Cancer got my grandmother, it got some of my aunts and uncles, and it got four of my close friends. It nearly got my Mother but, luckily, hers was a form of skin cancer and through laser treatment she was cured and then it got my Father. But nothing could have prepared me for when it got my partner, Paul, the father of my children.
Paul was 36 when he was diagnosed with stomach cancer and just 37 when he died from it. Our twin daughters were 10. He was initially diagnosed with a stomach ulcer and was constantly popping Rennie and drinking Maalox. One day his pain was so bad that he went to his doctor and collapsed in the waiting room. When he was brought into hospital they operated on him. And that’s when they discovered the cancer. Still, we thought, at least they’ve got it now, they’ll remove his spleen and sew him back up and he’ll come home and be well again. ‘He’s young’, ‘he’s strong’, he wasn’t going to die, not Paul, no way. Those reassurances reverberate in my head to this day. How wrong we were.
After his initial diagnosis and a lengthy treatment he was allowed home. He had lost a lot of weight and had been through a really tough time with the chemotherapy. We thought it would be a good idea if he went to South Africa to recuperate with some relations who lived there. He was initially meant to go for two weeks, but he had a relapse while out there and was hospitalised.
This was a very worrying time for us as we didn’t know what was really going on and he was too ill to travel home. After a few weeks of uncertainty he finally came home and was taken straight to hospitaI by ambulance.
When we saw him on his return, I just burst into tears as I couldn’t believe it was the same person, he was so thin. I didn’t think it looked too good, but we all still tried to convince ourselves that he would recover. We visited Paul every day in hospital, the twins and I. They idolised him and didn’t seem to notice how gaunt he was, either that or they choose not to. We talked a lot, played board games and even managed to laugh a lot during that period. I guess we all still hoped for a miracle, that things would turn around and we could get back to getting on with our lives. But it wasn’t to be. We weren’t with him when he passed away in the end, but I remember the day so vividly. It was Paul’s brother who called to give us the news. I couldn’t say anything, but my daughters just looked at me and started to scream and scream.
I happened to be in my parents’ house when we heard and thankfully my own Father was there to comfort them. But I thought how unfair life was, I still had my father and I was 35 years of age, my little daughters were only 10 and their father had been taken from them in the cruellest way. And I had lost the man that I loved since I first met him, on my 22nd birthday. At times I still get angry about Paul’s untimely death. Our girls are grown up now and they still miss him every day. His death was and still is a great big void in their lives.
Cancer denied my children their Father and it denied him them. He never saw them finish school, go to their debs, get their first job, their first car. He never even got to meet his first grandson, Adam. Cancer got Paul, way before his time.
I want to get Cancer because it destroys lives, it doesn’t matter what race, what religion or what sex you are, it doesn’t even matter what age you are, it can still get you. I want to get Cancer, because it got me.