All too often men are forgotten when it comes to ovarian cancer. They do a fantastic job of supporting the amazing women in their lives who are affected by ovarian cancer, and this International Men’s Day, we're highlighting that ‘Men Matter’ too by saying thank you to those husbands, fathers, brothers, partners and friends who have been affected by ovarian cancer. Paul took time to tell us about his wife Chris.
I was lucky to be married for nearly 49 years to an extraordinary woman called Chris, who had a lovely broad open face and a fantastic warm welcoming smile.
She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2008 having had none of the traditional warning signs which help with early diagnosis. After a radical hysterectomy she had her first course of chemo at St James Hospital, Leeds, Bexley Wing, which at the time had just been built.
It is a wonderful facility and along with the doctors and staff we met, gave us a feeling of confidence, that it would all work out okay. Chris was terribly nervous before her first treatment and I stayed with her, trying to give off calm vibes!
Her treatment continued every three weeks and as an outgoing sociable girl she joined the local Daylight Support Group and was introduced to Target Ovarian Cancer, who asked her to be in a photo shoot for the 'What happens next?' booklet.
Being diagnosed with cancer makes you feel helpless
She was happy to help and as she said, being diagnosed with cancer makes you feel helpless and she wanted to do something positive, to help raise awareness and earlier diagnosis. She couldn’t run a marathon but she could talk, and talk she did. Interviews with local and national press, together with local radio, women’s groups and Target Ovarian Cancer events, whenever she was well enough.
Anyway, she died on 16 January 2015 at home, age 72. She didn’t ‘pass’, ‘pass over’, or ‘pass away’, she died! And ovarian cancer killed her.
With a great deal of brilliant help she managed to stay at home and I treasured looking after her, it was such a privilege. Those times when the house was quiet, the nurses and visitors had gone and we were just on our own, were very special to me. We used to love dancing in the past and if I got her out of bed for the loo she would hang onto me and have a little smooch.
It is very difficult when you lose, what is effectively half your life. We became part of each other over the years, moulded each other and became the people we were because of it. I know I wouldn’t be the person I am without having her with me for all those years.
Thanks to the doctors and nurses at Bexley Wing, Chris lived for a precious six and a half years after diagnosis and when she was well enough, carried on life as normal. After the first course of chemo (she had six altogether, and lost her hair three times, but had some fabulous wigs) she had a scan with the results stating “no discernible disease remaining”. You can imagine how we felt! But gradually it worked less and less until in June 2014 she decided enough was enough.
She never regarded cancer as a battle or a fight. She said “the chemo and the doctors and nurses were doing that, I’m just getting on with life”.
She was so brave
We knew it was coming, but she was so brave in accepting gracefully that this was the end of the line.
One of the most difficult things we did together was managing other people’s expectations. We had to judge the appropriate time to give friends and family bits of information and let them absorb it before moving on to the next part of the story.
Wherever possible we did this ‘face to face’, very aware of other people’s feelings. As well as having a close family we also have some dear friends (some have been friends since we were teenagers) who we love very much and who have been wonderfully supportive.
I miss her terribly, living alone is difficult. Not only have I lost her physical presence but I have gained all the time I was spending looking after her. Keep busy, I was told, so I am.