NELL Gifford, co-founder of Giffords Circus, has revealed the sad news that she has a year to live.
Giffords Circus, based at Fennells Farm in Lypiatt, is a Stroud institution, with many families returning year upon year for each new show.
Nell, the creative visionary behind the circus, and also one of its glamorous performers, shared her prognosis in an interview with the Evening Standard yesterday.
“I have a poor outlook,” she said.
“I’ve been diagnosed with a year to live and things like that and I can hardly remember the feeling of being without cancer.
“But I’m having loads of treatment under an incredible oncologist, ducking and diving through the NHS and private system.”
Nell has kept her nine-year-old twins Red and Cecil fully informed about what’s going on.
“It’s a lot for the children to take on,” she said.
“But if they didn’t know they wouldn’t be processing it, and they will have to sometime. We are doing it together.
“It’s hard on their childhood but they have their imaginary worlds they can go to. That is where childhood happens, in a way.”
She said the circus ‘has become a lifeline’.
“It always has been. It’s a support system, I’m the happiest I am here on the show. It probably props me up more than I prop it up. In the most calamitous times it’s been what I’ve turned to and what’s contained me and where I’ve felt safe. It’s the community, being by the horses; knowing you have your tribe; it’s cool.”
Nell was diagnosed with breast cancer four years ago and has now been told the disease has spread to her bones and lymph nodes.
Last month she was advised she would need more chemotherapy and since then has been dividing her time between hospital and her circus.
She has uploaded a series of uplifting videos, in which she manages to find positivity in her situation.
In this morning’s video, recorded from the circus site at Windsor, she speaks very hopefully about the work of her oncologist, Tim Crook.
Nell created the circus with her former husband, Toti Gifford, in 2000. Since then, it has been at the centre of her life and brought joy to thousands of people.
Low-fi and vintage in feel, Giffords is now famed for its magical performances.
This year’s show Xanadu is currently on tour, and will be returning to the area later in the summer, with shows in Minchinhampton and Stroud.