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Chapter 18

'Linda had no answers, only her will and her spirit; she helped me, it was encouraging just to know what she was bringing to this fight.'
Linda Stein

            Linda McCartney's death sent shivers through women all over the world, whether or not they knew or cared about anything she had done or believed in - she was famous, she was rich, she was a strict vegetarian, she had access to the best advice and best treatment and yet she died of breast cancer. What was to become of women diagnosed with the disease who were not so rich and could not command such resources? What was the point of having everything and living such a healthy life if you could be fatally stricken with a condition that is thought to be relatively 'easy to beat'? Where was hope to be found, or optimism, or good sense? Well, if we knew the answers to those questions, we'd have a cure for cancer, and we don't.
            One good friend of mine went for an examination as soon as she heard that Linda had died; 'I was overdue for a mammogram, and that made up my mind,' she told me. A malignancy was found, and treated, and her prognosis is now excellent. I would think that her reaction was incredibly sensible, and it demonstrates as much as can be learned from Linda's example, which is a great deal. Anything one does is better than nothing - beyond that, I certainly am not qualified to address the subjects of risk, therapies, survival and so on. Women have asked me, simply because I knew Linda, what she did, what the time intervals were, if she did anything wrong, could she have done it differently, what drugs she had; and all I can say to them, or to anyone, is that it's something for a woman (or, in rare cases, a man) to talk about with her doctor. Linda and Paul fought a good fight, and if there are regrets and soul-searching, it was an inspirational battle. They never gave up, and what more can be said? I would like this story to be hopeful, because the McCartney family was always hoping, and it made those last years that much the better for all of them, and for us; I would like to be helpful, but I cannot be specific: every woman is different, and every health problem is different.
            'Did you ever know her to be shy?' asked Linda Stein, a friend who is battling the disease herself. 'Did she not say what was on her mind? Did she not have advice to give, and answers to give? But only when she believed she had something to contribute, only when she thought it would be helpful to others, if they were people or animals. She never said anything in public about her cancer. She would write me notes saying, "My love is with you," and when we met we talked about green tea and skin moisturizers, but never about the disease we both had. And we were going to the same doctors at the same clinic. Linda had no answers, only her will and her spirit; she helped me, it was encouraging just to know what she was bringing to this fight. Now I'm here, and she's gone. There are no answers; Linda's life was her answer, but only to her own questions.'
            The only medical subject I will even go near is the subject of animal testing on drugs, which became a contentious and most unwelcome issue for Linda and Paul as they were struggling to conquer her illness. There were people who had a simply great time criticizing the treatments Linda was having, because it was likely that the drugs administered were tested on animals. (As Paul said to Chrissie Hynde, they opted for orthodox medicine.) And those who accused the McCartneys of hypocrisy were actually lobbyists working against the humane movement, trying to embarrass Linda, the world's most visible animal rights crusader.
            For what I hoped would be a sensible and sensitive answer to the question of animal testing, I asked Dan Mathews of PETA for guidance; he is by any definition a radical activist. 'I think most people recognized that assault as a cheap shot,' he replied. 'Auto tyres contain slaughterhouse by-products. Does that mean none of us should drive? If you take aspirin, you're using something that was tested on animals. Should we not take aspirin? That's not what the animal rights movement is about. It's about having a sense of practicality, and at the same time taking a look at mistakes that have been made; it's about finding alternatives to animal testing. When we find them, and we will, and if they work as well as anything we have, and we expect they will, then we'll be ready to make the basic changes. But we have to live in this world in the meantime.'
            In the meantime . . . she's gone from this place. There's no taking just yet of the measure of her loveliness. From all the people I spoke to, who were all people who knew Linda at one time in her life, there was never a sarcastic word, not a sneer, or even the faintest question-mark over her remarkable goodness, her selflessness, her lack of conceit or attitude, her energy, her frankness, the clear and strong picture she had of herself and her obligations. Amazingly, neither are there any question-marks about her children, which is a tribute - and one that she would probably have appreciated more than any other - to their upbringing that was defined with great care and watched over with great love. And about her marriage, I think we have heard more said than we can probably comprehend, so unlikely was it at the start and so incomparable for all those years until her life was over.
            Animals will be spared because of her work, and the fight against cancer will be enhanced because of the way she fought it and the assets she brought to the struggle. Although she didn't survive, others certainly will, and there will be more of them. Her husband will continue to be part of one of the most amazing and joyous teams ever to come before the public, for there is much to be done and he is now carrying two torches - but who better than he in all the world to see it through? And all her friends, and everybody who was aware, or will become aware, of what she did, will keep remembering and learning, and that is perhaps the greatest legacy of all.
            The last time we spoke, there were Linda's standard questions, and my standard answers.
            'Have you gone veggie yet?'
            'Well, not yet.'
            'You always say that. I'm not giving up on you, you know.'
            'I know. I love you.'
            'And I love you. Talk to you soon.'

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