Facing her mortality

Aged 49, Kelly Hutton is faced with the news that she only has weeks to live. She shares her thoughts on life, and ovarian cancer, along with some parting advice.

I was recently sent home from the hospital with the devastating news that I only have weeks to live.

For the last four years, I’ve been living as much life as I can suck with stage 3 ovarian cancer. Despite three major surgeries, 33 sessions of chemo, a pulmonary embolism, multiple blood transfusions, the more recent arrival of both an ileostomy and a colostomy bag, and trying to maintain an indomitable spirit under fire, it’s finally time to face my mortality.

It’s a surreal place to be. I’m not sure how I’m supposed to feel as a dying woman while I remain pain-free and comfortable, knowing the inevitable is coming straight at me like a slow-moving freight train. And yes, I am absolutely grieving the life I still had to live, and the people I love. I wake up every morning wondering ‘Is today the day I really start to go downhill?’. I refuse to be angry about it because it’s no one’s fault. I’m not the first. I won’t be the last. I have no control over it, but I can try to control how I feel about it now so I can seek the emotional peace I hope for at the end.

For now, I have time for the life admin we never want to face – meeting the funeral director, picking my casket, choosing my music, making sure there aren’t any photos that would make me squirm, and trying to make things as seamless for my family as possible. Yes, it’s confronting, but there is nothing like tying up some loose ends.

Unexpectedly I’ve also been given the ultimate gift. As I’ve shared my news, I’ve been on the receiving end of incredible anecdotes and memories from my friends and family, both in person and shared online, an almost cinematic montage of my life through old photos, videos, and beautiful messages and “remember when we did that” and people have been unafraid to reach out and be vulnerable and cry openly and share their own grief about what’s next for me.

I can assure you that not one person has said “Wow, what about that incredible spreadsheet you put together” or “Remember that one time you actually wore lipstick” or “What about when you lost that 5kg”, because deep down we all know those things Just. Don’t. Matter.

I’ve been involved in sports at various levels over the years, and I could hardly tell you the details of one game, but I can always recall riding the highs and the lows with my teammates and bonding over missing home. Sport brought us together, but the friendships that have endured the years following have nothing to do with how skilful we were or weren’t. It started with connection.

I recognise in my final weeks that life boils down to simple things, and it’s never about an asset or what’s in your wardrobe, or on your driveway. All I need and want right now is my friends and family around me, and to be able to savour every morsel of food that I put in my mouth. It could be the last.

So, if you’ll let me, I have some parting advice. Think about what brings you joy and most importantly WHO makes you truly happy. Carve out time for them.

Eat the cake. Try not to sweat the small stuff. Tell people openly you love them. Be vulnerable. They will hopefully tell you. They might just remember you by that one time you made them smile or feel less awkward. Maybe you can die ultimately content like I will soon. That might just be the greatest gift we can take with us in the end.

He tangata he tangata he tangata. It is the people, it is the people, it is the people.


Kelly with her niece and nephew



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