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Last Updated: Tuesday, 1 February, 2005, 10:24 GMT
Ivan Noble: An appreciation
Ivan Noble, the BBC journalist who wrote about his treatment for a brain tumour in an online diary for two years, has died aged 37. Here one of his friends, Simon Fraser, offers a personal appreciation.

Ivan on a family holiday in Scotland
When Ivan was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour in August 2002, he said he was determined to beat his cancer.

It always looked a long shot - however much we all hoped otherwise. Tragically, despite a remarkable fight, it's now killed him, a husband and father of two, aged 37.

Looking back, it's perhaps astonishing Ivan survived as long as he did, given the type of tumour he had and the very poor survival rate. A year ago, after two operations on his brain within three months, no-one - least of all Ivan - had much hope.

But the gamble paid off and, despite having prepared for death, Ivan lived to see his son born and his daughter celebrate her third birthday - two goals he had cherished for months.


Ivan Noble was a talented journalist who became well known through circumstances he would have given anything to change.

His columns charting his struggle against cancer, which appeared regularly on the BBC News website, captured the imagination of thousands of people around the world.

Some wanted to share cancer experiences and took strength from Ivan's courage and openness; others wanted to offer him support in the calamity that had enveloped him, his wife and his family.

Ivan Noble
Ivan in an interview late last year

E-mails flooded in whenever one of his diaries went up. When things were looking bad, you knew that fingers were being crossed all over the world. And when an operation or a scan went well, the relief was shared.

Few people coping with Ivan's condition would choose to expose themselves in such a public way.

But he believed the tumour diaries were a chance to help him deal with his crisis, and that they offered a rare chance to broach difficult subjects.

In doing so, he struck a chord with a great many people. Some of them maintained a correspondence with him until near the end, and he was very grateful for the dialogue and the support they gave him.

Personal loss

Those of us who were close to Ivan are dealing with a more personal loss.

He was a big, warm, intelligent man who loved his family. Ivan had time for people, and built lots of rewarding friendships as a result.

Somehow he kept going, kept his dignity, and learnt to get something out of just about every day

We all have our special memories - and inevitably the past couple of years have produced a disproportionate share.

Some themes never changed, however, despite the tumour. Even in his last days, when he knew he was nearing death, the offer of a pork pie brought a smile.

Ivan was very keen on travelling, and did so often on holiday or for work. He felt he should always have at least one trip booked.

A plane ticket for a visit to Hong Kong to see his brother, planned for February, was unused in the end.

Ivan's fascination with computers and gadgets was legendary, too, and came in handy for his job on the BBC's online Science and Technology desk. How much the gadget cost and whether Ivan actually needed it were minor considerations.

He also derived great pleasure from persuading others to spend their money on technology, and was always ready with advice. Without his guidance many of us will be lost when our computer next breaks down.


Ivan felt his main achievement against cancer was that he didn't surrender to fear.

Sure, he had many low points along the way. But, somehow, he kept going, kept his dignity and learnt to get something out of just about every day.

A sense of humour was never far away. On one rainy walk in the Scottish Highlands last spring Ivan ran off down the rough track jumping in the air - to the alarm of those with him who knew he couldn't see very well. His elated explanation for what he was doing was simply that he could.

In the end, the tumour killed him, but Ivan didn't feel it had beaten him
Last December, the diary announcing the return of his tumour kicked off with him saying he didn't think he'd be signing another 12-month contract on his mobile phone. But he subsequently couldn't resist.

We also remember well Ivan's generosity and refusal to complain. When a close friend who had lost loved ones to cancer visited Ivan after his initial diagnosis, it was Ivan who apologised for being the reason for the hospital visit.

Ivan was born in Leeds in 1967 and spent his childhood in Luton and Leeds. He studied German at Aston University in Birmingham and lived and worked in what was then East Germany.

After graduating, he joined BBC Monitoring as a sub-editor and went on to become an internet journalism trainer at the World Service. Ivan's last job was as a science and technology writer on the BBC News website.

He firmly believed in science and felt strongly that he was doing a job which was absolutely right for him.

In so many ways Ivan felt his life had come together just before he was diagnosed with cancer.

He had finally met someone he loved and admired and who loved him, and they had begun a family. The tumour took away his future and changed theirs.

At times it was difficult to believe how cruel the cancer could be. A period of remission in late 2004 lasted only a few weeks, dashing hopes of a different kind of life.

Weeks earlier his father had also been diagnosed with his own cancer.

Enormous delight

When Ivan was first told he had a tumour, his daughter was just six months old.

If two or three people stop smoking as a result of anything I have ever written then the one of them who would have got cancer will live and all my scribblings will have been worthwhile
The closing words of his final column
He was days away from going part-time at work to help care for her. Illness changed the kind of father he could be. Balancing his needs with those of a young family was desperately hard, but his children gave him enormous delight.

Ivan died having done much to promote awareness of cancer. He was hugely proud that his diaries would be published as a book. In many ways, he found things more straightforward when the tumour was on the attack.

Trying to plan ahead was much more complicated, faced with such an uncertain future. But Ivan died surrounded by love from his wife and children, his parents, brother and friends.

He had huge support throughout his illness from his parents and in particular, from his beloved wife, who managed to look after him, have a baby and keep the family going through unbearable strains. In the end, the tumour killed him, but Ivan didn't feel it had beaten him.

He kept winning a little bit every day, because he managed to conquer fear.

Ivan describes why he started writing his column



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