An Update from Babette

19th June 2021

Babette Bluett-Duncan


Unfortunately my cancer has taken a turn for the worse. And I am more and more wanting to spend time with myself and my very dear, as I do not have much energy, together with having a fair amount of pain.

It started during the holiday week Andrew and I took, in a cottage, in Mid-May. I had some change of medication, and some reaction to shrimps one evening, and spent most of that week in pain, but with the joy that as we were on “holiday”, Andrew was free 24/7 for me which was simply marvellous.

Return to home sweet home, discussion with the GP, 111 and St Catherine’s Hospice, I discovered with awe and gratitude that our system does work, that there are gazillions of people out there around me ready to help, (and en passant, that the more polite and grateful I am, the more help I get). Most of you know that I went to Germany, and one of the difficulties in my situation was that I was running out of the pain killer I came back with, and that I had to adapt to some more commonly used here, understand the conversions, and swap. Well, it… nearly worked, and I had a very unpleasant 48h with symptoms of “cold Turkey” (feeling clammy, shivering, stomach cramps, and full blown sense of panic) and then a very clever young doctor, who specialised in end of life, found the drug I needed to take in order to calm all these cold turkey symptoms, together with a prescription of anti-anxiety tablets. In the course of this I twice ended up phoning 999, to end up in A&E.

So life has been slightly turbulent at AoL Headquarters since Mid-May, culminating, as Andrew mentioned last week, in a week long spell in East Surrey from which I came out to the most pleasant and warm of week-ends (that is last week-end as you read this). So, this was a bit of the narrative, now let me get to my understanding of the physical evolution of my cancer, and then, I really wish to share what this episode has given me, what it has made me think, see and where my heart is today.

I won’t go into the details of what Andrew called my “Tummy” problems”, as many of you will read this at breakfast, and we are in Britain after all, so let’s keep a minimum of restraint (restraint which my dear Andrew has spent at least 28½ of the 29 years we have been together trying to teach me!).

So my cancer, is known as Triple Negative, meaning that it is not touched by 3 of the “methods” used to successfully treat most breast cancers out there. The Triple negative is a strong cancer, a “baddy”, it goes fast. After starting in the breast, it spread to the liver and to the lungs, then into the bones. So I have some pain in a number of different places, but thankfully, under the care of the Palliative team of St Catherine, I am kept nearly pain free as they are around 24/7, with a team of knowledgeable people who listen, know their stuff and even advise to go to A&E in some cases. I also have the support of a very responsive GP practice and the Hospital Oncology team. Add the District Nurses to the equation and I am back to where I started this email: crying in awe and gratitude at how well our system works.

I am also slowly be made aware of my part in the “working of the system”. I had a zoom chat with Henning the doctor in Germany some 10 days ago, and we were discussing ways to feel better, as indeed there is no known cure to the Triple Negative. So with kindness and empathy, he asks me what I want to do with the life I am yet to live, (In opposition to be scared by death, I think, and just react to this last one, instead of still feeling alive). And I loved hearing the question, and also the positivity with which Henning has always supported me, so I didn’t need any time to think, I answered “I want to love more, better, I want to spread intelligent love…” and that brought a lovely smile to his face, and it made me feel so supported, and in my heart I prayed, and asked Whoever is up there to send me some “small jobs”. I feel too weak and unpredictable, from 1 day to another, to be able to take on new clients, new lessons, but when I feel good, I love listening to others and helping if I can. And since then, Life has sent me/put me in situations where I have been able to use my brain, knowledge, skills to help bring some understanding, some comprehension to the world around me.

One anecdote I wish to tell you. When I first went to A&E end of May, Andrew and I were waiting in one of the cubicles where I had been waiting on a bed and a porter came in, pulling a face, interrupted the conversation I was having with Andrew, and said something like “I have to take you” with a very cold voice and I remember the implication seemed to be “why aren’t you already ready for me?”. I tried to make him laugh (ah ah!), relax, and to regain my sense of “you do not have to tell me off” but the man was impenetrable, I could see “hate for humanity” in his eyes, and both Andrew and I were utterly shocked by his rudeness and his display of North Korea like attitude. It increased by the definite fear that I could read in the nursing staff around him.. He did not have his name clearly showing, so I never knew his name. On returning home, I was SO sure that I was going to file a complaint, and then it turned out that I had to go back to A&E the following day, so I suppose I am trying to paint the picture that however cross I had been at this man, I was also rather busy with my body symptoms.

Anyhow, here I am back at East Surrey and he was either not on duty or in another part of the hospital, so I didn’t see him. Then a week passed, and here I am thinking philosophically about what is left ahead of me. Andrew then inspired me with a book he is reading which I think he has shared bits of with you called “Love your enemies”. I am always touched when things “cross over”. I mean, if I am in a church or temple and someone has a book “love your enemies” then whatever my views on the topics, it is in harmony with the place. But when Andrew found this book through some clever business guy, I was more intrigued that if a nun had mentioned it to me. So, here I am, feeling Andrew’s love daily, being given a renewed view on why loving our enemies makes utter sense, even for business relationships.

Then a week later, here I am, going to A&E again with my “tummy problems” Andrew referred to last week. I go from the waiting room, to a triage room, to a bed in a cubicle waiting for a doctor to examine the symptoms I had. I was very peaceful, prepared, with laptop, phone, chargers, book, writing stuff and even food, yes I was in a very good place. Then, lo and behold, whom do I see behind a curtain but that very porter. And I thought, a bit frantically “Oh my, what do I do, loving my enemies, yes, but I don’t want him to get away with what he did, he has to be stopped, but how do I say something without adding a new dose of miscomprehension in the world”. I was aware that I do have the ability to tell someone off, to be quite direct etc… and I also felt the urge to act fast, as he wasn’t going to be behind my curtain forever, so I said, in a rather loud voice “How are you today sir?”, he hardly moved/reacted and somehow expressed that he didn’t know me/what I was talking about, so he was very close to dismissing me and the whole thing, so I added ”When we met last, you were not very well”… (The understatement of the century ?) He looked his grumpy self and started to mumble “yeah, you know, sometimes,…, one doesn’t feel 100%..” and then looked at me sideways it seemed, and pushed the empty trolley he had been dealing with, and still mumbling added “but thank you for asking” and left.

Phew! My, wasn’t I pleased. I noticed with joy that I never felt cross at him, as I was empowered to stand up for myself, I didn’t need to be cross, as I looked for a win-win solution, I didn’t need to be rude myself in retaliation, I even had some empathy for him after that.

So, here I am, reflecting on life, thanking the Universe for all these little episodes. I have also finally accepted to accept!. More on this another time, but I am getting freshly baked bread delivered to my door, meals delivered warm and the friends who have cooked it staying with us for dinner which brightens up the evenings. It’s great really, it’s like it used to be when I cooked before, some pretty good food being produced, but this time round there is no shopping, no washing up, with great company and always the option to say no thanks to this last one.

This week I have the added bonus of the visit of my “heart sister”, a cousin of mine known as Grande Jeanne in our family. She is in quarantine with us, braved the faff and utter complications of crossing the channel in the current pandemic situation. She has been coming to us ever since the children were tiny (hence the Grande Jeanne v Petite Jeanne, who, for those of you who know her is certainly not petite anymore) and being part of the family, she is of great support not just to me but to everyone in the Bluett-Duncan family so, I am extremely grateful for all her efforts to come and support us in our hour of need.

I want to finish today by thanking you, I know I said it before, but writing to you, some of you I know less than others granted, but still, your presence, your existence and your feedback, add something to my life, help me feel less alone.

I will also ask our tecky guy to create this as a blog post in it’s own right (I hear we have had glitches so you might need to click on more than 1 button (just scroll down a bit! Andi)) because so many of the answers I receive are “too beautiful to be only read by me”.

Please be brave to answer publically what you are tempted to write to me alone. The world needs more sharing, we all need/want to know more about the depths of our hearts, and we do not have many occasions, many platforms, to be real.

Thank you for reading,


Covid-19 Update

Andrew Bluett-Duncan

Director, Art of Living cookshop

Disclaimer: this information is correct at the time of publishing 06/07/2020, our situation will be under continuous review. 

  • Art of Living's Reigate and Cobham shops are now open Tuesday to Saturday from 10am to 3.00pm.

    At the entrance of the shops, we have a unit that I built with sanitiser and we are encouraging you to use it, especially if you want to touch things in the shop. This also applies to people wearing gloves. 

    We are all wearing visors, which is a great find (thank you Em) because they are far more pleasant to wear than masks, and enable us to be facing you without the 2 metre distance, and above all they allow us to be understood by customers and colleagues alike. I have built a screen in front of the tills and these are working well. We also have more sanitiser there.

    We are still allowing only 3 customers in the shop at any one time. If you come in as a couple, we would ask you to stay together if there are other people in the shop. 

    We’ll be asking you to pay by card if possible and the floor is marked out to give you a guide on distancing.

    Our website shop remains open, alive and kicking.

    Kind regards

    Andrew Bluett-Duncan

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

We are pleased to say that we are operational, our website is open for you to place orders and we are dispatching at an unprecedented rate. Our incredible warehouse team have been working non stop to make sure we can still pick, pack and dispatch your orders as quickly as possible. As with most companies, we are operating with fewer staff than we normally would be, so we hope you understand that it may take a little longer than usual to answer your phone calls and respond to your emails.
Thank you in advance for your patience and understanding.

To make sure we can answer all customer queries as quickly as possible, please consider the following Frequently Asked Questions before contacting us:

When should I expect my order?
We are currently asking customer to refrain from calling us to chase up delivery dates for orders. This allows us to prioritise actually getting your goods out for delivery. Unfortunately we are not able to answer telephone queries at this time, though you can leave a voicemail message for us. This may, at times, mean that our response times are a little slower than usual but we would ask that you bear with us. We would like to apologise for any inconvenience, but please rest assured that all customer enquiries will be dealt with.

Our warehouse team is working hard to make sure that most products are dispatched within our standard lead time and many items are going out much quicker. Some items do have longer lead times due to our suppliers also working with fewer staff and taking longer to deliver to us.

Depending on whether you gave us your email address or mobile number when you placed your order, we will email or text you once items are dispatched and on the way. Your order confirmation will give you a 'worst case scenario' delivery date.

Why have we suspended taking telephone orders?
We are currently unable to take orders over the phone and so we ask all customers to visit to place orders.

I received my order, but it was incomplete.

We do sometimes part ship orders to ensure the products arrive as quickly as possible. So if you receive a delivery and think something is missing, please check the delivery note as this will let you know what should be in the parcel and if there is anything to follow in future deliveries.

My delivery tracking shows my items have been delivered but I haven’t got them.
Our carriers are currently operating “Contact free” deliveries. If you receive confirmation that something has been delivered but haven’t received it, it’s worth checking around your property or in your designated safe place before contacting us.

Do you have plenty of stock?
In short, yes we do! We are constantly ordering more stock so that we can not only continue to fulfil orders as they are placed, but also reduce the amount of time you have to wait. However, a number of our suppliers have gone from delivering to us in 24 – 48 hours to 10 - 14 days and this, along with a spike in demand means that some items may be delayed, or temporarily unavailable.

I have another question or problem

We would like to assure you that we continue to be here if you need us. Like most of our customers, many of our staff are spending the vast majority of their time at home and we realise that cooking and baking are becoming a sanctuary. We are committed to making sure we do everything we can to continue to supply you with the best quality products at great value.

Please email

Thank you for your continued custom and for your support and patience at this challenging time.

We really appreciate it and wish you all health and best wishes.

The Art of Living Team



  • The Cantor FamilyJul 31, 2021

    Thinking of you all at this very difficult time. May Babette finish her life peacefully as she so clearly deserves after handling her illness with such fortitude and determination to make the most of the better times. She has been an example for us all.

  • Janet GreenbergJun 30, 2021

    Dear Babette, I think all will agree that your writing is even better at this point than your speeches, and we all have learned so much thru your strength and courage during this entire and yes horrendous ordeal. SOOO…MA CHÈRE, WRITE AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE, as much for you as for us all who love you !
    and BTW, stand up for your rights towards the trolley guy “Kill them with Kindness” I always say. He wasn’t feeling 100%? Did he give a fraction of a thought on how YOU were feeling?

    Do you remember (maybe not your time..), the awful PDG of the SNCF ( French train Co.) who came into the gallery and immediately started insulting me? While waiting for his grown children to arrive, to make a gift of a painting to each of them.

    I answered by every funny and nice thing I could think of to his ranting and raving,( very loud) and even asked him to speak louder as a car accident- 5 yrs later haha!-had made me a little deaf! . Was it the fact he couldn’t get me angry? He started to calm down, his grown children arrived, and he DID buy them each a painting; I could see the astonishment on their faces that their father and I were smiling. Once I had his check,( I may be kind, but I ain’t no dummy)
    I said:
    " And Now, I want you to know you Monsieur le Président that YOU have won my “Chocolate Medal of the month”, for having been the most difficult client I have sold a painting to! "
    He started to grimace, his children held their breaths, then, AS I brought out a big box of chocolates…(always have them on hand! ) he actually started laughing. A lesson for all of us ! Yes, ’ “Kill them with KIndness”!

    Keep your courage, my dear Elisabeth, I hope you will soon be home again, and thank the Cosmos for these new painkillers. Kisses to all.
    and keep us informed as much as you feel up to.

  • Babette Bluett-DuncanJun 26, 2021

    Dear all,
    Writing from yet again another hospital bed, I wanted to thank everyone for answering here. I enjoyed reading your comments as much as receiving emails, and it does give me “permission” somehow to not answer individually, which is a great relief. I wrote that I am learning to accept, that I am accepting to accept, and this is part of it. There is however 1 limitation to this public/ness because some of you still prefer or feel more at ease to open up to me more if writing on a 1 to 1 basis. So please then, if this is your case, continue to use my personal email
    This hospital spell is because my body is generating fluid (as a response to cancer metastases everywhere?) and 1 of the places where it can go/has gone is between my lung and a sac that holds the lung. Last week we got 2.4 litres of clear liquid out(!) this week we’re on 1.8litres. How did I find oud out about it? Feeling breathless after either talking for more than 1/2 hour (me who can talk for England!), or going up up a small flight of stairs, let alone do both.
    I do find the uncertainty of hospital life difficult. Some staff (most), are excellent at introducing themselves, keeping me posted to what is going on or why they are doing what they are doing. Others… not so, which leaves 1, me. in a child like position having to submit to an unknown parental figure, which is quite unnerving.
    Running a very small company as we do, makes me realise that problems though are the same, mostly training, how important it is, and how easy/tempting it is to think one can do without, and how easily things can go pear shape when day teams haven’t had the same training as night teams, It is quite uplifting really.
    I am waiting for a doctor now on Monday to decide what we do next in order to send me back home. I really want to continue to do something useful with my life, and I feel rather limited in an hospital ward.
    Merci to each one of you for your heartwarming comments.
    By bye for now

  • Linda KnorpelJun 26, 2021

    Dear Babette, I have always enjoyed Andrew’s Art of Living posts and have recently read yours with more concern. I admire your spirit and concern for others and wish you love and peace. All the best. Linda xx

  • TraceyJun 24, 2021

    Some of what you said resonates with me, as I have taken the last (almost a) year, to learn (and will always be a student of) the practice of Meditation. It has given me the skills to understand and be more tolerant. I understand about personal boundaries (which can act as an invisible protective shield) and the need to be kind to others, even if they show little kindness themselves. You never know what someone else is going through and even though I have problems of my own, whereby I am in constant pain, I appreciate there are people in this world worse off than me. Life is difficult enough as it is, but is made a little better when we share a smile, send a friend a cheesy joke, listen to our friends with patience and compassion, but also when we learn some self care and kindness. I have read your update with hope and kindness for you in my heart. Keep strong Babette. Healing wishes to you and for your family. Xx

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