cancer. Post continues after video.

Video by MMC

Peter was told he had terminal prostate cancer and it had metastasised and spread to his bones.

“My heart just sank and I started to cry. It was really shocking,” said Susan.

But Peter didn’t die and the New South Wales couple now just live in a state of limbo, waiting for the inevitable but having no idea when it will come.

Sometimes Peter is really ill, sometimes he feels better, sometimes Susan even forgets he’s sick.

“It’s hard to go to that dark place and then come back out of it and live again knowing there’s no chance of a cure.

“You feel like you’re living in a bubble,” Susan explained to Mamamia. “And I would give anything to go back to the day before this bubble.”

“There are people on the lucky side who don’t have to think about mortality, and then there’s us,” she said.

“You never really deal with death until you have to. We all think we’re immortal don’t we… even though of course we’re not.”

Susan and Peter have been together 33 years. Image: Supplied.

One of worst feelings for Susan is one of guilt.

"You feel ashamed for feeling it... in my dark moments I think how much longer is this going to go on? Which sounds awful. It's a hard thing to talk about."

"It can sound very callous," she added. "But it's such a big thing to live with."

Susan says her life is a bit "weird" and getting to a place where you can live with a loved one's terminal diagnosis takes a long time. She almost had to grieve it to accept it, even though Peter is still sitting on the sofa next to her very much alive.

"I see the cancer as an uninvited house guest. Sometimes it sits quietly in its room, other times it bangs loudly on the door. I want it to go, but I know that when it leaves my husband will leave as well.”

When the diagnosis first came, Susan found herself writing notes for his eulogy.

"I wrote it in his birthday card this year but I changed the tenses," she laughed.

As the saying goes, if she doesn't laugh she'll cry - and she's already done that extensively. It's exhausting.

"It's so hard and it's so huge that we do actually laugh about it sometimes because it's so enormous," she said.


The Erskines live their lives a day at a time now because they have to.

"But it's really hard to live your life like that," Susan said.

"It's this juggling act of having a bit of a future, but not a big future.

"Our friends are off to Europe next year, but we don't plan ahead that far. We think about what we'll do this Christmas but we don't think about what we'll do next Christmas," she explained.

Susan and Peter 2
Susan and Peter in Kenya, 1994. Travel is no longer on the cards for the Erskines. Image: Supplied.

"I've been saying his 'time is limited' for four years, so it's a strange reality we live in. We don't have a sense of time," she said.

As Susan describes, time is now a "tunnel with no end". A tunnel that gets pretty damn dark sometimes.

While she's past the shock of her partner's diagnosis, Susan has no idea how she'll cope when he's gone.

She will be out of the bubble where she exists in a state of limbo, but she'll be in a new bubble - an unknown one.

A new one without her beloved Peter.

Susan is a guest on the Cancer Council's new podcast The Thing About Advanced Cancer which will be launching next week. It will be available here.

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