Today is a bit of a personal post. Today, I am explaining my reasons for supporting the charities I do. As I have said in a previous post, I do support some local charities, but the two main charities I support are Cancer Research UK and Macmillan Cancer Care. Any research that can help towards the fight towards curing cancer, or any money that goes into paying the nurses who help and support cancer patients through their dying days is worth all the money in the world to me.
You see, I have had plenty of first hand experience with the dreaded C word, and I can assure you it is one of the most devastating illnesses anyone can ever go through.
My first experience with the illness was back when I was fourteen. This was the summer of 2004, and my Dad broke the news to me that my great uncle Roy was seriously ill. At the time, I didn’t know that he had cancer, as it was kept from me until a few years after his death. When my Dad told me this news, I hadn’t seen my uncle properly for around seven or eight years, except for family occasions once or twice a year. Although I didn’t know Roy had cancer, I can distinctly remember watching him go downhill and getting thinner and thinner as time went on. He wasn’t young by no stretch of the word, he was in his late seventies, but even so, to see someone dying slowly like that is a lot to take in at any age, let alone early teens!
This is a picture of my Uncle Roy in the sixties.
Anyway, I got extremely close to him again in his last few weeks, and although it was expected, it came as quite a devastating shock when I returned home from a sleepover at my cousins one Sunday afternoon to the news that he had died. To make it even worse, his funeral was arranged on the one day I had an important drama performance at school. I begged and pleaded my parents to let me off for the day, my class would have to do without me, yet they wouldn’t give in. To this day, that is probably one of my biggest regrets, not to get to say goodbye to him properly – and I don’t usually have regrets.
The picture above is of the woman who is the main reason I am so supportive of these charities. This is the only picture I can find of her on my computer, but this is my aunt, Heather. For the first few years of my life, my aunt Heather was always the life and soul of the family parties, always happy and smily, and its fair to say she was one of my favourite people in the whole wide world. As time went on, she started coming to fewer and fewer family parties, and she became more and more unwell. This started about ten years ago. About seven years ago, she got rushed into hospital seriously ill, and we were told to expect the worse. No one knew what was wrong with her, tests kept showing nothing, and yet she was obviously ill. She recovered amazingly, and was allowed home, but over the next few years, went downhill at a very rapid speed. Finally, about January 2009, the doctors found out what was wrong with her – she had cancer. Not only that, but she’d had it for over ten years, and it had been missed every single time she went into hospital. We were told that she had only a few weeks to live, and my family and I spent every moment we could round her house over the next few weeks. Every time we went home from her house, we expected the call to come, and it still didn’t. I must have said my goodbyes to her at least four or five times.
Eventually, it got to April -she’d amazingly held on for three months, and I’d just started seeing S. I confided in him that my Dad was going to see her on the Wednesday, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to go. He said to me that if I didn’t go, and something happened to her, I’d never forgive myself. He said that even that I’d said my goodbyes, so many times before, I should go and pay her a visit.
I went to her house with my Dad and my sister, and we were warned by one of the Macmillan nurses that she was extremely delirious and probably didn’t even know we were there because of the strength of her pain relief. The nurse left me, my dad, my sister and my cousin in the room with us, and I’ll never forget the moment when she opened her eyes and mumbled ‘Tony, where’s Tony?’. Tony’s my Dad and the oldest of his brothers and sisters. She then smiled at me. Just the fact that she wanted my Dad there was enough to make me smile – she was definitely holding on.
The next day, the 16th April, was my Nans birthday. Although my Nan had passed away 10 years previously, our family believed that Heather was trying to hold on for Nans birthday, as if she didn’t want to go until she’d let it go past. It came to the 17th April, and my Dad was to go and see my Aunt the next day. I was working my shift in the local pub, and my parents came down with their best friends, Mick and Val, for Val’s birthday lunch. After their meal was over, my Dad, Mick and Val all went home, whilst my Mum waited for me to finish my shift at 3pm. I’ll never forget what happened afterwards. Just before my shift was about to end, my Mum announced she was going to the toilet. 3pm came and went and I gathered my belongings and walked out into the customer side of the bar. My mum had left her bag by her seat, and I could hear ringing. Now, my Mum had said for the past couple of weeks to answer her phone for her if she wasn’t there, in case there was any news. Even as I reached into her bag, I knew what was coming. The screen flashed up with my Dad’s name, and as I answered, he shouted down the phone, asking for my Mum. I knew something was wrong, and I asked him what had happened. He then informed me that my aunt had died at 2.30pm that afternoon, and to get my Mum to ring him back.
He rung off, and I dropped the phone in shock, and burst into tears. My manager must have heard me crying, because the next thing I know, he was standing at the end of the bar with his arms wide open. He then helped me outside where my Mum was just coming out of the other door, leading from the toilets. I told her what had happened and collapsed on the floor, I just couldn’t get up. Even though I knew what was coming, I just couldn’t accept that she was gone. My manager was good friends with S at the time, and as S was working in London at this point, texted him to let him know. Everyone of my friends was at work, except one, so I rung him and simply said ‘It’s happened.’
He told me he was on his way down to the pub to meet me, and to wait right there. Within seconds he was there. Since he was walking from the other side of the village, this was quite a mean feat. It transpires that as he started his way down to the pub, my best male friend had just finished work and was on his way down too – this friend knew nothing of what had happened. He asked my friend, Duncan, why he was in such a rush, and Duncan told him. Apparently, Jim put his foot down, just so they could get to me as quick as possible. To this day, this shows me what true friends are -these two truly were there when I was in my hour of need.
To be honest, my Aunts final days wouldn’t have been half as comfortable without the MacMillan nurses there to treat her. Of course, she was still in agony, but they tried their best to make sure her last few weeks were as comfortable as can be.
Sadly, my family and its battle with cancer was far from over. As my aunt entered her final weeks, my brother had discovered that he was finding it hard to swallow food. Him and his wife went to their doctor, and he referred them to a specialist. It was here that my brother found out that he too had cancer. I can’t imagine the terror he must have felt, knowing that he had this disease, and that it was to claim his aunt in just a few days. It took a couple of months for him to build up the courage to tell my Dad and his mum (he’s my half brother), and asked my Dad if he could break the news to the rest of the family.
The day I found out I had been out with S for the day. I got home to Dad on the phone to my aunts answerphone. I could tell from his voice that something was seriously wrong, he was trembling and acting in an odd way. I asked him what was wrong, and that was when he told me. The next thing I remember is telling my Dad I needed my Mum, and jumping into S’ car to go to my Nans and meet her. It was an extremely scary time, and I was so glad when 2009 finally finished – because without doubt, it was one of the worst years of my life (my great-grandmother also passed away in the November of 2009).
Although my brother is still not out of the woods yet, he is recovering very well, and we hope he will be in remission very soon.
I also recently found out that my great aunt on my Mums side was suffering with the disease. Now, none of my Mums side of the family, except one great uncle, talk to this aunt, but even though I’ve barely said two words to her my whole life, I was still upset, as was the whole family – she is still family, after all. I have heard that she’s responding as well as can be expected to treatment.
I also recently attended the funerals of two family friends, whose lives had been blighted by cancer. One was my Grandad’s best friend, and another was the wife from one of the regulars at the pub I used to work at, and I had grown quite close to her. This disease is awful, and has affected so many people close to me, either personally, or through their families.
I ran the Race For Life last July, raising over £500 for Cancer Research UK. I cannot tell you how important these charities are in helping those suffering from cancer, and their families!
This has been extremely therapeutic writing this, I can tell you 🙂
If you would like to donate to my JustGiving page, in memory of my aunt, then you can find it here
Thank you for reading