WHEN Annabel Nnochiri was told she only had two and a half years to live - she wrote a bucket list, as a lot of people do.
But what was sitting at the very top of her list is probably not quite so common.
The 58-year-old, from North London, whose bone cancer progressed to stage four last year, wanted to leave her husband of 28 years.
"I made a bucket list and the first thing was to leave my husband. I had a good life but just felt completely trapped and wanted to break free," Annabel said.
"Knowing I had a short time to go I knew I couldn't live the rest of my life just being a housewife.
Although she had every intention of secretly escaping from her married life - she first ran the grand plan by her 19-year-old son and 16-year-old daughter.
"If they had not agreed I wouldn't have done it, but they both said I would be happier if I left," she said.
She nutted out her new life over the next six months and sneakily bought a flat with some inheritance money.
"When I told him he thought it was just a phase and that I would go back to him."
But he couldn't have been more wrong.
Annabel had beaten breast cancer in 2010 but two years later, in January 2012, was left devastated when her parents died in a crash.
In March that year, she developed a pain in her leg and by June it was so intense that she "couldn't bear it".
A biopsy revealed a tumour in her hip.
"The breast cancer had metastasised into my bones. I'd talked with others for a long while about ending my marriage," Annabel said.
"But when I was diagnosed as terminal I thought 'I've got two-and-a-half years left and I don't want to be in this house. I don't want to be cooking dinner every night - I want to be free!'"
Now she and her ex, who met at university, have a good relationship.
"I didn't leave to be with someone else but I have had a very happy love life since then - and he has found someone else and is happy too," she says.
An art teacher, Annabel also got back into her painting, took up salsa dancing and went travelling.
"I used to be anxious, worrying what people thought of me," she explains.
"Now I just don't care because of the cancer. My children are far happier and we are all closer.
"My daughter says I'm her role model, I've learned to be more selfish - but I also help others with cancer.
"When I'm in hospital I always try to reassure people who are nervous. Some are petrified. Someone did that for me and it made such a difference."
Five years after her initial diagnosis - Annabel says it has made her a more confident person.
"If I hadn't had cancer I would have been a dull person. But because of it I've become a much braver, naughty older woman," she said.
"I could live a few more years. I do still want to live - for my children, to see my grandchildren."
Annabel dislikes being referred to as a cancer survivor.
"I'm just getting on with it. Living with it. It's a long journey," she said.
"When I got my terminal diagnosis I was so angry with God that I stopped going to church.
"You just have to get through the anger and grief and accept it. What came eventually was calmness, wisdom and spirituality. If you show kindness it will always come back to you."
This article originally appeared on Kidspot and has been republished here with permission.
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