THE date November 19 2012 will be forever etched into the memories of best-selling author Deric Longden and beloved wife Aileen Armitage.
For that was the date Deric was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
Deric, 76, the man behind the best-selling Diana’s Story and the Emmy award winning Lost For Words, has been in declining health for the last 10 years.
He has suffered a series of mini-strokes which have gradually, and tragically, robbed him of the ability to write.
And two years ago he was diagnosed with cancer of the oesophagus.
The cancer was forced into remission by radiotherapy but a routine scan at Bradford Royal Infirmary on November 12 revealed the tumour had returned.
And this time, the doctor said, there was no stopping it.
Deric has kept his health problems private down the years – in his modesty he thinks few would be bothered – but the road has been hard.
Nothing, however, was harder than that day back in November.
“It was a long journey back from Bradford,” said Deric.
“It was a hell of a shock. There was lots of stopping in laybys and crying.”
Deric, though, doesn’t want sympathy. He has had a good life and he wants people to celebrate that.
He and Aileen, 82, who is almost blind, have fought his health problems together.
“We are a great team,” said Deric. “We do the Daily Telegraph crossword together every day.
“I read the clues, Aileen gives the answers and I write them in very neatly.”
Deric’s sense of humour remains firmly intact.
Deric gradually withdrew from public life and his writing stopped years ago.
“My brain goes after a while,” he said. “The longest thing I write these days is an email.”
Deric is matter-of-fact about it.
But it’s tragic that a man who wrote Diana’s Story about his first wife’s battle with ME and Lost For Words, telling of life with his eccentric mother as she gradually sinks into dementia, can write no more.
Lost For Words, which was made into a TV movie starring Thora Hird and Pete Postlethwaite, won an international Emmy for best drama in 1999.
Five years ago Deric’s life was saved by surgery.
He had an abdominal aortic aneurysm which meant he had to be cut from side to side.
He recovered from that but it was touch and go for a while.
Deric’s latest diagnosis has made him confront his mortality.
“I’m not moaning,’’ he said. “I get very tired and I forget things but I don’t think I have any ambitions left to achieve.”
Deric, who continues to laugh at life, said: “I went to a secondary modern school, failed my 11 plus and my O-levels and worked in a colliery in Bolsover but I have done all right really.
“I have won an Emmy and got into the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations for an exchange between Pete (himself) and Thora (his mother) in Lost For Words.
“Pete asks if she wants to be buried or cremated. And she replied: ‘I don’t know, love. Surprise me!
“That’s quite appropriate now,” he muses.
Deric, who has two children Nick, 50, and Sally, 52, and a granddaughter Katie, 20, said he had been lucky to find two loves in his life.
“We have had a lot of fun in our life,” said Deric. “I have been so lucky.
“I found two women in my life who I loved so much.
“I lost Diana and then Aileen came along. To find one in your life is doing well. To find two is remarkable.”