When I heard the sad news of Lynda Bellingham having terminal bowel cancer and choosing to end her chemo treatment, my heart went out to her family especially her two sons. I know from personal experience how difficult it is to lose a family member to the UK’s second biggest cancer killer – Bowel Cancer. Like Linda Bellingham my dad also had the disease and sadly passed away a few months ago. Dad didn’t however take the decision not to have the chemotherapy; he passed away before he had the chance to start the treatment.
Dad first got cancer a number of years ago and with the treatments of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, he got the all clear and the relief me and my family felt was immense. We could not believe it when a year later dad was told the cancer had come back! But there was still hope; the Doctor said dad could have further treatments of radiotherapy and chemotherapy and have the bowel removed. After the operation and treatments, dad was told the cancer had gone and he got the all clear. It was the best news we could hope for and I was so happy dad could finally get on with his life once he fully recovered. What kept all of us going was us thinking once dad did get better he would be cancer free and able to live a normal life again.
Things changed dramatically when dad wasn’t getting better and was deteriorating. When he went for further tests we were absolutely devastated when we were told the cancer had come back a third time and this time it was terminal. I remember the shock I felt when dad told me the news and I can’t describe the emotions I felt in that moment. I have always avoided the subject of death as I found it too uncomfortable and unbearable to think about.
During the last few months of dad’s life it was devastating to watch one of the strongest people I know lose all of his character and become a shadow of himself. I never understood it when people said that when a loved one passes after being sick it’s a relief in a way due to their suffering coming to an end. Due to me always thinking I would want someone to still be here no matter what. When dad was in hospital and got very sick it was so heart breaking to see and I felt devastated every day watching dad suffer knowing he would never recover. When dad did finally pass I went through every emotion – shock, guilt, regret and felt devastated when the realisation that I would never have a conversation with my dad hit me.
It has been three months now and while I still find it too painful to be able to look at photos of dad or to think too deeply into how he was before he was sick I am doing ok. The guilt and regret I felt has gone. I felt guilt at spending time still being optimistic and hoping he had years left and not facing the fact that he would be gone soon. The regret I felt at not opening up to dad and telling him I loved him before he went has also passed. I don’t know whether it is better to know a loved one is going to pass away or better to not know. From my personal experience I would have to say it is better to not know but that is only because I think it is devastating to see someone you love getting sicker each day knowing they will never get better. What got me through this terrible time and not completely falling apart if one thing and that is my wonderful friends I have in my life!
When I first told my friends I realised how hard it was for them knowing what to say or how I was feeling. I am so grateful to have such caring and supportive friends in my life who were so supportive and always there for me. Having friends to distract me from my situation, having friends to offer a shoulder to cry on and having friends to socialise with when I felt ready really helped me through the saddest time in my life.
I still get days when I feel devastated at my dad’s passing and the emptiness I feel at his loss is immense. I am however not allowing myself to give up on life and staying strong and know in my heart if dad was still here suffering this wouldn’t be fair for him as wouldn’t be a life worth living. I also know he would want me to get on with my life and live a happy and fulfilled life so I am trying to stay strong and get on with my life. Doing my writing really gives me a good outlet and writing is something I am passionate about. I am therefore really grateful I have been given the wonderful opportunities of writing for two fantastic magazines.
I take each day as it comes and as friends have said, try to be kind to myself when I am feeling sad. If you are reading this and have also lost a loved one stay strong and know you are not alone in your grief and things will get better over time.
If you have a friend who has lost a loved one, just a simple message telling your friend you are there for them will cheer them up.