Last year Kelly Hutton shared her journey with Capsule about her journey dating with terminal cancer. Now faced with the news that she only has weeks to live, she shares her final thoughts on life and some parting words of wisdom as she confronts her mortality.
TW: Cancer, death
Last week I was sent home from hospital with the devastating news I only have weeks to live. I’m 48 and for the last four years, I’ve been living as much life as I could suck in with stage 3 ovarian cancer. But despite three major surgeries, 33 sessions of chemo, a pulmonary embolism, multiple blood transfusions, the more recent arrival of both an ileostomy and a colostomy bag and trying to maintain an indomitable spirit under fire, it’s finally time to face my mortality.
And it’s a surreal place to be. I’m not sure how I’m supposed to feel as a dying woman while I remain pain free and comfortable knowing the inevitable is coming straight at me like a slow moving freight train. And yes, I am absolutely grieving the life I still had to live and the people I love. I’m waking up every morning wondering – is today is the day I really start to go downhill? But I refuse to be angry about it because it’s no one’s fault. I’m not the first. I definitely won’t the the last. I have no control over it but I can try and control how I feel about it now so I can seek the emotional peace I hope for at the end.
Kelly during treatment, and late in 2021
For now I have time for the life admin we never want to face – meeting the funeral director, picking my casket, choosing my music, making sure there aren’t any photos that would make me squirm, trying to make things as seamless for my family when I’m gone as possible. Yes, it’s confronting but there is nothing for me like tying up some loose ends.
But unexpectedly I’ve also been given the ultimate gift. As I’ve shared my news, I’ve been on the receiving end of incredible anecdotes and memories from my friends and family both in person and shared online, an almost cinematic montage of my life through old photos and videos and beautiful messages and “remember when we did that” and people have been unafraid to reach out and be vulnerable and cry openly and share their own grief about what’s next for me.
And it’s the consistent foundation to the messaging that has been the most revealing. I can assure you that not one person has said “wow, what about that incredible spreadsheet you put together” or “remember that one time you actually wore lipstick” or “what about when you lost that 5kg” or “what about that annoying frown line you had that no one could see but you lost a little sleep over” because deep down we all know those things Just. Don’t. Matter.
In the end, people are simply wanting me to know how I made them feel. All the other details just fall away. And making someone feel good or included or seen doesn’t cost a thing. Just a smile or an acknowledgement or an “Are you doing OK today?”.
I’ve been involved at sport at various levels over the years from high level to super social and I could hardly tell you about one game or recall the structure of any of the hundreds of coaching sessions, but I will always recall conversations sitting in airports or sweaty gyms and riding the highs and the lows with my teammates and bonding over missing home and friends and making sure each other were supported far more. Or laughing over someone falling over in the pub afterwards. Sport bought us together but the friendships that have endured the many years following have nothing to do with how skilful we were or weren’t. I’d been hanging with my friends who just happened to chuck the odd ball around. It started with connection.
It’s the absolute recognition in my final weeks that life really does boil down to simple things and it’s never about an asset or what’s in your wardrobe or in your driveway. All I need and want right now is my friends and family around me and to be able to savour every last morsel of food that I put in my mouth because it could be the last.
So, if you’ll let me, I have some parting advice. Take some time out in the coming days to think about what brings you joy and most importantly WHO makes you truly happy. Carve out time for them. Try not to get in the never ending spiral of “we must catch up for dinner” and put something in the diary and go and laugh and raise each other up and, if you really do want to put it off, ask yourself why. They might not be your people. And that’s OK too.
Because equally, if those around you aren’t supporting you or championing you or recognising the best parts of you, you still have time to seek out a new tribe and there is no time like the present.
He tangata he tangata he tangata. It is the people, it is the people, it is the people.
Eat the Cake. Try not to sweat the small stuff. Tell people openly you love them. Be vulnerable. They will hopefully tell you. They might just remember you by that one time you made them smile or feel less awkward. And you can maybe die happy and ultimately content like I will soon. And that might just be the greatest gift we can take with us in the end.