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Ashes 2019: Strauss and McGrath Open Up About Their Wives' Battles With Cancer

Informing their young children about the eventuality was the toughest part of the struggle, according to both Strauss and McGrath.

Cricketnext Staff |August 15, 2019, 10:22 AM IST
Ashes 2019: Strauss and McGrath Open Up About Their Wives' Battles With Cancer

The second day of the second Test between England and Australia will see Lord's turn red for the Ruth Strauss Foundation, which former England captain Andrew Strauss established in memory of his wife Ruth who passed away last year due to a rare form of lung cancer.

Ruth was diagnosed with a rare form of lung cancer in 2017 which ultimately took her life last December.

In a special podcast for BBC's Test Match Special, Strauss and former Australia fast bowler Glenn McGrath, who lost his wife Jane to breast cancer in 2008, spoke about

Like Lord's will on Thursday, the Sydney Cricket Ground turns pink on day three of the Sydney Pink Test every January in honour of Jane McGrath.

Strauss and McGrath spoke about their tough battles with cancer, the effect it had on their families and their respective foundations.

"I remember the day she was diagnosed very vividly," Strauss said. "It could have been five years, it could have been three years, it could have been one year, but we knew she was going to die of this cancer. We all live in this little bubble that we just expect to live forever and I think those of us that have been with people battling cancer, you realise, actually, this surrounds us everywhere we go.

"We seem to isolate ourselves from that, and we're not involved with it until you are. Then in the middle of it you're entering this very strange world of scans and incredible anxiety and new terms you've never heard before and relying on doctors whose judgement you've got to trust. It's a brutally tough journey."

"I'm a little bit different to Straussy in that the doctors kept telling Jane it's going to be a chronic disease, something you're going to have to live with for a long time," said McGrath. "To me, the worst part, always, was waiting for scans. You'd go for the scans, you're waiting for the results; you're in no man's land. You can't plan, you can't do anything, whereas even if you find out it's bad, then OK, this is what we have to do - you can focus and put your energy into it and off you go.

"It was only up until the final two weeks where things got that bad. Prior to that, we thought: we're going to beat this. And then bang. We're in trouble. You've got to try to remain positive but it's not easy."

Informing their young children about the eventuality was the toughest part of the struggle, according to both Strauss and McGrath.

"What Ruth and I were most petrified about was the effect this was going to have on the kids. The kids are your everything," said Strauss.

"Telling the kids was by far the hardest thing to do. I remember it like it was yesterday, taking the boys to one side and saying, 'listen, we've just come back from hospital and the doctors have said we're going to have to say goodbye to mum soon'.

"Where we were very fortunate was that Ruth was still very much herself, right through to the end. She wasn't actually that unwell, which seems odd to say, but she could speak and she was recognisable as herself, which made it a bit easier for the kids as their memories of their mum are of her being well and not really sick."

"Once we realised that was it, three days out, to tell James and Holly that mummy was going to pass away is easily the hardest thing I've had to do," said McGrath.

"Hearing Andrew there takes you right back there. Jane was at home, we had a nurse looking after her, and she passed away there. The kids went up, gave her a kiss, said goodbye as she left. The fact that we'd prepared them a little bit three days prior made that so much easier. But still, telling them what was about to happen was worse than actually, for me, when it did happen."

Strauss hoped the Ruth Strauss Foundation would help people going through similar struggles. Part of the process will be Lord's sporting Ruth's favourite colour - Red - but the former England batsman stressed the initiative was not just about her.

"Ruth would have gone 'no, don't do that, please, it's not about me!' - and this isn't about her, actually," he said.

"It's about her experience and using it as a way to make something positive come out of the situation. While Ruth was going through the cancer journey, I felt a need to go through that very privately. I didn't want us to be sharing every scan result or whatever. Now, luckily enough, I have a platform I can use.

"If I want people to talk about grief and be more open about it, I have to role model that, and I'm OK doing that. I want to make this foundation a success, make it a worthwhile legacy for Ruth, and I want people to have a better experience as a result of it."

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