When London-based broadcast journalist Ellie Jeffery was diagnosed with breast cancer that had spread to her lungs, liver, and bones, she was told she had only months to live. Not one to give up, Jeffery demanded a second opinion and started working on beating the cancer. Part of that struggle included vowing to get married to her fiancé, Tom Thostrup, despite her condition, and keeping people abreast of her illness via her blog "Written Off," so named because her first doctor had done just that—written her off as dead. Though she put up a hell of a fight, Jeffery died on May 18, 2012, two years after she was initially diagnosed. She was only 29.
Dying of cancer is often a long and painful process. To be able to face that pain every day is an achievement in and of itself. But to face that pain while also inviting others into your life and your story is eminently admirable. With Written Off, Jeffery gave people a glimpse at what cancer does to its victims, their families, and their loved ones. Sometimes it was funny, and other times it was very sad. But with every entry she wrote during the blog's year of existence, Jeffery gave cancer patients, cancer survivors, and others little parcels of inspiration and hope that even in the worst of times, life can be worth leading.
Perhaps no Written Off entry summarizes Jeffery's ballsy, can't-quit attitude better than her last, penned just a month before she died and two months before she was scheduled to be married. She wrote it after a house shopping trip with Thostrup. In retrospect, it's both beautiful and haunting:
Sometimes it doesn’t feel real; how could all of this have happened to me? How did I come to be in such an unlucky situation? I don’t feel bitterness towards others, for what they have, but I can’t help but look around in restaurants and on the Tube and see healthy people with their whole lives ahead of them. I can honestly say I wouldn’t want anyone else’s life but I do envy their health.
On our way back from a house viewing the other day I had to tell Tom that something had been nagging at me whilst we noseyed around other people’s homes. I was scared that we would find a new place, move in and then if I died he would be stuck in a three-bedroom house on his own. He reminded me, and I know he’s right, that we can’t live our lives like that. If we’d believed the stats we wouldn’t be having a wedding in two months time; if you let the cancer take over completely then you’re letting it win before you die.