In October 1988 I walked into a pub after work (I was 17 at the time – oops!) and sitting with some friends was the man who would later become my husband. We didn’t know it then, and we didn’t start going out with each other until the following April. Fast forward another 7 years and we’re married, and then 5 years later we become parents, 5 years later our family is complete.

Fast forward 32 years and 8 months from that original meeting, and we’re sitting in the non- descript office of a consultant being told that the journey we’ve shared together is coming to an end, because Peter has pancreatic cancer. The words “inoperable” and “months” hit me like a physical punch in my gut, so much so that I gasp.

The consultant asks what Pete has been taking for the pain and suggests codeine, Pete says he has been avoiding it because he hears it can be addictive and in the middle of the huge wave of grief that’s just hit us, we laugh at the absurdity of him worrying about becoming addicted when he’s not really got the time to get addicted to anything. “All bets are off” I say.

I can’t describe what the last 48 hours have been like. Because I can’t put into words the visceral pain of telling two teenage girls that their Dad isn’t going to be around much longer and watching them crumble in front of us, knowing there’s nothing we can do to take the pain away.

Pete has been my constant, through thick and thin, I often reflect in the car on my journey to work how the last 32 years with him have shaped me as a person, so much so that I sometimes don’t know where he ends and I begin. Every time he says “I’m so proud of you” (and he says it often) I always respond with “I couldn’t do it without you”, and now I have to. Now I have to face the prospect of getting up every day and facing the world without the person who is so much a part of me that I can’t imagine how I’m going to exist when I can no longer just share my thoughts with him. I’m really struggling to comprehend a world where he isn’t there anymore.

We’ve told our family, and close friends. I have to say that people’s kindness and generosity have staggered us. There have been so many tears I feel like I could drown and I’m also really angry. Because here is one of the gentlest, kindest, most thoughtful and caring men I know and he’s had the chance to see his daughters grow up taken away from him. Ridiculous things pop into my head. All that knowledge, kindness and talent as an artist and maker will disappear when he goes. Who is going to make me laugh every day, as he has done for the last 32 years? Sometimes to the point of crying and shaking with laughter. Pete’s humour is wicked. I’ll miss it so much. No matter what the world has thrown at me, I have always felt totally safe, because I’ve always had him by my side. I know I can do this alone,  but I really wish I didn’t have to.

Yesterday I read an article which asked “what would your obituary say about you?” only the other week I commented that it was such a shame that people don’t tell others what they would say about them in their obituary before they die. Pete’s will say that he really was the kindest, gentlest, funniest man, with the most enormous talent who has made such a huge difference to so many lives in so many ways. An awesome teacher, artist, father, friend and husband. I wouldn’t have changed any part of the last 32 years, and I wouldn’t be who I am without him. I know I’ll miss him forever.

65 responses to “A very personal blog”

  1. Elaine Bennett avatar
    Elaine Bennett

    Sending you all the love and strength in the world. This is so beautifully written Ruth and will mean so much to Pete and so many others going through awful times. I really can’t find the words to say much more. So much joy, happiness, laughter, strength and love to hold onto and celebrate no matter what comes next.

    1. Paula Owens avatar
      Paula Owens

      Dear Ruth,

      I only know you from Twitter but wanted to add my thoughts and hopes to this network of love after reading your blog, and finding out about your heartbreaking news.

      My brother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer aged 46 and given three months, though he had five years in the end and confounded everyone. He took something called Triphala to aid the digestion. A combination of herbs I think. We used to tease him about it saying it was the power of suggestion but he claimed it really made a difference.
      May you make some more wonderful memories together as a family. Peace to you both. X

  2. Julia Skinner avatar
    Julia Skinner

    I’m so sad to read this Ruth & although we have never met, I felt I needed to send strength to you both. Make good memories for your girls that will be more than precious.

    Remember, Pete’s last 32 years will have been very special because of you.

    Much love

  3. Kathryn Solly avatar
    Kathryn Solly

    Words are totally inadequate. Love crosses time and space. Hold onto that if it helps…..

    Love, thoughts, prayers and anything I can do to help. Kathryn xxxx

    1. kate Aspin avatar
      kate Aspin

      I have no words …this situation has no glib answers or trite points .. I lost my mum to kidney cancer ..she was 49 we were 24,22 and 17 … Cancer is a sneaky sneaky bastard …if your girls ever need to talk ..share ..shout or yell at someone who has an understanding from their perspective..please do ..your burden is different to theirs .. and I know you’d do anything to take it from them and your husband. I know as a family you will work through this but please don’t hesitate to reach out if you need to steady yourself XXX love and prayers ????

  4. Helen Salmon avatar
    Helen Salmon

    I only know you through your excellent education pieces on twitter. This blog is so moving. Thank you for sharing this painful time in such a moving way. I wish you well in your remaining time together, this is so sad for you all. It really puts things into perspective. Thank you for your honesty and your courage.

  5. Bernadette avatar

    Dear Ruth
    I can’t begin to tell you how much your words mean. Having known so little of Pete but for such a very long time I can only begin to see what this means for you. I know you will, but relish every second. I am so sad for all of you. Much love xxx

  6. Jo Holmes avatar
    Jo Holmes

    Oh my goodness, I am reading vthis with tears running down my face, there are no words I can say that will make it any easier, I know how hard those words are to hear, I know the bastard that Cancer is but my journey was so different, all I can say is that I’m here for you all, and I mean it , not just words, I’m here, for a chat, a scream, or just a coffee and silence.
    I can also offer the services of Derbyshire cancer buddies, they are an amazing group.
    Most of all I’m sending my love.

  7. Maria Felicetti avatar
    Maria Felicetti

    I am so sad reading this news. What an amazing man you married. Everything you have written has moved me and I can find no more words. Sending love ❤️ to both of you and your wider family ❤️

  8. Collette avatar

    My heart goes out to you Ruth.
    It took me a long time to find the other half of me and I couldn’t manage without him.
    Sending so much love ❤

  9. Melanie Bailey avatar
    Melanie Bailey

    I’m so so sorry to hear this. My thoughts are with you and your family. ????

  10. Rachel Dore avatar
    Rachel Dore

    Dear Ruth and Pete
    I am saddened beyond words to read your blog. I can’t find the right words to express what I want to say to you both and your family. I can only begin to imagine what you are all feeling and going through. Pete you are an absolute hero- especially as a work colleague when the chips were down. I am so pleased you made the break to pursue your artistic talents- always enjoy looking at your creations. I am glad you changed paths to spend more time with your family. You are both so caring and accommodating to others- wish I could remove this pain for you. I just want you to know I am here in the background if you need anything at all. This can’t have been an easy write. Sending you lots of love and strength. You are all in my thoughts.
    Rachel Dore

  11. Maxine Mcnulty avatar
    Maxine Mcnulty

    Ruth and family wish you all well in this heartbreaking time in your life’s. So strong of you for writing the blog and what a lovely story before the illness came . Your memories and love will guide you somehow. I m so sorry. Bless you all and will say a prayer for you all. Maxine

  12. Neil and Abbie cardall avatar
    Neil and Abbie cardall

    Bless you and your family Ruth. I’m so very sorry to hear of your devastating news. I don’t know your husband but your words describe him as absolute gold and I feel for you,Pete and the girls for what your all going through right now and the months to follow.There are no words anyone can say to you that make the situation feel any easier but Myself and Abbie are living proof to you and your family that your life does go on without loved ones who leave our life,s way to early but the memories of them never leave us. If ever you need a shoulder or an understanding ear then please do not hesitate to get in touch. Much love to you all x

  13. Lucy Allen avatar
    Lucy Allen

    A devastating time for you and your family. So brave to write this blog. My thoughts are with you all.

  14. Colin Grimes avatar
    Colin Grimes

    Ruth and Peter,

    So absolutely devastated to read this. Make sure you take all the time in the world to do the important things.

    Always remember there are people who are there to help; medical, social, carers etc.

  15. Julie Hall avatar
    Julie Hall

    Pete’s humour, his shirts and wicked smile. Seeing his pots on Facebook. How he taught Hannah to say from a young age ‘I have a sophisticated pallet’ just sum up his character. Looking forward to drinks and laughter with you both. Love to all of you as a close loving family. Hope there is hope for you all xxxx

  16. Amanda Davey avatar
    Amanda Davey

    Oh Ruth, I am so dreadfully sorry to read this. I know words really mean nothing at this point and I’m not even sure I have the right words anyway. Please just know that you are all in my thoughts xxx

  17. Nick Swarbrick avatar
    Nick Swarbrick

    Terrible news. All the “stay strong” wishes in the world won’t cover it, and I don’t know if I can help, but DM me on Twitter if I can.
    Much love,

  18. Bev avatar

    Dear Ruth and Pete,
    I don’t know you but my heart breaks for you and your girls. I can’t do anything to make this disappear so simply sending you my love and thoughts. Continue to enjoy every special moment that you have.
    Take care

  19. Rosie Brooks avatar
    Rosie Brooks

    I can hardly believe this is happening. Life seems so cruel. I cannot imagine what you are all going through. I am so very sorry for you all. You are right in your words, he is very talented and was a fabulous teacher. Your girls must be so proud of him as a father. I will be thinking of your all in the coming days and weeks.. There are no words to help ???? .. try to stay strong and just love each other every minute ❤

  20. Brian Brooks avatar
    Brian Brooks

    Your Mum let us know, it still seems like it can’t be true. I am so sorry for the girls being robbed of a wonderful father and for your loss of an irreplaceable husband. It is for myself a very introspective moment, it makes everyone realise what is important and valuable and we all send our love and wish you all a peaceful and hopefully a few months of happiness. I can’t begin to imagine what to say or do but I truly hope that you can take strength knowing we are sending you all our love.
    Value each moment and remember that it hurts because of the price we pay for that special love you both found.
    God bless you

    1. Tim Gallagher avatar
      Tim Gallagher

      Dear Ruth and Peter,

      You may remember that I bid successfully for a coffee mug that Peter made and you auctioned for a children’s charity.
      That initiative of the two of you says so much of your partnership, skills and caring for others less fortunate.
      As a former secondary headteacher I was mightily helped by your posts in understanding Early Years Education and at the same time, by following you on Twitter, I learned of your partnership.
      I read of your pub quizzes, holidays together and general natter about your family.
      The news you have shared is dreadful, for all the reasons you have set out.
      I can only offer my prayers, best wishes and sincere empathy. I wish I had magic dust to help.
      No words are adequate but I offer mine in true fellowship and care for you, Peter and your family and friends.
      You will meet this adversity with strength, resilience and no small amount of hurt, tears and anguish.
      Please know you (collectively) are loved, appreciated and respected.
      Bless you and yours. So very sorry.

      Tim xx

  21. Rach avatar

    Thinking of you all. I’m so sorry Ruth. X X X

    Rach (Whitby pirates).

  22. Les avatar

    Dear Ruth and Peter,

    So utterly devastating to read this, I cannot possibly imagine what you must all be going through. I’m sure you will face this with the strength and courage that you have shown time and again. I will keep you all in my prayers and send lots of love to you all. Xx

  23. Anita Curtis avatar
    Anita Curtis

    Dear Ruth
    There are no words – thinking of you all and wishing for your time together to be full of love, laughter, hugs and making more precious memories x

  24. Angela avatar

    You are so lucky to have him, so many of us will never know a bond like yours, But that’s not what’s important, what you can have with hi m after he passes is. Yous relationship doesn’t have to go because he has. My mum passes two weeks ago and she is ever present, watching over me I have no doubt. Be strong and love every minute, life is a wheel and all we know is that we all come and go but love is everlasting.

  25. Julie Cassiano avatar
    Julie Cassiano

    I am so so sorry and touched immensely by your beautiful story. Thank you so much for sharing with us Ruth. A reminder of how many of us take life for granted. I often worry to much about work and deadlines not thinking about the precious things I have that could be gone tomorrow. I wish there was something I could do. Your passion and love towards our profession is valued by so many and such so many educators will want to reach out.

    Wishing you all my love

    Your family is in my thoughts and prayers.

  26. Tamara Bennett avatar
    Tamara Bennett

    How our worlds can change in a heartbeat. As someone who has been happily married for over 35 years so much of what you have written so beautifully, resonates profoundly. Sending love and prayers to you both

  27. Belle Cottingham avatar
    Belle Cottingham

    I am really sorry to read this… Thinking of you all…

  28. Mathew Tobin avatar
    Mathew Tobin

    Dear Ruth,

    This is devastating news for you and Pete and your children too. I hope that the moments that you have together will be full of love and care and that you are both strong but equally allow yourselves to not always be strong. You clearly have a special family and bond.

    All my love,



  29. Sue Cowley avatar
    Sue Cowley

    Ruth we love you and we will be here for you whatever you need just say. So desperately sorry for you, Pete and the girls. Xx

  30. Chris Williams avatar
    Chris Williams

    Wishing you every strength and comfort Ruth and Pete. I have been an admirer of Pete’s ceramics for a while and it is clear what a gifted, creative, kind and expressive man he is. It has taken such courage for you to write this, and to be in the position to have to. I am thinking of you and your family Ruth. So very sorry this is happening.

  31. Karen Jones avatar
    Karen Jones

    So sorry to read this Ruth. You don’t know me (well – we met once during the coffee break at the GSAL conference) but your tweets keep me full of hope and optimism. Time now for your Twitter community to repay the honour by taking care of you and sending positive vibes whenever you need them. Please teach out when you need to xx

  32. Claire Smith avatar
    Claire Smith

    I am so sorry to hear this news thinking of you all
    Claire x x

  33. Emily Strange avatar
    Emily Strange

    Oh Ruth. My whole heart is with you.

    1. Helin Taylor-Greenfield avatar
      Helin Taylor-Greenfield

      Dear Ruth
      Words seem so hollow at a time like this and it is difficult to know what to say; but I do know that Peter and you have had 32 wonderful years of love, laughter and companionship, and that your girls have the most loving and caring father. There is no right or wrong way to navigate this, except that you do it together, continuing to love and support each other as you go. Laugh together. Cry together. And remember to ask for help when you need it.
      Sending best wishes to you all at this most difficult time.

  34. Jennifer Longhurst avatar
    Jennifer Longhurst

    Dear Curlygirl

    You have always been someone who shows us all just what a woman can achieve, how she can lead the way.

    You can lead the way in this, too.

    Pete has been lucky to have had these 32 years with you, and he’ll remain by your side, the left side, the heart side, for ever.

    I weep.

  35. Donna Kettle avatar
    Donna Kettle

    Ruth, I don’t know you though we met once on a course and I live near Whitby one of your favourite places… we have communicated..
    I am so saddened to read your blog and though I don’t know you, I want to send you a hearfelt hug and genuine love, like that you found in Peter.
    Donna x

  36. Aimee Quickfall avatar
    Aimee Quickfall

    Ruth I know we only really ‘know’ each other through Twitter but I read this and just had to leave a comment. I am so so sorry this is happening to you and your family. You are always so kind and supportive of others and I hope you are getting the kindness and support you need right now.

  37. Penny Rabiger avatar
    Penny Rabiger

    This is just so brave of you and I know that you, Pete and the family will support and love each other through such a difficult and painful time.
    Sending you all love, strength and courage for the journey forwards.

  38. Anne Gladstone avatar
    Anne Gladstone

    So very sorry to hear this very sad news Ruth – I can’t imagine having to deal with something like this but send you many positive vibes and will be keeping you all in my thoughts.

  39. Paul Garvey avatar
    Paul Garvey

    Oh that’s so hard. So, so, hard. And hard to know what to say, apart from make Pete’s last few months the very best and you are both lucky to have had each other. Love endures.

    Lots of love to you both, Paul xx

  40. Sarah avatar

    Dear Ruth,
    Such a beautiful blog, despite the sadness. I don’t know you personally, only through Twitter but found your piece utterly moving. Sending love and prayers to you throughout this difficult time x

  41. Anita Devi avatar
    Anita Devi

    Ruth & Pete,

    The world has been enriched by you both individually, but more so as a couple.
    Ruth, I so admire your courage right now … what a beautiful thing to do and share.
    Grief and loss aren’t easy. Pete’s footprints on your heart and life won’t fade. They will be forever with you, as you continue the journey.
    Pete – I know you don’t know me … but through this wonderful celebration of your life, I’ve seen a glimpse of you. Big hug to an amazing human, husband, father, friend and probably so much more. God loves you and He will be there for you, when the time comes. Choose faith over fear.
    Much love to all the family, Anita D x

  42. Jess Shulman avatar
    Jess Shulman

    I am so sorry to read this.
    Back in November 1993, I was a 17 year old being told by my Mum that Dad had pancreatic cancer. As a family, our world collapsed. My Dad, a highly respected senior schools advisor/early Ofsted Inspector, had so much left to give to his work, to us. The pain of losing my Dad has never fully left me. It changed our lives. Love endures though.
    I can completely emphasise with your situation, and wish you all much love, courage and strength for the road ahead.

  43. Sue Scott avatar
    Sue Scott

    Ruth, thank you for your honesty in sharing your emotional news. You may not have tomorrow but you have today. Be strong as a family, and do it your way. Life is so cruel. Hugs Sue (the fan girl one!)

  44. Heather Arnold avatar
    Heather Arnold

    While I don’t “know” either of you apart from Twitter, I just want to say how sorry I am. I hope that the coming months are as gentle as they can be for you all. It might be worth contacting Winston’s Wish for support for the teens now. Sending love and prayers x

  45. Juls avatar

    Been trying to write a comment here and keep deleting as the words to express the sadness/grief I feel for you both .. you are such a wonderful beautiful couple ❤️

    This is such a brave and beautiful blog – you can see the how many people care for you both

    Sending you all the love possible and please know I am here for you ready to help however I can at a moments notice .. you just have to say .. always here to listen ❤️

  46. Nicky Clements avatar
    Nicky Clements

    I’m so, so sorry and sad to read this Ruth. Such horrific news yet put so beautifully into a loving tribute. You have both been a dynamic force and your joint love of life shines through. I will treasure my special mug a little more now xxx

  47. Sarah Watkins avatar
    Sarah Watkins

    I’m so sorry, Ruth. You and Peter obviously have an amazing relationship, characterised by mutual respect. This blog, written at the hardest time, is beautifully written and brings into focus the devastating effect of this shitty disease. I’m sending you so much love and holding your family in my heart. Sarah x

  48. Charlotte Herxheimer avatar
    Charlotte Herxheimer

    Dear Ruth
    I’m so sorry to hear this devastating news. I only know you from Twitter, and once at the EYFS evidence review launch, but felt I had to respond. This is so brave, beautifully written and full of love. I’ve always appreciated your capacity to reach out and connect. I hope you can feel the love and warmth coming back to you and it will help steady you and your dear family in the difficult times ahead. Holding you very much in my thoughts, and sending love, Charlotte.

  49. Kate Johnston avatar
    Kate Johnston

    Although we have never met and I only know you through twitter and the esteem the Early Years community holds you in, my heart goes out to you and your girls. He sounds like a wonderful partner and speaking from experience that love will continue to surround and protect you and your family as the future unfolds. I know as I have been there and even although it was 31 years ago we still have that love protecting and caring for us as we have travelled through life. DM me if you every wish to chat but I know you will have lots of people in your life to lean on and let them help. They will be grateful to be able to do something. Take care of yourself – that is not a waste as your girls and husband will need you to be as ok as you can be. Sending love and best wishes for this very precious time. Make even more memories.

  50. Tamsin Grimmer avatar
    Tamsin Grimmer

    Oh Ruth! There are no words. I’m so sorry. Praying for you and your family and sending love. Xxx

  51. Rosa Collins avatar
    Rosa Collins

    Dear Ruth

    I know you through Twitter and admire your voice to speak truth.
    I’m saddened to hear of your situation.
    Hold onto your love for nothing can take that away.
    Love, prayers and thoughts to you all

    Rosa x

  52. Penny Borkett avatar
    Penny Borkett

    As many others have previously commented I only know you through Twitter. I am so sorry to hear this devastating news. You and your whole family are in my thoughts and prayers during this difficult time. I pray that you will be given the strength to deal with all that is in the future.
    God bless.

  53. Dominic Gunn avatar
    Dominic Gunn

    Ruth, I’m so sorry to hear your sad news. I don’t really know you that well but your mixture of sharp, informative and supportive comments on Twitter, often interspersed with warm, delightful notes about your journeys, and about Peter’s work, bring a holistic, family feel to our daily pleasures and struggles. In the absence of having anything useful to say, I’ll just wish you all the best of the coming months. From Dominic.

  54. Louise B. avatar
    Louise B.

    Dear Ruth & family,

    Know you from Twitter; we’ve had some fab conversations (they recently suspended my account!.. probs too near to the truth, as I admire you for being, in a respectful way. The kids come first!). Except right now they don’t; you all do. Was devastated to hear your sad news; it is never enough time when you have your soulmate. I hope that you get to make some wonderful memories that aren’t too tainted by the horror that is cancer. Have to say that your sadness hit a nerve as this happened to my best friend this year…. the shock of it that is the cruellest blow as your constantly gasping for air once you know; trying to cope & take it all in. So wishing you & your family the ability to make some of the best of times possible in a heartbreaking situation. Lou xxx

  55. Laura Peirce avatar
    Laura Peirce

    Dear Ruth
    My heart goes out to you. I nursed my best friend through the last six weeks of her life due to Pancreatic Cancer she was 47 just 4 years ago. No words can describe what you are all going through at the moment. Sending much love to you all.
    Laura xx

  56. Helen Moylett avatar
    Helen Moylett

    Dear Ruth
    So sorry to read your moving account of the world turning upside down for your family. Thinking of you xx

  57. Paul Dickinson avatar
    Paul Dickinson

    I have such fond memories of standing outside The Leadmill and then sharing the barrier with you, Pete and my Billy Bragg-obsessed mate Jenny from November 2019, which was actually the last gigs I attended before Lockdown came along. Sometimes you just hit it off and find idle chat with complete strangers easy and that was the way with you and Pete. It was so apparent you had each found your other half and life is so cruel to now strip that away when there is no much left undone. Like everyone, I can empathise because this thing leaves no-one untouched. It is merciless and it comes along when you are least expecting. There are no words that can ease the pain, the anger and absolute injustice, but I wish you, Pete and your girls peace ❤

  58. Cathy G avatar
    Cathy G

    Dear Ruth, We’ve met in person once and many times on Twitter. This is devastating news I am so sorry to read this about your beloved Husband. 32 years is an amazing amount of time together and you’ve worded it so beautifully. I hope that you feel the strength of the EY community standing with you as you walk this, and you have my heartfelt love and thoughts.
    Cath x

  59. Dr Jill Berry avatar
    Dr Jill Berry

    Ruth: I’ve just caught up with this. I know there are no words, but wanted to reply to let you know I am thinking about you.

  60. Shan Brough Jones avatar
    Shan Brough Jones

    Sending strength and love to you and your family Ruth,

  61. Tracy Kent avatar
    Tracy Kent

    Hi Ruth,

    I can feel your pain and how this has been such a shock for you all. Life is so cruel and unfair at times. Hold on to all the strength that Pete has installed in you and the humour he has will remain with you as a family. You are such a positive person with a great sense of humour yourself which will give you that inner strength to get you through with and for your girls. Life will never be the same but different.

    in the meantime, just spend as much precious time together as you can. Get some extra memories in to share and laugh about again one day.

    My thoughts and love are with you all.
    Tracy x

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