51. Lion

Half-way through any conversation about the l-e-d (or, as it's also becoming known, 'The dis-ease Formerly Known as Nigel') people will ask, 'How is Lion coping?'*

Lion is my husband. We've been together since 2001 and we are best friends too.

Well it's hard to tell, even for me. For those of you who know about astrology, I can say 'he has no water in his chart' and that will make sense to you.

He's not much of a one for showing - or even feeling - emotions. As a Taurean, he shows his love in practical things. He drives me; he makes my juices for me; he puts out my vitamins every day; he washes up; he fixes the car... He tries hard not to mind that I don't cook the yummy, meaty food he likes so much and that I don't make cakes any more.**

I know he cares ... and we're one of those couples who always says 'I love you' and kisses with every meeting and parting ... and in his lovely gruff way, he lets me know how important it is for him that I survive and thrive through this. He's relieved that I am so much better in every way than I was; that must have been a horrible time for him when I was facing the fear and depression and the seeming-inevitablity of chemo.

He loves his kids deeply too but he's not the kind of Dad that necessarily lets them know. Part of that's the Northern upbringing and part of it's the age thing. When his daughter's wife died, he simply didn't know what to do to help and he hates feeling helpless.

Our friends all ask him how he is when I go to the loo (which is fairly frequently given the vitamin C and the juices) but he brushes it off; he's not good at talking things over.

When his best friend Jon was killed in 2006, Lion didn't cry. In fact I've never known him cry and I don't think he can ever remember it either. But he drove up and down the motorway from the Midlands, sorting out Jon's flat and his estate and his computers and he said that helped him to process the loss.

Not that he's ever found a friend like Jon again. Jon was the one-and-only friend of a lifetime.

Until now.

Well that's really for dramatic effect. He found Roger Martin a few years back when we were in Lucca, Italy. Roger and his wife, Barbara, from Kansas, USA, were new arrivals in our favourite Italian town and, coming across Lion at a map of the town, asked him to recommend a restaurant. That was easy: Francisco's down by the railway behind the Rex Hotel. So good that only locals eat there.

We bumped into them again that night over dinner ... and after that, Lion and Roger started emailing each other. Two years ago, Roger and Barbara came over to Britain and stayed three nights with us; we got on like a house on fire and an enduring friendship was born.

Roger and Lion have been talking on email about what's happening health-wise either side of the Pond and that's been a huge relief to me because I know there's an outlet for him if he needs it. And, a couple of months back, Roger invited us to join them for a week in France in May. I was a bit doubtful - not because I don't like them; I really, really like them. But what with working out how to get to Cyprus for Ariadne's christening and not knowing how well I would be and all the costs of the treatment and all that, I didn't think we could do it.

But of course we can. Why? Because this bit is for Lion. This is what he needs and this isn't all about me. He wants a holiday where he can drive down through France and hang out with his friend. And so many of you have already been so kind and helped via the donation button that I truly believe that Lion can have his dream. I will say a proper 'thank you' another day but I just wanted to tell you about this dear man, the love of my life, my rock and my best friend. And to let you know that I think he's doing okay ... and that he is one of the strongest reasons why I want to live.

*That's Lion as in 'Grrrrr' not as in Lionel. His given name is Peter but there are at least five Peters in our life so it gets confusing. He's Leo rising and has a mane of hair. And anyway, we just like 'Lion.'

** Luckily that bit's no longer true now that I've discovered Susan Jane White's cookbook The Extra Virgin Kitchen. I came home from London to her chocolate-beetroot slump cake - no sugar, no gluten -  and ate a piece straight from the freezer. It tasted like Haagen Dazs Belgian Chocolate ice cream.


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