real life

'I was told I was going to die. The first thing I did was leave my husband.'

When Annabel Nnochiri was told she had only two-and-a-half years to live, she did what many terminally sick people do: create a bucket list.

But at the top of the North London mother’s list was a goal not so common.

Annabel aspired to leave her husband of 28 years.

“I had a good life but just felt completely trapped and wanted to break free,” the 56-year-old, who was diagnosed with stage four cancer in 2012, told BBC.

After telling her plans to her son, 19, and daughter, 16, the mum-of-two secretly began preparing her new life; she put inheritance money left behind by her parents, who died in a car crash months prior, towards a new flat, and waited half a year to share any of this with her husband.

“Knowing I had a short time to go I knew I couldn’t live the rest of my life just being a housewife,” she said.

“I thought I’ve got two-and-a-half years left and I don’t want to be in this house. I don’t want to be cooking dinner every night… I want to be free!”

LISTEN: How Samuel Johnson lives with so much sadness and spends his time being there for others dealing with cancer. (Post continues…)

Five years on, and one of 12 people filmed for a British documentary focused on terminal patients called A Time to Live, the art teacher has no regrets about how she’s approached death. Not only has she remained good friends with her ex-husband, she’s since experienced “a very happy love life” with another man.

“If I hadn’t had the cancer I would have been a dull person. But because of it I’ve become a much braver, naughty older woman,” she said.

“I could live a few more years, I do still want to live – for my children, to see my grandchildren. I dislike being referred to as a cancer survivor. I’m just getting on with it. Living with it. It’s a long journey.”

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