Life is too short. It’s an oft-repeated phrase but author Christine Conroy knows more than most the true meaning of these words.
Christine’s sister, mum and seven-year-old daughter were all diagnosed with cancer within the space of nine years.
And it is her ‘Conroy women’ – as she calls them – who inspired the 56-year-old to write ‘Stitch Your Own Silver Linings’, a guide to helping yourself to happiness no matter what life throws at you.
Christine, who with husband Robin ran Queenline kitchen and bedroom showroom in Market Street, Carnforth, said: “When things happen, you think oh gosh life’s just too short and this is the whole thesis of the book really.”
Christine’s younger sister, Pat, was the first of the Conroy women to fall ill in her early 20s. She was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma and treated with chemotherapy.
She did get better but the cancer came back, and she sadly died two years ago, aged 46.
Christine’s mum, who died in the millennium, was diagnosed with lung cancer not long after Pat’s first diagnosis.
During this time her seven-year-old daughter Charlotte was also diagnosed.
Christine said: “Charlotte had bone cancer so all three were completely unrelated, nothing ran in the family, just one of those things I suppose.
“But the medical profession didn’t know what to make of Charlotte because she had bone cancer in her arm with an underlying condition that caused the cancer, but they’ve never diagnosed what she had to this day.”
For Christine whose two other children Mitch and Josh were aged just 10 and five at the time, worst news was still to come.
She said: “They gave Charlotte 12 months to live and in fact on the exact date of her eighth birthday that’s when the operation date came through to amputate her arm, so of course we put it back because they weren’t doing it on her birthday. But she did have her arm amputated in the end although even with the operation they gave her 12 months to live.”
Against all the odds, Charlotte, who is now 26, survived and today leads an independent life living in a flat and working as an educational welfare officer at a youth offenders’ institute.
But for Christine and her family, the life they had known before cancer dealt its triple blow – including their highly successful kitchen and bedroom design company – lay in tatters.
Christine said: “Twelve months later Charlotte was still with us but obviously we’d lost everything else including the business.
“Our life completely changed.”
She added: “But it does make you think well that’s happened and we’ve just got to get on with it now.”
Life has since taught Christine that she can channel her experiences into helping others – and she hopes her book can help some way towards that.
She said: “I firmly believe there are things that might make your life a little bit better.
“I’m not looking to change the world with the book but I’m looking for a single person who might be just going through something in their lives, not necessarily cancer, that’s getting them down who might read something that will make them change the way they think about that and improve their lives. That’s what I’m after.”
You can buy copies of ‘Stitch Your Own Silver Linings’ at Waterstones in Cornmarket, Lancaster.
Christine also has a website at www.christinelconroy.com