Hi there, apologies if this is a bit of a long read, but thank you for being here all the same.
In 2018 my dad was diagnosed with blood cancer. He went through treatment amazingly well, everything looked fantastic months ahead of schedule and doctors projected we’d have about 10 years before any further intervention would be required.
In 2020, just about a week before lockdown started, my dad had spinal cord compression, which doctors said was very unusual because his cancer markers were all fine. For context, I work as a nurse and was in contact with Covid positive patients at this time, so I made the decision not to see my dad during lockdown to ensure his safety, He received treatment for this without issue and was steadily regaining his mobility. Just before Christmas 2020, my dad had a second compression, which doctors said was extremely rare, especially considering everything still looked OK. Again, my dad had successful treatment and while he lost his mobility, he was still fighting on and was home in time for Christmas.
In February 2021, my dad had a third compression and doctors found tumours near his liver, blocking some of his inner tubes and organs, resulting in him becoming jaundiced and very unwell. We were advised that, with his type of cancer, this was practically unheard of but the doctors remained hopeful. I remember at this point crying myself to sleep, making deals in my head with whoever would listen because I think part of me knew that it wasn’t going to be OK.
They suggested surgery for stents to push open the tubes and get things moving in the right direction again. By this point, again due to Covid restrictions and wanting to keep my dad safe, I had seen him once since April 2020. I was given permission from the hospital to come down as the surgery was not without risk, we were told he might not survive the surgery. We said our goodbyes just in case, but he came through the surgery.
In the week that followed, the doctors were really positive but my mum and I could tell something was wrong. My dad just wasn’t right, he was really confused and just not himself. He would forget how to work his phone or nod off during a conversation. We put it down to him just being totally worn out from being through so much. He kept saying to my mum that week that he wanted to see his brother (who lives in Spain), have lunch with my brothers (I’m the youngest of three), have the Christmas he missed with my husband and me, and meet my dog, his little grandpup. He kept saying that whole week so long as he got those things, he’d be happy. We began to fight in earnest at that point to get him home.
On the Wednesday, his brother was able to get over from Spain and it was like my dad came alive again. On the Friday he finally got home. On the Saturday my husband and I brought our dog down along with all the unopened Christmas presents and we had our Christmas Day. On the Sunday my brothers came over and we all had lunch together. On the Monday I sat with my dad and my uncle while my mum rested and my dad slept the whole time. On the Tuesday he wouldn’t eat, he gave his breakfast to my dog and was adamant that he had eaten it himself, he didn’t want us to worry. My dad was always a joker and a story-teller, he was so funny and witty and kept making jokes until the end. At 5am on the Wednesday morning, my husband and I were staying with my parents at this point, and my mum called my mobile phone and told me to come downstairs. We called my brothers and my uncle because we knew it was time.
I was sitting beside my dad in his hospital bed in the living room, he wouldn’t speak or open his eyes and his breathing was so laboured. I was rubbing his arm, just trying to be reassuring and he twitched so that I would stop. I laughed through my tears and joked that I was obviously annoying him, and he creaked his eyes open just enough so I could see him and he smiled. That was the last interaction I had with my dad, my last memory with just the two of us. After that, my brothers and uncle arrived, along with my aunt who is also a nurse. She took me aside, I think to help me focus, and we started planning what needed to happen next in terms of if he would need medication to keep him comfortable among other things.
Then my mum needed to use the bathroom. My dad was comfortable and seemed settled, so she decided to quickly nip upstairs. As soon as she left the room my dad opened his eyes and started shouting her name over and over again, he didn’t stop until she was back by his side holding his hand. Then he was gone.
The doctors were shocked that it had happened so quickly and rather unexpectedly. We knew after his surgery that something was wrong and, in our minds, he made a deal to see his family and have that last week of happy memories with us and was granted that. Everyone that he wanted to be with was there when he died and we take comfort in that because he got to go on his terms and that’s a rare thing.
However, since then I’ve not been coping so well. I haven’t been taking care of myself as I should - I’ve been skipping showers more and more frequently, not keeping on top of laundry and housework, utilising escapes and alcohol more than I should. To be clear though, not when I’m working, if I’m on shift I’ll at least have a wash and I only drink alcohol on my days off, and while it’s maybe not enough to be considered a problem it’s still an unhealthy habit that I can see becoming more over the last year. I have tried to talk to people about this and have been told that I’m entitled to not cope well with this, that it’s OK to take some time to be lost in grief, but I feel I’m now at a point where I want to do more than just escape from it.
But, at the same time, I don’t want to be OK with this - I talked to my dad every day, usually via video call or text, and this last year my life has felt so empty without him and I don’t know how to move forward and figure out how to be myself again within this new reality. I have reached out to the counselling service on this website but thought it would be beneficial to post on here as well for some community support.
I know this is a long post, I’ve missed out on a lot of details and thoughts and feelings, it feels like there has been so much over these last two years and it honestly feels like a blur or a bad dream. The hardest part happened just before Christmas. A colleague asked what my plans were and I explained that my mum, my husband and my brothers were going to have a quiet time together as it was the first Christmas without my dad and we wanted to all be together, especially as we had missed out on Christmas 2020. And my colleague, with no intention or malice behind her response, said “oh that’s right I forgot your dad had passed away”. That comment absolutely shattered me, I hear those words in my sleep and that is largely what has prompted me to get help because as heartbreaking as it was, I need to accept that the world and life needs to move forward and I cannot hide away inside my grief and my pain and not cope and just escape from it, I need to meet it head-on and try to find my way in life again.
I’ve only been a qualified nurse for three years, and during that time my dad was diagnosed with cancer, then covid happened, I then stepped up into a management position (which I love and find so fulfilling), then my dad died, and since then I have gone back to work and tried to just carry on.
So, yeah, that’s my story and that’s what has brought me here tonight and I hope that I can find some kind of support or guidance because I need and I want help. And maybe someday I can be there to support others going through similar.
Thank you for reading this and being here, just typing this out, putting it out there and having someone listen (or read in this case) has been a massive positive step forward. Thank you.