Bailey faces losing a husband again


ROBIN Bailey's husband Sean Pickwell has opened up about his life-changing terminal cancer diagnosis, describing it as "the best thing that ever happened to me", as the couple prepare to spend his final days together with family.

The 56-year-old, who was diagnosed with liver cancer in 2017, has reflected on the "wonderful bits" - including the deepening connections with his wife and children, the outpouring of kindness he has received and an overwhelming sense of gratitude - that came with being told by doctors he was facing "imminent death" after his disease spread to his bones, blood and other organs.

He says he has never met anyone like Bailey, whose fierce love for him inspired his fight.

Speaking to The Sunday Mail, Triple M radio presenter Bailey, 50, said she has resigned from The Big Breakfast to focus on her husband and family, with this Friday to be her last day.

In tears last week, she announced the news privately to her co-hosts.

"This last week was tough and I thought 'nope, that was it'," Bailey said.

"I hope this is a miracle and he (Sean) is here next year, but I need to spend time with my husband and not feel bad about the juggle."

Bailey, who lost Tony Smart, her first husband and father to her three sons - Fin, 19, Lewin, 17, and Piper, 14 - to suicide in 2014, began dating Pickwell in 2015 and married him in an emotional ceremony last November.

She said the decision to step away from work stemmed from the couple's recent acceptance of the grim prognosis.

Robin Bailey and Sean Pickwell after tying the knot last year
Robin Bailey and Sean Pickwell after tying the knot last year

"We were told he had six months 14 months ago, and that in itself is wonderful it wasn't the case, but we spent a fair bit of time searching for or believing there was going to be some cures - medical or alternative - and we're not saying that doesn't work for some people but he has gotten to a critical point in his journey," she said.

"It took me a while to accept the diagnosis - when you spend your whole time pushing someone up a mountain, hoping there will be a cure, there is also a process to having to accept, it's just hard."

Stopping treatment

The pair, who have kept Pickwell's cancer battle relatively private, recently made the decision to stop treatment to prioritise his quality of life.

"That wasn't living," Pickwell said. "What I've been able to do in that acceptance is live even more than I ever have before in my life. I came home and would literally stop every single day and think 'I'm so grateful'."

After spending much of 2019 moving in and out of hospitals, where he felt he was "going downhill fast", Pickwell decided he wants to die at home.

"We practically had to fight our way out of hospital, but we did. I don't want to sit there watching daytime TV, drugged up and waiting to die," he said.

"(At home) Everyone has just lifted and we've connected and bonded and it has been some of the happiest days of my life."

Beautiful words

In a letter provided to The Sunday Mail and written for his family and friends, he says that despite the "trauma and nastiness", there have been some "truly wonderful" things to come out of the illness.

Describing his diagnosis, Pickwell wrote: "Robin and I started to cry, and in some bizarre coping method, then to laugh, even borrowing a line from Monty Python's The Meaning of Life 'well that's cast rather a dampener over the evening'."

After leaving the doctor's office "shell-shocked", they gathered their families - including Pickwell's daughter Ally, 26, and son Jamie, who turns 23 tomorrow - to break the news and do his favourite things - eat KFC and drink vodka. The next day, the family went to Movie World, where Pickwell got down on one knee and proposed.

"Man that was the most awesome feeling - when she said yes," he wrote.

"And, you know what, with that news hanging over our head, I would have understood if she had said no. Talk about buying damaged goods - that's certainly how I was feeling about myself. Luckily, that's not what Robin thought. I've never met anyone like Robin … She will not lie down and let this cancer win, even if that's how I've felt some days. 'This is true love' she says, and 'love wins every time'."

Despite a rollercoaster year, Pickwell focused on creating precious memories with his loved ones, including a trip to Europe with Bailey and gathering their families together for Father's Day to give blood to give back after the many transfusions he had received.

Robin Bailey with husband Sean Pickwell yesterday. Picture: Annette Dew
Robin Bailey with husband Sean Pickwell yesterday. Picture: Annette Dew

Pickwell and Bailey want to encourage those considering sending flowers to give blood instead. They have set up a team at the Red Cross Blood Bank where people can give blood using the code Team Sean Pickwell.

Father's Day also marked the fifth anniversary of Smart's death.

While Pickwell acknowledges it's a "tricky" situation given they have already lost their father, he writes in his letter about how close he has become to Bailey's sons.

Bailey said her boys have the resilience that comes with losing a parent but that Pickwell's illness had been a different experience.

"I think the process has actually been really healing for my kids," she said.

"However this ends, it ends in love."

Bailey, who last week had Pickwell's heartbeat tattooed on her forearm, said she felt "so blessed and grateful" for the time they have had together.

"Sean is the absolute love of my life - I waited almost 50 years to find him and even if we only have a short time together, to feel this kind of love, respect and connection is worth a lifetime," she said.

"He has taught me so much about myself and his influence on my boys has helped heal and mould them into compassionate, caring, kind young men."

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