They’re the inspirational but heartbreaking words written by a mother who knew she was going to die.
In a handwritten note found by her husband after her death, Annmarie James-Thomas tells the reader “the happiness you feel is in direct proportion to the love you give” and writes: “If you make a choice that goes against what everyone else thinks the world will not fall apart.”
Annmarie lost her courageous battle with cervical cancer two months ago but also left her indomitable spirit and a lasting legacy in a book that she hoped would help other cancer sufferers.
Today her family will gather for what should have been her 45th birthday celebrations.
Her book, You Need Humour With A Tumour, was launched at her mother Pauline’s hairdressing salon on Friday.
From the start, Annemarie and her husband Geraint were determined they would not lose their love of life after she was diagnosed with cancer and set about writing the book together about a year after the diagnosis.
To begin with they kept the news from their four sons, Zack, 22, Harrison, 18, Harvey, 16, and Roddy, 13, and tried to carry on life as normally as possible in a bid to protect them.
In the book, Annmarie writes: “We have been positive throughout, Geraint and me. There’s no denying that facing this has been hard, and sometimes frightening.
“Being diagnosed with cancer isn’t something that you can just shrug off, but it doesn’t have to define you either.
“And whenever one of us has had a wobble the other has been able to keep us on course – together we’ve done the same for our friends and family and in return they have done the same with me.”
Having watched her father, Ray, succumb to bowel cancer a year before her diagnosis, Annmarie was determined not to follow the same treatment regime and went in search of something different.
Refusing to be a “victim”, she rejected the purely medical route and met her cervical cancer head on.
Her journey took her to America in search of other ways to combat the tumour growing slowly – then not so slowly – within her.
She did undergo more conventional forms of treatment, but died at Velindre Hospital, Cardiff, in March.
Geraint said: “There was no way Annmarie would ever want her cancer to take over her life and that is what conventional medicine would have done.
“She had watched cancer take both her father and mine and she was determined not to go the same way, where the treatment was not much better than the disease itself.
“She loved life and wanted to enjoy all of it for as long
as she possibly could.”
Throughout the book, Annemarie’s humour and love of life and her family shine through.
She describes trips to her mum’s salon to catch up with the “girls” who work there as her “Welsh penicillin” and when she is given tranexamic acid to try and stop a bleed, she writes: “Here I am, a mother of four in my 40s from Merthyr, a good Catholic girl and now I’m doing acid.”
Also in the book, her son, Zack, writes: “The last things she heard was me talking and the things I said couldn’t have been more simple or more true – that I loved her and ‘thank you’.
“I wanted to thank her for everything – from the qualities she’d given me to the things she taught me, the direction she’d pointed me towards in life and the amazing life she’d given me and my brothers in every way you could imagine.
“Thank you for being the best mum that anyone could wish for.”
Before she died, Annmarie wrote: “I am so thankful for everything in my life.
“I like the person I am. I am thankful for my husband who is also on this journey. As one you can achieve most things, as two we can achieve anything.
“I am thankful for my children – how much they have enriched my life. I’m sure I would have been a different person without them.
“To be blessed with one child is truly amazing but to be chosen by four of the most beautiful spirits is a miracle and the best blessing anyone can hope for – I am honoured to know them.”
In the end, the book is finished by Geraint, her rock, who writes: “No matter how much I knew of her condition and no matter how sick I saw that she was becoming from time to time, I always felt she would be able to bounce back – if not stronger than before, then at least as strong as she could under the circumstances.
“So why did I feel that? Well, that was down to Annmarie herself. That incredible sense of humour, that indomitable spirit and the never-say-die attitude never left her.”