My wife passed away on the 7th July, and whilst we always knew the day would come, it arrived "out of the blue". But, this post is about hope, joy, happiness and bravery - not mine, but Denise's, and her two children and the 10 days since.
Bravery - first, there is Denise's fight against Oesophageal Cancer, over nearly 3 years. On the day of her diagnosis in 2015, we both hugged and cried for about 30 seconds, then agreed that "it" was never going to run us, that we would tell it what we would do". And she did - we had our holidays, our trips, meals when she could eat them (so many restaurants!!). We had our "naughty corner" in the chemo unit (now legendary) where we laughed and joked and, I believe, made treatment bearable for other people (I refuse to use the word "patients"). And, at the end of each of her three series of chemo, brought chocolates and biscuits for our heroes, the staff. In June, Denise, statistically entered the top 5% of survivors from date of diagnosis - as far as she was concerned, she had won, defied the odds, beaten "it".
Bravery No.2 - on the final day, Denise developed a new symptom, which meant admission on a non-emergency basis to A and E, for the usual battery of tests that we had experienced last year. Up to 2pm, she was tired and weak, but all the tests had been more or less normal. Then, with no warning things went badly wrong - the details do not matter here. It was the afternoon of the England game, so no taxi's, and one of our neighbours bundled the children (30 and 32 years old) into her car and rushed them up to the hospital. Denise had been resuscitated but was very poorly. She could understand what we said, the promises made, the love, but being Denise she fought on. Then, my daughter (step to be exact, but she "adopted" me as dad a long time back!) whispered to mum, "its time now, we love you, but stop fighting, rest". And she did. The bravest thing I have ever seen.
And Since - well, we had a day of tears, but much more laughter and happy memories. And then, it was WWMD (What Would Mum Do?) - so, we have set up a Just Giving page in support of the Sussex Cancer Fund Wish List. Denise, like myself, was a senior Trade Union representative for Schools Support Staff, who was involved at local, regional and national UNISON levels. Not for her, the bureaucracy and hot air one gets in most Committee meetings. When Government Ministers asked her how she thought the meeting was going, her always polite answer, would be "interesting, but when are we getting onto the issues that mean something real to my members?". She touched many people's lives over many years, never asked for anything back, and until I met her, had experienced great hardship, and made many sacrifices to bring up her two wonderful children. She, by the way, decided I was the one for her - I never saw her coming, but when she arrived "what a woman".
Our final thanks, her final words, are to our heroes in the NHS, MacMillan, you know who you are - always going the extra mile, providing that bit of support so necessary, wonderful, beautiful people we will never be able to adequately repay.
And, the last words from Denise - "It is what it is - now get on with it". We are, through the tears, the low times, but doing her wishes, getting out there and doing something practical to improve the lives of people that happen to have cancer. Gone, but never forgotten!
Oh my brillmacm... what a truly inspirational story. I’m in tears of both sadness, happiness & heartache. Thank you so much for sharing this.
Sending my love to you & your children albeit adults now. Xx
Thank you for sharing that story. It made me smile as well as making me sad. I lost my mum in March 2016. 3 years ago, she was in QMC in Nottingham, fighting to stay alive after a major operation for bile duct cancer. They thought they cleared it and she had a few months of being "cured", but it came back........
She was also similarly stoical in the face of death, like Denise. She would say "it is what it is" from time to time. Because of course, it is. We can't escape it. And after her operation, she would say "it's a new life." She was reborn into a new, albeit brief life and even though she suffered immediately after the operation (it almost killed her) and at the end, she was reborn for a while and that time was so very precious.
Thank you for sharing your story and part of your life. It gives us all strength to read words like these. Thank you.
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