[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 May, 2005, 19:44 GMT 20:44 UK
After Ivan
Almut Noble
Ivan's widow Almut
In Ivan Noble's tumour diaries, published on this site until his death earlier this year, one woman was often mentioned but never identified. As a book of his columns comes out, and a bursary remembering him is launched, his wife Almut has decided it's time to talk.

When Ivan started writing his column, to be honest, I was a bit dismissive of it. For a start, I was very protective of my family's privacy. But also I didn't really think anyone would be interested in reading it. I didn't see any benefit for Ivan either.

And most of the time, while it was being published, I didn't look at it very often. On the odd occasion when I did, it was a very strange experience. Having your private family life suddenly made accessible to so many people in such a public way was quite startling.

Yet in a way it made the whole situation more real to me. When your life is made public like that, there's no room for denial. Day-to-day it becomes easy to think about other things. But when you see it there, in black and white, it's very real.

And Ivan expressed himself in such a reporter-like way, his columns helped me understand more of his feelings - it was so much more reflective than the kind of conversation you have as a couple on a daily basis.

Ivan Noble
Ivan found out he had a brain tumour in August 2002
He started writing an online diary soon after, but never referred to his family by name
He died on 31 January aged 37, leaving Almut and two children

Towards the end, however, I started to realise how much strength Ivan took from writing his column. Even the fact that he was still working was an enormous help to him.

The response from people who had read it, and the stories they were sending in about their own situations, was amazing. People said things like reading his diary had helped them understand what a relative had been feeling when they were going through their own struggle.

Ivan kept in contact with a few of those who sent him e-mails. Some were perhaps a bit further along the line than him, and he felt he wanted to keep the conversation going for their benefit. But it was very tough for him - it was hard enough to remain positive for himself.

But he felt enormously supported by the people who sent him comments, and I'm glad many of these are included in the book of his diaries, because this whole experience was not Ivan talking alone; it turned into a living conversation.

The idea of a book was very important to Ivan, and that's one of the reasons I have decided to speak up now after having been anonymous for so long.

He would have been incredibly proud to have seen his book - he always said he wanted to write one, well before he was ill. We both just wished it could have been about a different subject.

A few days before he died, he did see early print-outs of the first chapter of the book, and he saw the cover, though I'm not really sure how much he took in at that stage.

Emotional rollercoaster

One of the things Ivan and I used to talk a lot about was time. In 2002, about two months after Ivan's diagnosis and just after he'd started writing his diary, we heard a psychologist say something very striking. He said people see their lives like an arch - going up and then stretching on some time into the future.

Almut reads Ivan's book
Ivan always wanted to write a book; we both just wished it could have been about a different subject
Almut Noble

He said that when you face a potentially terminal illness, this whole view into the future breaks off, and people don't know how to deal with that - they're terrified.

That's exactly how we felt, there was no certainty any more. You lose the concept of yourself as a person because you have no idea what's going to happen in a few months or years.

Then you try to live with this uncertainty and really focus on living in the present, on what's happening now. This is tough work, though, because you have to watch what you say and even watch what you think.

Every day, you find you can't just think "We'll do this some time" - if you plan for anything ahead, you have to catch yourself. I would find myself saying things - "maybe in a couple of years we'll do such and such" - and then wishing I hadn't said it. Having to watch your every thought is one of the things that makes it really physically exhausting to live in this way.

You also lose all sense of restraint - you don't see the point. It was very tough but it enabled us to do things we wouldn't have done otherwise.

It was a time of extreme emotions in both directions - it was extremely sad and terrifying, but at times we were extremely happy. I know the past two-and-a-half years were quite exceptional; I also know it wasn't all bad.

Don't ask 'why?'

It must seem ironic to people that Ivan had a brain tumour and that I work in cancer research. But people who work at trying to find ways to defeat cancer are just people, and the statistics work against you.

But for me the real irony was that it happened at this particular point in our lives; that was the really tough part. We were just at the top of what we'd been hoping for ever. We had found the jobs we always wanted to do. We had just started our family. It was all going wonderfully well and then this happened.

It's dangerous to think about "why?" There are really no causes known for these types of cancer, so there's no point agonising about whether he could have prevented it by doing something differently. At the end of the day it's just bad luck.

Humans probably just have to accept that people get cancer - but I don't think we have to accept that people will die from cancer. We can do something about that - there have been incredible advances in treatment, and a lot of cancers can be cured.

Our bodies are so incredibly complex that you just have to accept that there is a possibility of something going wrong. That's just what it is. Something goes wrong. It's your own body, it's nothing from outside.

I've got quite a positive outlook, and that's the state of mind I want to go on with. I'm trying to make the most of it for myself, trying to learn from it. I feel I took on Ivan's responsibility as a parent, as well as someone who is able to keep going what he was - which may sound stupid.

But I remember him, and so I carry the responsibility of passing on to our children just what he was like.

Like A Hole In The Head: Living With A Brain Tumour is published by Hodder on 23 May. The BBC's proceeds will go to Medecins Sans Frontieres UK, the charity chosen by Ivan.


If you would like to add your comments, please use the form at the bottom of the page.

I read Ivan's diary from the very beginning and was so sad when he passed away. It bought back memories of my first husband dying of a brain tumour aged 38 years. I look forward to reading the book and as always special thoughts and wishes to people in a similar position.
Vivien Noor, Mauritius

Wonderful that we have been introduced to Almut. I always thought that behind a very strong and brave Ivan Noble was a very strong and courageous Mrs Noble.
Charles, Crawley

The bursary is a wonderful way to remember Ivan and I shall definitely buy the book; but I also want to do something more positive in his memory and am running the Race for Life in June to raise money for cancer research.
Karen Holmes, UK

Ivan came into my mind as I drove to work this morning. I wondered about his family, the book, and am still amazed by how many people he touched. I logged on to BBC first thing and found your lovely article, Almut. It is very nice to meet you after getting to "know" you through Ivan's diary. My dad died 25 years ago from the same kind of tumour Ivan had. Knowing he would not live long, he agreed to participate in a drug trial, then committed his body to research. I like to think that his sacrifice helped Ivan and many others in some way.
Virginia, New Jersey, US

Almut, I really appreciate your articulation of the way in which even your thoughts have to change when you don't know whether someone will be there in a few weeks, never mind months and years. This was one of the ironies I found about the "stay positive" approach. I didn't know before that you worked in cancer research. This seems both ironic and wonderful. It truly shows the unfairness of cancer and I take comfort from your words about the sheer bad luck that can come from within the body - however much one does not smoke, keeps fit and eats the right foods. Ivan must have been proud to know that you make an active difference to the survival of people with cancer in the future.
Emma, UK

I've missed Ivan and his musings on life and am looking forward to the book. How wonderful to hear from Almut, who must miss him a thousand times more than us. God bless.
Sim Haskell-Dowland, Plymouth, UK

It's so uplifting to hear Almut's comments; admitting to the terror is such a brave thing to do. Sharing feelings so personal is probably the most useful thing - alongside educating people on the reality of living with and coping with cancer - that one can do. Knowing "you're not alone" in how you're feeling somehow makes the strange place you find yourself in a little less daunting. Thank you.
Catherine H Jordan, England

How lovely to "meet" Almut. What a fantastic strength she seems to have, every bit as inspiring as Ivan himself. What better legacy for Ivan than that his personality continues to help and inspire others.
Melanie, London, UK

Ivan left a rich legacy to those who knew him in his writing. Along with Almut's memories, the children will know what a great man their father was. It was lovely to read news of the bursary fund this morning, and to hear from Almut.
Alison Owen, Winchester, UK

My dad died of a brain tumour when I was a teenager. This article brought a tear to my eye. I hope that you are able to look to the future without fear - I remember it took time, but it happens, and now I just miss him.
Tom, UK

I lost my wife to a brain tumour at 36 during the period of Ivan's illness. She only survived 7 months after her diagnosis, which coincided with the birth of our son. I've taken great strength from family and friends and an organisation called WAY, which stands for Widowed and Young, and I commend it to anybody who finds themselves in our situation.
Tim, UK

When I first came across Ivan's diary I was so touched I went back to the beginning and read right through every entry in one afternoon. Less than a week after Ivan passed away, my Grandad was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and I'd like to thank Ivan for enlightening me on what he is going through and making the past few months slightly easier to bear.
Helen Varley, Manchester, England

Dearest Almut, you have more friends in this world hoping and praying for you and your family than you may realise. Watch for your dear Ivan in your dreams. That's where I see my Denny, who travelled the same road around the same time. It's all right to let yourself look to a new life in which Ivan lives in your heart.
Jennifer Andre, Portland, Oregon, US

My dear brother Paddy died of a brain tumour here in Spain and bravely suffered the trauma of all the treatment whilst having to deal with another language. I am so pleased for you that you have your husband's book to show to your children. You have given Ivan something that many people never have - a living reminder of his life and his fight.
Molly, Spain

I am so pleased that a book has been published of Ivan's diary. I am sure that it will reach more people who will find it a great help and inspiration. It is lovely to hear from Almut and to get an insight into how she is feeling and coping. I hope too that it continue to help you in the "dark" moments.
Barbara Walters, Nottingham, England

One thing that I am certain of is that Ivan's children will easily know what a remarkable man their father was. Cancer is indiscriminate and does not care who the person is that gets affected, but what cancer also does is bring out the very best in people and through it, it showed what an outstanding person Ivan was. To have touched so many lives in such a short space of time is truly remarkable.
Duncan, Salisbury, UK

My deepest condolences to you and your dear family on the loss of your husband, father, son....I pray you find comfort and strength in your shared memories and the love that bound you together. I pray God will bless your family with unity and grace to overcome your grief as well as faith in Him to sustain you.
Dawneen Suriano, Riverside Illinois, US

How lovely to hear from Almut. I first came across Ivan's column about a year ago, and am so pleased it is to be a book. Ivan was a cracking writer, right up there with the best. When one looks at some of the sugary dross that has made it out in print around the theme of terminal illness, it's good to know that quality can get there too. As for his memorial bursary, what a great idea. Who knows what talent will be unearthed as a result to follow in the footsteps of a journey that stopped far too short.
Andrea McCulloch, County Durham, UK

Dearest Almut, during the time Ivan was dealing publicly with a brain tumour, we were dealing privately with one of my cousins, she was 30 with a 3 year old boy. She died not long after Ivan but I passed around your web log and my cousins, sisters and close family found Ivan's thoughts comforting nearly every day. It was nice to know we were not the only ones going through this. I hope and wish you and your family can rebuild and find happiness and comfort in Ivan's strength.
Debra, Cumbria

Name
Your E-mail address
Town & Country
Comments

The BBC may edit your comments and not all emails will be published. Your comments may be published on any BBC media worldwide.





BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Ivan's wife speaks about his book



RELATED BBC LINKS:

PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific