Welcome back to my Life After… series. The concept is my readers share their stories of life-changing experiences and as the title suggests what their life is like after, to give hope to others going through similar experiences.
The stories that readers have already very generously shared have certainly resonated with many other readers – thank you.
Today we have the lovely Lisa from Mummascribbles, with her very moving tale of her Dad who was diagonosed with a terminal illness when she was four months’ pregnant with her first child.
Over to Lisa to tell her story…
In March 2012, Dad finally succumbed to the issue that he couldn’t move his right arm and leg properly and went to the doctor. The doctor was useless and sent him away with the promise of a neurology scan. With the situation getting worse, we forced him back for a second opinion where the locum referred him straight to hospital for tests. A brain scan showed up a shadow and he was referred to the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in London where they performed a brain biopsy. A few days later, Dad was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour. I was four months pregnant with my first child.
I remember the day we announced our pregnancy. Even now I can still see Dad’s face lit up with joy. I enjoyed the next few months of being pregnant, talking about the baby and looking at prams that my parents had offered to buy for us. It was bliss. Oh how everything changed on results day. Suddenly we were being told that Dad had the most ferocious tumour that you can get. There was no treatment, there was no magical cure – all they could do was to give him radiotherapy to try and delay its growth. The prognosis wasn’t good though and we were told he probably had about 18 months to live.
It was after a short time in hospital that he had some further tests. I remember turning up that day to visit him and seeing my sister waiting outside for me. She told me that they had reassessed his prognosis and that they now thought he only had 6 to 9 months left. I was devastated. Eighteen months wasn’t long enough and suddenly it had been halved. There was suddenly a massive chance that Dad would never meet his newest Grandson.
Once Dad returned home, he had four visits a day from carers and my mum was also off work with him. In himself, Dad was much the same. The biggest change in him though was his attitude to my pregnancy. As soon as the baby was mentioned, he was dismissive. I know that it was his way of dealing with the fact that he might not be around to see this baby, but it hurt. It was also hard to hide it as my ever growing bump was difficult not to see.
Dad was home for a few weeks before one day my mum woke up and noticed a massive deterioration in him and it was time for him to be transferred to the hospice based at the local hospital. My director told me to go home and to not go back to work until I was ready. Of course, what he meant was, stay with your dad until the end has come and then make a decision as to when you want to return. It wasn’t unpaid leave. I didn’t have to work from home. I was to just go and spend time with Dad.
And that is exactly what I did. It was July now, I was 7 months’ pregnant and the hospital room was hot and uncomfortable. It didn’t matter though and I spent each day with Dad, alongside my sister and mum. Because it was an end of life hospice, there were no restrictions to visiting. I would go home for dinner and go back for the evening. It was then back home to sleep before heading back up there the following day. This was the routine for ten days at which point his body gave in and he passed away, roughly three months after diagnosis. There was a mixture of devastation and relief. Devastated that my 64 year old Dad was no longer with us, that the worst had happened and my little boy would never meet his Grandad; but relief that he was no longer suffering.
Dad’s funeral took place ten days later. I did so well throughout the service until the end when we had to leave. I went over to his coffin to say goodbye and that was it, the tears came. Feeling like my whale of a body was about to crumple to the floor, I grabbed my sisters hand and ran out of the chapel. It all felt a bit dramatic really but hey, I was allowed to be. I sobbed outside and it felt great to just cry.
The following weeks went by so quickly that I didn’t really have time to grieve in the normal way that someone would grieve for a parent. When I went for my 37 week check and they thought baby was breech, I was sent to hospital for a scan. Going back to the same hospital where Dad died wasn’t easy but I’m kind of glad that I had that trip before I was there to give birth. Zach was delivered by caesarean on 26th September.
From day one he has had the eyes of our family. The eyes of my dad. When he was a baby, he often used to look away into space and I often thought that maybe Dad was there. Maybe he could see him. From day one I was thrown into this new world with my baby son. The last three years have flown by and whilst I think of Dad all the time, it’s been a long time since I cried proper tears.
We talk about Grandad a lot. We visit him often too. His ashes are buried under a massive oak tree in a beautiful woodland burial site. Nearby is an airfield meaning that on a clear day, there are low flying planes overhead all the time! And along the edge there is a train line that runs an old steam train. Zach absolutely loves it and can often be heard asking to go and visit ‘Grandad in the woods’. It makes my heart swell that he wants to go. We always take flowers over and pop them in the little wooden vase on his plot. Zach always says ‘hello Grandad’.
I am still gutted to this day that Dad isn’t here to see what a beautiful boy I gave birth to. That he doesn’t get to experience this cheeky little lad. I am gutted that when I have a car problem, I can’t just phone him up for help. In fact, one of the times that I cried was because I needed to call Dad and I couldn’t. Over time though, it has definitely got easier. Although I do still get jealous when we are in the greeting card aisle and the other half still gets to search for a Dad card!
Of course, Zach has absolutely no idea of the concept of death. He is only three and I haven’t had any questions relating to it as yet. But when the time does come I will tell him all about him. I’ll tell him we used to fight like cat and dog but that he would always pick me up when I’d missed the last train. That when he returned from work we used to sing ‘Daddy’s Home’ and that I’ve never laughed with him as much as the night we went to see Lee Evans. For now though, I am happy when he looks at the photo in the front room and recognises the man that he never met. That when we are trailing through the woodland looking for the big Oak tree, Zach recognises it and guides me over there excitedly before trying to spot the little wooden headstone that has ‘Grandad’s wheelbarrow’ on. There is plenty of time to tell him stories about him. For now, the fact that he knows of him is enough for me.
Would you like to share your life after story?
If so, please get in touch.