Tag Archives: cancer

My Son, a tribute to a man

When our youngest daughter Hannah was born in 1985, I thought our family was complete.  Leah our eldest doted on her and as they grew and played together I was the proud Father of two very pretty little girls while Julie was the hard pressed mum who had her patience tested as they grew older.  Then on February 12th 1989  my niece, Clare was born, Julie and I went to see my brother, Nigel and sister in law Barbara and to meet Clare.

When we arrived home, Julie was quiet. In fact Julie was exceptionally quiet, she usually had a lot to say after spending a day with my family.  Once the girls were in bed I looked at her because I had an idea what was going on in her pretty little head.  “You want another one don’t you?” I questioned  “Yes I’d love another, but do you mind? After all you’re the one who has to go out and earn the money my darling” came the reply.  How could I resist the longing look in those beautiful brown eyes?

So on February 27th in the midst of a storm at Blackbrook Hospital in Fareham, in the middle of the night Julie gave birth to an 8lb bouncing baby boy and we named him Nathan Thomas.  If ever a child was conceived and born out of love it was that little boy, not that our daughters weren’t but Julie had this idea that three children were better than two!  Five days later Nathan and Julie came home and from that day on our son was smothered with love.

Leah and Hannah loved the idea that they had a real live doll to change and feed, in fact I think Julie was glad of the help.  In the coming years she’d often remark what an easy baby Nathan had been.  When Nathan started crawling, then walking, as soon as I came home from work and sat on the sofa he’d be on my lap giving me a hug.  In fact I too was smothered with love by all of my family and I enjoyed every minute.  We never had much money back then but walking down the beach, going for picnics seemed to suffice and our children remained close as they were growing up, always looking out for one another.  Of course as Leah and Hannah grew up and became teenagers they became more independent and started leading their own lives but they were always there for their brother.

Julie and I had always bought our family up to be kind to each other, polite to all and to not fight, each other or anyone else. Of course this was an almost impossible task but they listened it seemed. One day Nathan came home from school and said he’d been bullied for some time.  As a parent and any of you will know who are parents, my initial reaction was anger towards this bully.  We sat down and talked about this problem in the evening Julie and I.  Julie’s solution to the problem  was to go and talk to the head teacher at the school but as I pointed out to her, I felt this would make Nathan a target so we agreed I would talk to Nathan.

Nathan was never a tall boy, but he’s always been physically strong so after he relayed the various bullying incidents to me I gave him my opinion.  “You know the thing with bullies son, they pick on you because they think because you’re polite and have manners you’re weak.  You and I know that’s not the case and I’m afraid sometimes you have to fight fire with fire” I explained.  “You mean I’ve got to fight him Dad but I’ll get hurt!” Nathan replied.  “You’re not made of glass son and yes it might hurt but believe me it’s the only way to stop the bullying. Remember though there’s no such thing as play fighting so make it count and know when to stop!”

A few days later I was in the garden and Nathan came to me and said “You were right Dad I’m not made of glass”. That’s all he said, no elaboration or bragging.  I was a proud father that day.

As time went on my son would come to work with me from time to time, during school holidays and just to earn a bit of pocket money. Even at fourteen or fifteen I used to watch the way he talked to my clients, he always shook their hands when he was introduced and answered when he was talked to.  Many times the clients complimented me on how polite my son was and I relayed this to Julie. “Where do you think he gets that from Kev?” She asked ” You I suppose, you’re the educated one” I replied. ” Don’t be daft, he gets it from you.  He watches you my sweet, you’re his Dad and his role model!”  You know I’d never thought about any of this at all deliberately but it was then I realised what a great responsibility it was to be a parent and I was closing in on fifty years old by then.  How easy it would have been to have got it wrong, how different things could have been! I remember a feeling of relief, thank god I had Julie by my side!

Julie and were on holiday in Gran Canaria when we got the call.  We had watched the Gran Villa del Conde hotel being built over previous visits and I promised her when it opened we’d stay there, we weren’t disappointed.  Nathan had just finished college  and had met an Australian girl.  We’d met Natalie a couple of times and she seemed nice enough.  “Dad, how do I go about getting a visa to Australia? I’ve sorted out my passport” he asked. “I’ve no idea my son, ask your mum, she knows about these things”  I passed the phone to Julie and she walked away talking to Nathan.

When Julie returned I asked her what was going on and she explained our son, who had always seemed to be a home boy had been invited to go to Australia by Natalie and he seemed determined to go.  “Well he is eighteen and it’ll be good for him to see somewhere else I suppose” I thought out loud, not believing for a minute he’d go. Nathan had a job in a factory packing surgical needles and he’d always been a saver so I assumed if he did go he’d have the financial side covered.

About a week later we returned home and Nathan told us he’d sorted his visa, a two year working visa.  So he was going then?  “I’m flying out in ten days time!” He explained.  I saw the look on Julie’s face, the look of worry only a mother can carry.  “I’m going to stay with Natalie’s mother in their house in Perth” he continued “And find a job when I’m there”.  Julie of course had many questions. “But who are these people?  We don’t know them! How do we know you’re going to be alright?” “Mum, I’ll be fine, Natalie knows places where I can get a job. Anyway I think my chances of getting a job out there are better than here, don’t worry!”.

Once alone, I tried to allay Julie’s mind, telling her he was a man now and could make his own decisions, then explaining he needed to spread his wings and we should be supportive.  Julie understood all of this of course but it didn’t make things any easier.  So there it was, after a family get together,  ten days later we took Nathan to Heathrow Airport and sat with him for three hours before he boarded a  Boeing 747 bound for Perth.  Did I detect a flicker of regret in his eyes as he went through into the departure lounge?  Julie cried all the way back from the airport, she was inconsolable but we had another family crisis to deal with once we returned, you’ll read about that in my book though.

Every night Julie cried herself to sleep for a month, it was hard.  We kept in contact with Nathan through email and he told us he was working driving a truck delivering something or another so we were relieved.  Then a phone call. “Dad, can you send me some money? I need to find somewhere to live! Natalie’s fallen out with her mother and her boyfriend and we’ve nowhere to go!” “So what are you going to  do son? I asked him. “Buy a tent until we can find somewhere to rent, just need somewhere for a couple of weeks”. “Ok, ok, tell me what to do and I’ll get you some money over”. Nathan told me what to do and what office to transfer the money to and I did straight away.

I have to say there is much more to the story but that’s for another time.  Needless to say I was proud of Nathan for sorting the problem out and then happier when he told me Natalie and him had found a place to live.  We were able to Skype by then, which was better I suppose, then one day Leah dropped another bombshell.  Nathan was planning to get married.  ” You can’t tell him I’ve told you dad” she said “He’ll never forgive me!”  Julie of course was upset and angry.  “What do you think about this then Kev?” She exploded. “I think Julie I’m not going to lose my son and the way I see it he knows his own mind and they may be young and if it works then so be it and if it doesn’t well  it’s a tough learning curve for both of them!” “Well, I’m waiting for Nathan to tell me himself, I’m not accepting that news second-hand!” Julie stated with both anger and disappointment in her voice.

Nathan did tell Julie and she accepted the fact then a couple of months later we found ourselves on a plane bound for Perth along with Julie’s mum and dad.  Julie and I had arranged to meet Nathan and his future wife in the reception of our hotel prior to going for a meal to meet Natalie’s mother.  Nathan entered the reception and although I was so happy to see my son for the first time in well over a year, I was shocked by the change.  The slightly shy teenager who Julie and I had seen off at Heathrow had become a determined confident man but they both seemed happy together so who was I to judge?  After all our love for our children had always been unconditional.  So we went for the meal, Nathan’s future mother-in-law seemed very flighty but when I asked her how she felt about the wedding told me she though Nathan was a lovely hard working man and she gave her blessing.  Of course in that May of 2009 when asked by Nathan if we’d help with the wedding preparations Julie and I readily agreed, then on the Saturday in Kings Park the wedding promises were made in a beautiful setting and all seemed good.  Nathan by this time had made many friends and was working for a finance company.  His boss had nothing but praise for him and his skills.  Life seemed good.  During our stay, Nathan and Natalie made us welcome and showed us around Perth and introduced us to their friends, Julie and I both agreed this was certainly the life for a young couple.  The time passed all too quickly and soon after many more tears, we returned to the UK to carry on life as we knew it!

Christmas Day 2009 where was I at 5.30 in the morning?  Waiting for Nathan to come through the arrivals gate at Heathrow!  My son-in-law Simon had insisted on driving up with me.  Nathan landed back in the UK with 6cents, his marriage had collapsed, his wife had taken everything, the dream was over.

It was a sad time, the confident man Julie and I had left in Australia was now a darker soul, full of cynicism, mistrust and anger.  Off course he was welcomed back with open arms by Leah, Hannah, Simon and us, but how do you help your son when you can see he’s crushed?  We just loved him and over the next few months coaxed him back to life, encouraged him to live his life.  Of course there were times I could see he was hurting and that hurt not only me but his sisters and mother.

For his part, Nathan built and sold two cars over the next couple of years while learning his trade from me.  I had forgotten just how quickly he learned and how intelligent he was, at times I found it difficult to keep up with his thirst for knowledge.  Nathan met his now fiancée Georgia in 2012, the change in him was apparent within weeks, he became a much happier and settled person, I’m pleased to say.

Everything in your life happens for a reason though and Nathan’s return happened for a reason.   When Julie was diagnosed with cancer in 2014 Nathan came into his own.  The girls did their part too of course. Leah ferried us to and from the railway station every time we had to go to London to The Royal Marsden Hospital and that was frequently.  Hannah left work early once a week to spend time with her mum, then called in as often as she could.  Nathan though lived at home and saw Julie’s suffering on a daily basis, tending to his mum at the times when we had to wait for an ambulance, watching his mum in intense pain but never panicking.   Nathan took the reigns of the business during that most difficult time of my life, working hard and troubling me only when he needed a second opinion.

Now as we approach Nathan’s 27th birthday on the 27th of February I want to tell you what’s prompted me to pay tribute to this man who has made my life so much easier over the last months.  Last Thursday he did a little thing which meant so much to me, he called me upstairs and said “Dad, shall we go out for dinner tonight? I’ll pay!” That was the first time we’d been out for a meal together since Julie died and I really enjoyed it.

So my son, I’ve watched you grow and learn, I may even have changed your nappies once or twice, been there when you’ve been hurt, seen you at your worst but I couldn’t wish for a more hard working, supportive friend and I wish you all the luck you deserve as you and Georgia look forward to starting a life together in your own home some time this year.

You’ve been through a lot Nathan in your first twenty seven years but that is what shapes you as a man and you couldn’t have made me more proud!

 

 

 

2016, the first full year without Julie


It’s been a quirky, funny and at times a horrific year.

2016 started less than three months after Julie died after losing her battle with cancer.  In January I made a trip out to Tenerife to stay with our long time friends, Linda and Pete.  The trip was a welcome break from the intensity of caring for Julie, then watching her slip away, her once beautiful body racked and ruined by disease.  Tenerife was my first time travelling abroad alone and it was a strange experience, sitting in Gatwick airport feeling alone amongst the throngs of other passengers, having a coffee without anyone to discuss the forthcoming trip with, just waiting for the boarding gate to be announced.  Once in Tenerife, I was made to feel at home by my lovely friends and it was a welcome and pleasant distraction from the previous three years.

February arrived so Nathan, my son and I set about carrying on with our business,  because without a doubt life has to carry on, doesn’t it? The sheer shock of losing someone so close is never far away though but you get up in the morning and get on with your life.  You laugh and feel guilty, then some days well, you wish there aren’t going to be anymore days.  That of course is selfish, because how would my children react if they were to lose their Dad so soon after their Mum?

March saw a visit to a medium with my friends Bev and Stuart, comforting? Yes, but possibly too soon! My mind was still in a turmoil and many things didn’t register at the time, since then? Well let’s just say the medium was spot on!  March also saw a wedding, Pete and Linda tied the knot in Gibraltar then the party moved on to Tenerife.  It was there I realised that I had taken a real emotional battering.  My confidence had disappeared and usually a planner, I had to “wing it”. That was a difficult time.

Arriving back from Tenerife in early April I felt bruised, not in the physical sense but emotionally, my mind had been constantly spinning and I felt I’d let my two dear friends down. I coped by throwing myself back into work, then towards the end of April I had some more bad news.  Angela, one of Julie’s closest cousins lost her husband to cancer! I’d only met Angela a couple of times but something compelled me to pen a letter to her, I did and felt much better for writing.

During May work as always was busy and weekends were busy too with family, one thing losing someone close teaches you is money is only secondary, it’s time that is the most valuable commodity.  Unlike money, you never know when time is going to run out.  So May was like most other months during my adult life, filled with as much time spending time with my family and grandchildren.

It was Julie’s first birthday without us on June 5th, she would’ve been 58 this year and the way she carried her age before she became ill she probably would only look about 45 had she still have been alive.  We, as a family decided to have a meal together and a small intimate party, the weather was good so we carried on the party into the evening sat in the garden.  Laughter and children filled the garden that day, just the way Julie liked it. Of course June also saw Brexit and the resignation of our Prime Minister.  The “Brexit” vote made me realise and see some of the hatred and selfishness locked away inside people, I watched and was subjected to veiled comments and abuse as a leaver.  I forgive all of those abusers because I know they are frightened and fear tends to bring out the worst in people.

July and August were a mixture of meals at my home for the family and visits to various museums, English Heritage and National Trust properties with my grandsons.  Trust me, boys love cars, castles, cannons and dinosaurs! We made a visit to the Isle of Wight, firstly to Alum Bay, the less said about that the better, it’s a total rip off with run down attractions.  Osborn House, however was a real treat, picnic in the grounds and a walk around Queen Victoria’s retreat, brilliant.  We also made a trip to the Historic Dockyard in Portsmouth and were delighted to find The Mary Rose exhibition had been updated.  Really we made loads of memories this summer, little things which everyone will remember but boy did we do some stuff!!

September of course, saw the first anniversary of Julie’s passing, difficult because that first year is full of “firsts”.  We marked September 7th not by being morose but with a chilli, laughter and lighting candles in the evening.  As September 2016 drew to a close, it was difficult to comprehend that a full year had passed since I lost the love of my life. Oh, and I bought a new car.

October? Well it was busy that’s for sure! Hannah’s birthday, work, just busy and then awaiting the clocks to go back and the darkness to draw in.

November started with a visit to my brothers house for an big ole’ family firework party on the fifth.  Work, as it always does at this time of years ramps up, then tragedy, a phone call from Yvonne, the middle of my three sisters, my lovely brother-in-law, Steve had been killed, cycling home on his way back from work! Another family devastated! Nathan flew to the US for a holiday and thanks to a member of our staff, I ended up working for the following two weeks like a twenty year old!

December 2016. Steves funeral took place early this month then a week later Julie’s dad had a malignant tumour removed from his arm.  Then a milestone, I went out socialising without my family for the first time in probably three years, up until that point I’d just not really wanted to be anywhere apart from home.  Christmas decorations and tree were put up then a week before Christmas I was lucky enough to be invited to attend another wedding, this time it was Stuart and Bev tying the knot, lovely service in the wonderful Rhinefeild House Hotel in the heart of the New Forest.

On Christmas Day I got up at 6am to prepare a meal for Julie’s mum and dad who due to ill health were unable to leave their home, Leah, Hannah and Nathan delivered it along with Simon and the three grandsons, Jack, Archie and Freddie?

Later that Christmas Day, another milestone, I cried for the first time since the birth of my son nearly 27 years ago.  Oh I’d felt like it, but even on the day Julie died the tears just wouldn’t materialise.  I guess all of my life had to be strong for someone?  When the tears came I felt relieved and realised I was still human and miss Julie as much, if not more at these family occasions?.

2016 didn’t finish pushing up surprises, a happier surprise happened on December 31st.  What was it? I’ll tell you about that one in due course. ?

So what did I learn during 2016? Well just when you think you’ve got life under control it throws a curve ball, then another, in fact so many there were times when I struggled to cope but cope I did.  It’s not just me who has to cope though, everywhere I look there are people struggling to cope. I’m lucky though, I write it down and hope someone reads my words and hope the words bring comfort to at least one person who feels the desperation caused by loneliness..

So to anyone who reads this I send you my heartfelt best wishes for 2017, may all of your dreams come true.

As always, thanks for reading?

 

 

 

 

 

Failure or Success?

img_3308Failure and success, two totally different words but how do you interpret them?  Some people think they’ve failed because financial goals haven’t been reached, others judge success by monetary or material means.  Me? I see success as small goals reached, by the amount of response from others positive or negative, because at least someone’s been listening, right? I never judge or assume failure in anyone because I assume they’ve all tried their best and will carry on trying until they feel they’ve achieved.  I feel whoever the person, whatever they do, if they’re happy in their own skin and can sleep at night then they have a right to feel they’ve succeeded.

One thing I’ve learned about people over the last sixty years is we’re all different.  Some can address all the problems and challenges thrown at them by life, I’m one of those, or so I’m told.  Others need to be reassured at every turn and twist.

I’m fortunate, I believe, I’ve succeeded in along with my late wife, Julie, in raising a family who all care for one another and are considerate to their fellow humans.  I’ve  succeeded in getting this far in life without making too many enemies, life’s too short for that!  Oh, there are a few who would disagree but on the whole I’ve lived my life as a good man.  I succeeded in my marriage by standing by my lovely wife who I’d been married to for thirty five years before the cancer snatched her away at fifty seven.

During one of the final conversations we had a couple of days before she died Julie told me “Kev, you’ve been a wonderful father and a lovely husband my darling”.  I replied. “Well sweetie, I figured you did the richer for poorer bit so I did the in sickness and health”  then “Look I know you’re struggling sweet, don’t hang around here for me”  Julie replied, the brave lady she was. “My darling you’re going to have to tell me to go”.  That’s exactly what happened two days later when Julie was struggling to stay with us, I looked at my three children and told them, “you need to tell your mum it’s o.k. to leave”.  More or less as one they gently said.  “Don’t worry Mum, we’ll look after Dad”.  Julie took a final breath and gasped “I love you all”, then she was gone.

Going through that I wasn’t quite so sad, but I felt proud of Julie and pride in our children.  So any time you feel you’re failing, read these humble words I’ve shared, look life in the eye and it will show you the way but never be afraid and see everything you do as a success…..

By the way, if you think there’s a couple of people missing from the photo above, Si was at work and Freddie wasn’t yet born. xxx

Thanks for reading 🙂

 

Adapting To Life…..As A Widower

Now heading into my fourth month without Julie, how am I coping?  Well ok I suppose, life has to go on.  I’ve children and grandchildren to think about so giving up has never been an option.  I’ve always been methodical so keeping house is straightforward, of course I did that when Julie was alive.

Cooking too, not an issue, I cook for myself and for Nathan and his fiancé, Georgia, so no problems there, plenty of veg and so on.  Even when they aren’t around I cook. Washing, cleaning, yep the whole nine yards.

Little things make a difference now, like when Nathan and Georgia sit downstairs and talk. When Hannah texts and tells me she loves me, when Leah tells me the boys are missing their Grandad.  I spent an evening with some friends in the New Forest recently, a meal, wine and conversation?.  Then last Sunday, another long term friend, Doctor Sam came for a coffee and chat.  When she dropped me a text a couple of days earlier I found a spring in my step because she was coming.  We had coffee and talked, not about anything in particular, but just a general catchup.  It’s all of those little instances and episodes that lighten my heavy heart.

Conversation with Julie, now I really miss talking to Julie!  Julie and I could sit and talk for hours about all sorts of things.  We could talk about anything and everything, only couples who really “click” can do that.  In fact as I write this I’m drinking tea out of one of her favourite mugs which had the words “everyone is entitled to my opinion” imprinted on it.  To be fair she wasn’t opinionated, she was intelligent and funny!

My children all are very supportive, of course they would be, we’re all code and they miss their mum, but as I tell them, “You’ve your own lives to lead so don’t waste your time, live it!”

So really where am I?  I feel empty, like my reason for being has gone.  I feel numb, like I’m looking from the outside in. I feel guilty because I’ve not shed a tear, so maybe I’m in some delayed state of shock?

Finally I feel anger because no one will ever convince me that had the consultant at the Queen Alexandra Hospital, a certain Mr Gollund, been more efficient and not misdiagnosed Julie’s cancer, then treated her for a fibroid, then Julie would still be here!? Thank god he “mysteriously?”retired on the day the surgeons removed a tumour the size of a six month old foetus from Julie while giving her the hysterectomy he should have recommended two years before.  Mr Gollund, thank you for depriving my grandsons of their Nana, thank you for depriving my children of their mother, thank you for depriving Julie’s parents of their only daughter! Thank you for destroying the dreams Julie and I had!  You’re inefficiency has hurt so many ?.

If you’re reading this, thanks for being my therapist and thanks for reading ????

Birthday party, garden parties and The Circle of Life

imageOne week following Black Wednesday and life has become clearer to a certain extent, plans have been made for the near future and we were back in London for a “handover meeting ” with Julie’s consultant at the Royal Marsden, Charlotte Benson.  “You’ve given it all you have got!” She tells Julie in her comforting bedside manner voice, this is a voice of genuine concern and humility because she feels that she has let down this patient.  Charlotte also knows this won’t be the last time she feels this way because as a general in the army fighting cancer, she knows cancer is a formidable enemy and won’t give in lightly.

Strangely though after we’ve gone through and exhausted all questions I found myself thanking Charlotte for all she has done over the last year or so, after all it wasn’t her fault the cancer had been missed for two years by an incompetent consultant at our local hospital!  No, the team at the Marsden worked hard to try and stem the advance of the cancerous devil.  Enough said!

We had an early dinner at the hotel that evening because we had been treated to a visit to the theatre to watch The Lion King.  While we were getting dressed to go out, Julie came out with another of her now common attacks on her disease.  “This was the only f*****g dress this shitty piece of offal will let me get in to!” She said half to me but mainly to herself.  “Don’t you worry sweetie, you look good whatever you wear” was my reply with a smile and off we went.

Once sat in the Theatre, I found myself sat with a little girl to my left.  It turned out this was her first trip to see a show and she was absolutely captivated.  The irony of this encounter wasn’t lost on me, to my left a little girl who was so excited and lucky to see the vibrancy on stage for the first time and to my right, Julie who had been on stage many times as well as in the audience, knowing she might not get to attend many more performances.  The number being performed while these thoughts drifted through my mind? “The Circle of Life”…..

On the train journey back Julie announced, “I want a party!, it’s going to be my last birthday and I want a party!”  “Ok” I reply, somehow knowing there was more to come. “When would you like it?”  ” As soon as possible of course, and I’ve decided on a few other things as well!” She carried on looking out of the train window.

Once back at home our tribe start descending.  Party was the word of that evening.  The evening became night and the night became an impromptu family party, it was heart warming to be sat at the table in our garden watching Leah, Hannah and Nathan laughing and bantering the night away, a definite memory making moment of love and pride, knowing our three cubs had grown up into independent, hard working Lions and Lionesses.  🙂

One of our really good friends dropped by on the following Saturday to see Julie.  “I’m going to have a party Mel and soon as possible” Julie explained.  “Leave it to me and Michelle” We settled on a date, the 13th of June which was a week following Julie’s birthday then off tromped Mel to break ther news to our other friend, Michelle that she would be helping!  We of course (that’ll be the Royal “We” i.e. me!) would be financing the bash. 🙂

DSC_0003During this period of time, between the beginning of June and the 13th, Nathan and I started to rearrange and generally re-model our garden, not because the party was to be held at home but because Julie wanted us to create a memorial garden for her, “somewhere for family and friends can come and sit and have a drink when I’m gone” she announced prior to the operation.  Julie has a flair for design and Nathan has inherited it.  Nathan and Julie, designed, Nathan and I did the heavy work and everyone had a good time spending on this creation.  One end of the garden had become overgrown, we cleared it and laid down bark and gravel, we trimmed shrubs, and pulled weeds.  Nathan decided a well was required, we built it, Nathan added blue l.e.d. lights, we installed a further water feature and solar powered lighting.

 DSC_0105Julie came up with other little gems, such as the “Beach/sea” theme, “we do live by the sea” she told usphoto(31).  Over the last four weeks we’ve moved and added to our little garden, we’ve spent many of those nights sitting in the garden chatting, sometimes alone and sometimes with our DSC_0113family or friends who’ve dropped in.  Either way the project has given Julie much pleasure.  As for Julie’s Birthday party, that went without a hitch, Julie never got in until 3 in the morning, enjoying every minute in the company of family and a few friends, she couldn’t have everyone we know as friends because my budget couldn’t take anymore of a battering in June.

We’re now into July, how are things now?  Well since that “Black Wednesday”, Nathan and I have tried to go for lunch with Julie every Friday.  Leah and Hannah come in to see their Mum as often as their lives allow and I’ve been spending as much time as possible with Julie, only leaving her when absolutely neccessary.  Her Meds have been modified during the last 24 hours to try to stem the pain but this, at the moment is fighting a losing battle.  However, we remain hopeful, after all how much pain and for how long is a woman, even one as stong as Julie able to withstand the onslaught?  To see the woman who you’ve known and loved for forty years crying in the middle of the night, not because she has life shortening cancer but due to the sheer physical pain she is having to endure hurts.  Knowing there is nothing I can do except try and comfort her as she fights just isn’t enough!  I want to take this vicious disease out of her body, punch it in the face and give it a bloody good kicking!!

Hopefully, the new Meds will kick in sooner rather than later.

Thanks for reading and keep your fingers crossed 🙂

To be continued…..

 

Obesity it’s actually called FAT!!!

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This post is not aimed at anyone who is obese through illness!!

Finally the director of NHS England has come out to say exactly what we’ve always known.  Fat parents have fat kids!

Why has it take so long for someone in authority to take the plunge and say out loud what most of us have known for a long time? Until recently I thought I lived close to the only city and town where parents took their offspring to McDonalds and other fast food restaurants for breakfast usually in their “onesies” ( that’s the parents!).  Then go on to the supermarket and buy their roll-ups (also the parents) and chocolate bars, pizzas or chicken nuggets and pies for lunch.  imageSee what I mean? 🙂 It’s not only along the south coast you can see this but also according to my brother-in-law, prevalent in the garden of England, Royal Tonbridge Wells.    I’m all for giving the kids a treat but all too often I see kids looking like this struggling to walk along the streets.image  If their parents look like the vision in the first picture or the porkster pushing the wheel barrow. What chance do they stand?:(

Aside from the well known effects of obesity such as heart disease, increased chance of cancer,liver disease, diabetes, and stroke. There are the environmental health and safety aspects!

What health and safety aspects? Let’s deal with the environmental problems first. When you finally expire, earlier than your thinner peers, it will probably take an extra tree to build you a coffin.  It will take more gas to burn you at the crematorium and more electricity to light the crem while your family wait for your ashes. Prior to all of that you won’t fit into a normal hearse so most probably a lorry will have to be hired instead.  This of course uses diesel which is a known pollutant.

On the health and safety side, throughout your life you will expel more gas because of the vast amount of food you consume, causing people to faint while gasping for air.   Waiters in restaurants and cafés will be forced to carry your food in in pairs because the plates will be overloaded. ( on the plus side more jobs will be created). Pall bearers at your funeral will have to be doubled or a crane operator will be required to operate heavy lifting gear.  The vicar will have to stand on a pair of steps to see over your coffin while conducting the service!! 🙂

All joking aside, when I was a child in the fifties and sixties, there were people who were overweight but not so many. We walked a lot, we climbed trees, we ate healthily because our parents ate healthily.  In these days of couch potatoes, not harvesting potatoes,  most of us are probably guilty of not exercising enough.  There is though an increasing amount of us who “can’t be bothered”. So listed below are a few ideas to get a little healthier 🙂

1.   Walk your children to school

2.   Make takeaways or ready meals, a treat, not the norm.  It’s cheaper and more fun to cook your own meals and while you are cooking you aren’t thinking about snacking!

3.   If you have even a little room on your terrace, patio or garden,  plant even a single tomato plant, just growing a single piece of your own fruit or veg gives you a sense of pleasure.  (We grow quite a lot in some quite small planters)

4.   The lighter nights mean it’s time to prise your children from the TV  and video games and get them running outside, playing sport or cycling! They will get used to it, even fishing is exercise!

5.   If you can’t cook already, LEARN! Buy a Jamie Oliver cookbook, easy to follow and understand! The best way to teach your kids to eat healthily is to teach them to cook healthily! They’ll pass that on to your grandchildren and so on. ( It’s called responsible parenting)

6.   Stop smoking, it’s expensive and slows down your metabolism which in turn makes you lethargic.  Not to mention it will be a contributing factor to early death.  If you spend say 30.00 per week on tobacco products, which is 1500.00 per year, think how much fresh food you can buy.    If you smoke 20 tailor made cigarettes a day which at a cost of about 7.00 per pack, £2500.00 per year you can buy enough fresh fruit and veg for a family of four for a year!

Hope this helps!

Thanks for reading 🙂

 

Two weeks is a long time…….eight weeks are shorter

I haven’t written and posted since May 3rd, not because I’ve been stuck for words but we’ve been busy work wise and with all the issues that entails.

Julie is not faring well on the latest chemo.  After her latest treatment, she had to spend almost a full week in bed recovering, not so good,  not feeling well enough even to walk downstairs.  The one thing you get to find out when you are close to someone with cancer is they are not the only one.  Also, there is always someone whose battle seems harder and fortunately, there are some who make a full recovery.

A long standing client of mine, “John” has spent a good part of his later years caring for his wife who started off with breast cancer, it then spread to her jaw which she had re built but she made a full recovery.  Now John has the disease, prostrate cancer and just for good measure also in his lymph glands.  I know his wife will be there for him but life is cruel sometimes.

Then there is “Ann” Ann is an ex nurse, her husband had a major heart attack and died around the time she was diagnosed with cancer four years ago. Ann’s disease is in her lungs, liver and her bones.  When I first met her she explained she had been very ill and we would have to conduct our business while she sat down.  Once I had told her about Julie, we got on very well.

Ann too is a brave lady,  we always have a laugh and joke about life and the way it keeps tripping you up!  This week while I was hanging some new doors for her she told me she had a couple of  appointments at the hospital, one for some radiotherapy and another for a scan.  She got up on Wednesday  I asked her how she had got on.  “Not good, it’s got worse, no wonder I feel so rubbish!  Anyway back over today to get the results” she added.

Thursday her daughter in law told me Ann had been given no longer than eight weeks to live. Everyone went off to work, I carried on working.  A little while later Ann was up.  ” I suppose you’ve heard? She asked. “Yep, it’s a nasty little feller, that cancer, but I have to say Ann you just don’t have the look of a dying lady!” I reply. A little while later that day she went off with her son for lunch and to the garden centre.

I typed up her invoice the following day and emailed it to her around seven in the morning asking her to let me know when it would be convenient for her for me to pick up a cheque.  Within five minutes Ann had sent me a text saying ten would be good for her.

I arrived just after ten to find Ann up, about and in fine spirits.  “You my lovely are something else, I can’t believe you replied to my email so early!” I told her.  ” I know” she said “Isn’t it wonderful, they put me on steroids and I’m absolutely wired. Do you know, yesterday I actually walked around the Garden Centre.  Up until now I’ve had to have a wheelchair.  I’ve even written your cheque already!” She enthused.  We had a long chat about life, her funeral and loads of other totally meaningless rubbish before I left.

I know that Friday might be the last time I see Ann, it won’t be the last time I’m in the house because she has contracted Nathan and I to do more work, on her behalf, posthumously for her son.

On that Friday, Ann had all of a sudden been given some sort of closure to the battle she had been fighting for four years.  It was as if she’s been given permission to leave the wreck of her body and move on.   I really hope she survives longer than those short eight weeks, but only if she wants to.

As I put the final touches to this, I’m on a train, heading to London and the Royal Marsden with Julie, once more. Since last Saturday she’s been suffering a bit.  Her happy juice (morphine) has taken a bit of a battering over the last few days, we even had a conversation where Julie told me if the pain was this bad now, I was to ensure she drank plenty of happy juice so she didn’t suffer any more when she was ready.

Am I capable of following that instruction? Yes I’m capable and brave enough and will do whatever’s required to ensure she doesn’t suffer any more than she wants. Then face the consequences because at that stage, I won’t care that much about me, only Julie, Leah, Hannah and Nathan

Thanks for reading 🙂

Rebecca Ferdinand & Julie Atkins

Image result for rebecca ferdinandToday we’ve heard the terrible news Rebecca Ferdinand, pictured below with her husband Rio Ferdinand, lost her short battle with cancer.  So what has this got to do with Julie, my wife?  How are they both connected?  Here’s how.  Both Rebecca and Rio and  Julie and I both have three children.  Both Rebecca and Julie fought and in Julie’s case, is still fighting Cancer, albeit different types, but both just as deadly.  Both Rebecca was and Julie still is being treated for this life changing disease in The Royal Marsden Hospital in London.  photo(30)

The picture of Julie and I (left )was also taken before she was diagnosed and at that time we had no idea of the onslaught that was to engulf our family.

If anyone who has never been this situation tells you they know how it affects you, your family and your life in general, they don’t.  As Rio, Rebecca and their families have found out, one day you are going to work, speaking to each other normally, laughing, arguing and just living life as normal, then someone presses the button which says you have cancer.  When this happens, boy, your life changes.

It takes a little while to digest how this affects your life.  Julie and I both decided within hours how would tackle the situation.  She was told without me, at that stage when I was summoned to join her in the hospital where we  were only told “the fibroid” wasn’t a fibroid but a huge growth which (had been misdiagnosed) was cancer. We were told the diagnosing hospital couldn’t treat it successfully as they didn’t have the knowledge and duly referred to the Royal Marsden Hospital in Chelsea (below).  I say we because although Julie has the disease,  we fight it together. http://www.floydslaski.co.uk/images/RMH_big.jpg

When we first arrived at the Royal Marsden, we had no idea what news was about to be given to us, we had booked into a hotel, stopped on the way from Earls Court to Chelsea at a local wine bar for a drink because we were early before going into register and enter the packed outpatients waiting room.  Julie was called more or less on time or probably a little later and we were taken to an examination room.  A man, possibly about my age entered with a specialist nurse entered and introduced himself as Ian Judson, “Ian” it turned out is Professor Ian Judson, the softly spoken hehttp://www.sarcoma.org.uk/sarcomaukfile/upload/IanJudson.jpgad of the Sarcoma Unit and one of the foremost oncologists in the world! His specialist nurse, Alison Dunlop a straight spoken Glaswegian lady with a difficult job, supporting and imparting information to mainly but not always, incurrable patients.

Professor Judson sat on the bed dangling his legs, and started speaking. “After studying the scans sent by your hospital, It’s not the nodules in your lungs which are concerning me, I think we can deal with those relatively easily but the tumours on your liver.”  I didn’t want to ask the question,  before I could gather my wits and say anything Julie asked “So you’re saying I’ve got lung and liver cancer?” The professor went on to explain the type of cancer Julie has is a Uterine Leiomyosarcoma, a rare type of cancer which form in muscle tissue.  This he went on to explain had been dealt with but because it had been left too long had spread to the liver and lungs.  I could see Julie had been taken back so I started asking the questions.

Obviously we needed some sort of prognosis. “Until we’ve done our own scans, all I can tell you is that it is incurable.  We are very good at what we do here and have access to different and more radical drugs which other hospitals don’t have” Prof Judson continued.  ” He has a way of giving bad news without making it seem like a major disaster, in fact all of the staff at The Marsden are the same. “Alison will go through the details of the first treatment we’ll try which is Doxorubicin, if this doesn’t work we’ve plenty more in our armoury.”  Plenty more was said I’m sure but that is what stuck in my head.  We shook hands and the professor left.

Alison went onto explain the side effects of the drugs and how it would be administered then reiterated how this wasn’t the only drug to use, she also said as did Ian to go home and think about all that was said before making a decision as this was a lot to absorb.  You’re telling ME !!

We went back to the hotel, discussing this monster inside Julie and how to tell Leah, Hannah and Nathan, our three children and her mum and dad.  Prior to dinner that evening over a drink Julie said to me ” I’m not giving up without a fight, this fucker’s not taking me easily!”

I’m pretty sure Rebecca and Rio probably had a similar experience to us, this beacon of light, The Royal Marsden, gives all the same treatment and the staff never give up until all avenues are exhausted and even then they continue to give pallative care.  The Ferdinands and their families will have cried together, hugged and kissed each other, made vows to one another, unfortunatley Rebecca has lost her fight, it is up to Rio to be both mother and father to his three children as they grow up missing their mum.  Ours are all grown up but as a close family it’s no less painfull.

As I write this Julie is in bed recovering after another bout of chemo, feeling and being sick and sleeping while this, her third different drug in the last 12 months does it’s stuff, hopefully.  I don’t know how much time we have left together, after being with each other for 40 years and married for 35 of those, I guess we’ve been lucky so far.

My heart goes out not only to Rio, his children and family but also to all of the many cancer sufferers who have to deal with this disease because I know how you feel.

With cancer, you get up in the morning, it’s there, you close your eyes and wake up, it’s there, whatever you do every single second of every single day, it’s there, waiting like a dragon to sneak up and when it’s ready, to eat you.  The only way to live with this monster is to accept what it’s capable of and fight.  Sometimes you feel like you are winning, other times, you are backed into a corner.  If you are lucky, the dragon’s hunger stays satisfied.  Other times as in Rebecca’s case he sneaks up behind you and feeds.

To the Royal Marsden I say this, your work is invaluable, even if sometimes the results are negative, your attitude is always positive.  Keep up the good work!

Thanks for reading 🙂

Julie’s struggle

Since we were last at the Marsden, this most recent bout of chemotherapy really seems to be taking its toll on Julie.  Although she looks well,  she is in nearly constant pain/discomfort and only rests intermittently.  Her appetite is sporadic but when she eats she eats. Lucky she has the “Happy Juice” as she calls her morphine! Still, off to the RM again tomorrow ready for Wednesday’s round of drugs.

Wish her luck!

Thanks for reading 🙂

 

 

Start of Julie’s visits to The Rowans

 

The Rowans
The Rowans

Just before Christmas, Julie started going over to The Rowans Hospice at Purbrook, for a six week course every Friday.  She thoroughly enjoyed the experience, with its complimentary therapies, informative talks and excellent buffet lunches! She found it extremely helpful talking and interacting with others in the same situation as herself and has made some great friends who keep in touch with each other.

Obviously The Rowans is a hospice and Julie chose this as the place she wanted to be able to go when she felt the need to in the future.  Far from being what most people consider a place you go to when you die, the hospice is a relaxing drop-in centre for cancer patients with support staff and volunteers who do their best to make you feel a person again, not just someone suffering from a life shortening disease ……