the courage and selflessness with which Siân Busby battled cancer

Robert Peston in The Telegraph:

Siân Elizabeth Busby died on September 4 2012 after a long illness. A few days later I transcribed her handwritten manuscript for the end of A Commonplace Killing, her final novel. My motive was selfish: I wanted to keep talking to her. I still do.

Robert-peston_2550669b…For the proud spouse it matters that she finished the book after she had received her death sentence. On August 3 2012, the consultant oncologist at the Royal Marsden, Sanjay Popat, a compassionate, assiduous and expert physician whom we came to think of as a friend during the years he was in charge of Siân’s treatment, gave us the latest in a succession of scan results. Medical science could no longer help Siân, except – perhaps – to take the edge off acute and constant pain. “This is where I say goodbye,” he said. It was almost exactly five years to the day after Siân – who is probably the only person I know who never smoked a cigarette – was diagnosed with lung cancer. In the ensuing years, she never despaired or resorted to self-pity, even as the cancer spread, on a couple of occasions to the brain, later to the liver and spine. The cycle of surgery, body-racking chemicals and radiation was relentless. Life became punctuated by terrible shocks and emergencies. Yet those who met her at pretty much any point in this ordeal encountered the Siân they had always known: solicitous, supportive, witty, insightful, unselfish. Through the sheer force of her will, Siân remained poised and beautiful. She eschewed drama.

Most of our friends had no idea how ill she really was. Siân did not wish to be seen by others as someone who was suffering from a lethal cancer. She did not want to be classified as infirm and she did not need maudlin sympathy. The priority was that our boys, Max and Simon, should not be constantly bothered and worried by friends and neighbours asking for the latest prognosis on her health. Siân just got on with living. Her huge, magnificent novel, McNaughten – which for me is the last great Victorian novel, a symphony of fantastical stories, rich in disquisitions on the absurdity of life – was written when Siân’s illness had become for us just one of those things. I know this may seem odd, but these were wonderful years for Siân, Max, Simon and me. The cancer did not haunt us. If anything, it helped us to understand what matters in life: family, first and foremost; work that fulfils; friends, beauty and fun. By the time Siân was completing A Commonplace Killing, the cancer could no longer be confined to the background. It was a monster laying waste to our family.

More here.