IN my life as a fashion lecturer that feels oh so very distant now, my least favourite part of the role was the actual lecturing. I found talking endlessly to a group of people quite boring, especially when you could see lots of lights flashing when students ‘secretly’ checked their social media accounts every ten seconds. I always preferred the seminar contact with students where you create more of a two-way dialogue and exchange ideas. I knew I would desperately miss this part of my job but I didn’t expect to miss talking to large groups of people.

I’ve been wondering why I’ve been drawn back to giving talks. It’s a very different beast to talk about yourself and the complicated things that are going on in your world compared to why hems became shorter in the 1960s. When Greg was diagnosed with cancer, I had a fierce opposition to the idea of teaching fashion again; it felt frivolous and empty compared to what was going on but during those first months, I began to use fashion as a way to express my feelings. I wanted to wear bright colours, I dyed my hair purple, I wore styles I had never worn. It was my way of choosing to live and show others my desire to do so. I felt like a teenager again, when you begin to experiment with clothes and use fashion to construct an identity. I had lost my life so was reconstructing it.

It’s taken me two years to understand that the talks I have been giving about living with cancer and those I gave about fashion are all just the same thing. They are a way of humans trying to unravel the stories of our lives and understand how we feel. We want to connect with others, whether that be through crisis and trauma or wearing trainers that make us feel part of a certain group.

I was so humbled to be asked to talk about my photography of Greg’s diagnosis and treatment for Wire Wool at the Extraordinary Women event last week. I felt a surge of energy, that I was using my story to hopefully connect and resonate with others. This time, the only person in the audience with a phone was my mum; I think she might have been taking photos but I can’t be 100% sure that she wasn’t on Facebook.

* Stacey Heale has left her career as a fashion lecturer to focus on her two lively little girls and fiancé, Delays frontman Greg Gilbert, who was diagnosed with stage 4 bowel cancer in November 2016. She launched the viral campaign Give4Greg to raise funds for lifesaving treatment: You can read more at her blog