Tuesday 27 Sep 2022
Patrick and I were together for nearly 35 years. We met in our early 20s - it was a holiday romance!
We had always imagined that when our children grew up, we’d start a new chapter somewhere else and we moved to Cardiff in 2016.
Now in our early 50s we were looking forward to the next stage of our lives. But it didn't work out as we'd hoped.
In 2017, Patrick started getting stomach pains and began losing weight.
It crossed our minds that it could be cancer, but we put it down to stress or a food intolerance so didn’t worry too much at first.
The pains got worse and Patrick had various appointments as well as several trips to A&E.
After the final dash to A&E in the middle of the night, we were relieved to be told Patrick had appendicitis. He was sent for emergency keyhole surgery and I went home to rest.
Returning the next day, I found Patrick wired up and clearly very ill.
The surgeon had discovered a large cancerous tumour in his bowel which had been removed along with part of his bowel.
However, the cancer had already spread.
We soon found out that Patrick was unlikely to live more than 2 or 3 years. It was too much to take in.
In the early days, we were just getting by, taking it day by day.
We were all coming to terms with the fact that we had cancer in our family and everything that comes with major surgery and a terminal diagnosis.
The future looked very bleak and we were afraid.
As we began to adjust our priorities changed.
While we had to have conversations no couple imagines having in their early 50s, we always tried to focus on making the most of the time we had left together.
Through his illness Patrick became busy writing a blog about life with cancer, fundraising for Bowel Cancer UK and speaking at events.
Through social media he met people in similar situations and enjoyed talking to them - sometimes in the middle of the night when cancer patients can struggle to sleep because of the steroids that help the body cope with chemotherapy.
He would come to see his blog as one of the most worthwhile things he had ever done. It gave him a purpose and something to be proud of.
Patrick was one of the first visitors to Maggie’s when it opened in Cardiff.
He encouraged me to pop in and talk to somebody.
I started to come in for a cup of tea and a chat while he rested during his long chemo sessions.
I’d been feeling isolated as I didn’t know anyone going through the same thing.
It was such a relief to talk to people who understood what it is to be the partner of someone with terminal cancer.
I also started seeing the psychologist, Jo and continued to see her for almost a year after Patrick’s death.
She listened as I talked, helping me understand my feelings and reactions as well as how best to care for myself and prepare for a future without Patrick.
We had a quiet but very special last Christmas.
Early in January we were told the cancer was spreading and no longer responding to treatment. Patrick died on 25th January 2020.
I understood that in time I’d learn to live with grief. But in the early months when I found it hard just getting through the day the thought of having to learn anything new was quite overwhelming. Jo helped me set myself small and manageable goals.
Maggie’s looks at the whole picture and is experienced in supporting people with cancer. For me it complemented the support I got from my family and friends.
The people at Maggie’s understand grief is much more than sadness and are comfortable dealing with all the intenseness and complexity that comes with it.
I had some really hard conversations at Maggie’s yet it was always a good place to be. I felt so safe the moment I walked through the door and it was lovely being around people who understood.
Grief is exhausting but running has played a big part in helping me cope with Patrick’s illness and death.
At first, I couldn’t run very far and I had slowed down a lot. I was patient with myself as I had learnt from Jo about the physical effects of grief.
I took things slowly and as I got stronger, returned to my running club.
After Patrick’s death it felt very strange being alone in the house and I found it hard being at home.
Evenings and weekends were long and life felt very shapeless. But I looked forward to getting out for a run and always felt better afterwards.
I went on to train as a running leader with my club; it was a challenge and I felt nervous at first. But it’s turned out to be great for me.
I’ve loved having something worthwhile to focus on, planning my sessions keeps me busy and getting out in the fresh air with my running friends always lifts my spirits.
For years, Patrick and I watched the London Marathon - we loved it! Patrick ran it in his early 30s, finishing in under 3.5 hours. I remember it as a happy family day.
This year, I was lucky to win a place in my running club ballot so very soon I will be running 26.2 miles across London!
My running club chose Maggie’s as our club charity. It’s a privilege to be raising money and awareness because I don't know how I would have managed without the support I received from Maggie's. I'm glad to have the chance to give back.
Running for Maggie’s has helped me stay focused with the training and will keep me motivated on the day.
The training has been gruelling but has also given me confidence and so much respect for myself. I feel sad Patrick doesn’t know that I’ve taken on this amazing and exciting challenge but I know he’d be so proud of me.
As time goes by, my sadness is less raw, less intense and all consuming.
The feelings of sadness are still there but gradually get softer and I’m now better at dealing with them.
I’ve moved from just functioning to enjoying life - not always, but a lot of the time.
I accept I’ll continue to have hard days but am confident the things I learnt at Maggie’s will help get me through.
If you're already visiting the hospital, just come in.
To find your nearest Maggie's centre, enter your postcode or town below.
Stay up to date with our news and fundraising by signing up for our newsletter.Sign up