Lucy Irvine

A personal message

Death, we know, is as much a part of life as birth and here at LIFE we see so much of both that that knowledge is endlessly emphasized. In fact, we face the harsh realities of death and have to deal with them more often than the generally joyful experiences associated with birth.

Due to a combination of historical traditions resulting in ingrained attitudes, to lack of education and arguably, poverty and a marked lack in natural empathy, we see some horrible deaths: maimed horses kept alive as long as possible so their meat stays fresh; live kittens thrown crying pitifully into rubbish bins; bemused dogs tied to trees in woodland to starve to death when considered too old to be useful.

We work to prevent further instances of such cruelty by direct strategic contact with those who perpetrate it and with use of the law, and we’ve rescued animals in such situations before it’s too late. But mostly we aim to reduce instances of suffering by preventing unwanted animals being born at all. Hence our dedication to vigorous neutering campaigns for cats and dogs.

No one can prevent death happening eventually to all living things; we can only hold it at bay sometimes. And we do see ‘good’deaths – those of animals who’ve led full and happy lives. In such cases our task is to minimize pain at the end, just the sort of comfort we’d hope for human loved ones and for ourselves.

I learned last year that I have cancer. It all happened so fast I barely recall my feelings during the few weeks between the discovery and my first session of chemo-therapy LIFE did not go on hold. Demanding daily routines and frequent emergencies kept me so busy I did not have time to dwell on my own possibly looming death. When I did, I acted in practical ways. I contacted my sons to ensure they knew of my plans for everything I own to be willed to LIFE; boosted efforts to rehome as many of our rescued animals as possible and transferred the penultimate tranche of a personal pension to where I had access to it to use for LIFE .

When I told friends about my new challenge, the response was so warm and caring it nearly caused a tremor in my stiff upper lip, which cancer itself failed to do. Since then, that warmth and kindness has spread to include followers of LIFE

and moral support has flooded in. Volunteers have come many miles to hold the fort at LIFE while I’ve had treatment in hospital and parcels containing everything from chemo turbans to the oatcakes I love have brought me much cheer. Some extra funds came in, too, when the news of my cancer first broke. This was appreciated more than I can say because I am now obliged to used most of my remaining personal money to cover expenses connected to my treatment.

In the past, I’ve had personal funds available to cover shortfalls in donations for vet, animal food, building and repair bills at LIFE, not to mention essential local helpers’ wages. Now, that cushion is no longer there and it is vital to LIFE that word is spread further, quickly, about the work we are doing here – the success we are having in reducing and relieving suffering among animals – so that more people come on board to donate.

I don’t know my own prognosis yet and it may be months before it’s clear whether the cancer will be killed before it kills me . Meantime, I remain upbeat, buoyed up by the stunning goodness of both friends and strangers and driven to help myself to recover in every way I can by the knowledge that I still have much work to do before LIFE can function independently of me – a key aim as, after all, even if the cancer is beaten, I’m not getting any younger…

Let’s work together to help LIFE to go on, whatever happens.