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  • Writer's pictureDiem Burden

2020 - my best year became my worst year

At the beginning of 2020, I was so excited at the thought of giving up the day job and semi-retiring to focus solely on writing my books. It was all I’d ever dreamed of. OK, so the pandemic put me in lockdown and brought my day job to a close much sooner than I’d expected, and I got so much done regarding my writing.

And then the unthinkable happened. My two eldest brothers were diagnosed with cancer just a few weeks apart. Michael, my elder brother, is currently undergoing his chemo and radiotherapy treatment. We are praying it is successful.

Left to right: Michael, me, Paul.

Paul, my eldest brother, had been admitted to hospital initially with suspected ‘long Covid’, only to be told he had in fact got advanced lung cancer. Two weeks later he was dead. The shock and trauma this has caused my family is hard to put into words. It was all so sudden and unexpected.

Paul was the strongest man I knew, and the most generous person you could wish to know. He was the lynch-pin back home. He lived with my younger, disabled brother, who had a heart-attack the year before. He looked after him, took him everywhere and made sure he wanted for nothing. He also visited our 80-year-old mother every day, taking her shopping, walking her dog, having dinner with her, and taking her out on trips at the weekend. He was so involved in their lives, and they in turn were so dependent on him.

I live in Spain, and can’t do much for them back here, although I am now thinking of returning to the UK. My elder brother can’t help, as he is receiving aggressive treatment this year, and my youngest brother works away a lot.

The only good news to come out of all of this was that I was able to get back home for Paul’s funeral and read a tribute to him.

I remember that awful Sunday clearly. The sudden diagnosis of my two brothers had made me feel my own mortality, so I decided to start jogging and get into better shape. I hate running and hadn’t run for decades.

Paul Burden, RIP

As I was preparing to go, I got the dreaded news we’d been fearing, and all hope vanished: Paul only had days to live. I ran and ran for about 6km in the hills around my home, trying to make sense of what was happening. I screamed, and I cried, and I cursed into the wind. I would never see my brother again.

I got home, showered and sat down. The phone rang. Paul had died whilst I was out running. I haven’t stopped running since.

I now intend to run a marathon and raise money for cancer charities in Paul’s name. I have chosen to run the Camino de Santiago (Way of St James), a 800km pilgrimage route across Spain, in preparation. I’m doing this virtually through the Conqueror app.

I have also set up a Facebook page to raise funds in his name. If you’d like to donate something, no matter how small, I’d really appreciate it. This is the link:

I miss you brother.

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