This was always going to be a week of high anxiety. The scan results were either going to deliver the devastating news that the new chemo trial hadn’t worked and it was time to face the final curtain.

Or that the double combination of aggressive oral and infusion chemotherapy had stopped the cancer nodules growing.

There was even an outside possibility that the treatment could reduce the cancer nodules.

The risks of face-to-face consultations in my local hospital were rising – this is a worrying and fragile time for immunity-compromised patients. I had requested a telephone call instead.

When the phone rang and the 0800 number displayed, we knew who it would be. We caught our breath and were wide-eyed for a brief moment, switched to speaker phone, and then said “hello Brian” to the oncology consultant who held us in frozen and fearful limbo.

The news was beyond what we had dared hope for. The fluid in my chest had changed consistency. The nodules had “significantly reduced” – my body had responded and the treatment had delivered the best possible outcome.

As Laura’s arms wrapped around me, I felt the emotional release. We went over it again in a little more detail with Brian – it was sinking in.

The treatment would continue and we’d scan again in a couple of months to check on the progress. That word “significant” loomed large and hopeful and welcome and beautiful.

We had got through the last few days being pragmatic – keeping busy coming to terms with the reality that funeral arrangements needed to be prepared, that personal letters of farewell needed to be written. That financial matters and suchlike required to be fully understood and in place.

The tension and stress were anaesthetised – or that’s what we had thought.

It only took a broken fridge and a call to’s call centre to expose how fragile our defences really were.

Laura had called to activate an insurance claim and get the fridge fixed. She explained an urgency as some of her terminally-ill husband’s drugs required fridge storage. It was clear she was struggling with even a small domestic issue and needed swift action, reassurance and a compassionate manner.

Everything was sorted with a sympathetic ear by Shauna in the call centre 220 miles down the road in Bolton. Two days later, a courier delivered a beautiful bouquet of flowers at our door. Inside, on a floral card, was written: “I just thought I would send these flowers after our conversation the other day and after telling me about your husband, I really hope these help a little bit.” Shauna.

This broke the dam that held back the tension and the tears. The kindness of strangers. So powerful.

Ally McLaws is a freelance specialist in writing, business marketing and reputation management. See the full range of services on offer and back issues at