What's your name?
In July 2000, while on a camping trip in South Wales a young 18-year-old girl offered me a small bottle of beer and for some reason, I said No, maybe because it was only a tiny bottle. Sometime later she came back and offered me a pint, this time I could not refuse. We sat together, chatted and exchanged numbers, back then we didn't have Facebook. At the end of the weekend we went our separate ways, now me being the typical bloke forgot even to ask her name. Well a couple of days later I get a text asking if I fancy meeting up and going for another drink, so I text back saying as long as it was a pint and that she told me her name. Well, I had to wait until we went for the drink to find out her name was Erin, a name I would never forget.
How do we tell the parents?
Skip forward four months of texting, long phone calls ending with "no you hang up first", me losing my job in a Garage and starting work behind a bar, we get to November 2000.
One night, while I was working in the pub, Erin was propping up the bar making sure I was pulling pints properly and eating cheesy pizza, she ran off to the ladies.
When she came out, she didn't look very well; we put it down to just one of those things.
The next day, stood in the bar serving one of my locals, Erin came out of the ladies with a worried and excited face and waited at the end of the bar to talk to me.
Now, some of you may have worked it out already, Erin was pregnant, but it took a couple of minutes to sink in with me and couldn't work out why the locals were cheering.
We had to work out the best way to tell the parents that after only seeing each other for four months, they were going to be Grandparents. We had been to the doctors to get it all confirmed and get the ball rolling, which sort of helped us break the news to Erin's parents. I live nearly an hour's drive from Erin, so there was much travelling back and forth, and during one of these drives back to her parents, we were discussing the best way we could tell them. Little did we know that by the time we got back to Erin's her mum already knew. We pull up on the drive and walk on into the house, Erin's mum stood there with a cup of tea in her hand and let us know that we have missed a phone call and she suggests that we sit down as we need to "have a chat", the phone call was from the midwife.. Yeah, that doesn't take a lot to figure out why they are phoning. There was one question Erin's mum asked me that has stuck with me, and I think it always will, and I hope I have proved that I was true to my word. The question; "So what are you going to do? If you are staying, then you are in it for the long haul, if not then you can leave now". Well, I only had one answer, and I didn't have to think about it.
We're adults now, we can handle this... right?
Seven months later we decide that a pub job was never going to pay for a baby, so I found a job in a small electronics company to help with the money.
Then in July 2001, after getting back from work, Erin and I decided to go for a walk as she had backache and to get some fresh air as she had been stuck in the house all day,
now being the first baby we had no idea about the signs or anything, so we didn't think much about the back pain, later that evening Erin's waters broke and we found our self's rushing off to hospital,
and in the early hours of the morning our eldest, Javen, was born.
We were still living between the two parent's houses for about six months. We found a little place together, got ourselves moved in with the very basics of equipment, but we were happy. One thing we didn't have for nearly three years was a T.V. and had to find something to do in the evenings, well guess what; Erin fell pregnant with our second child. This time nine months later we knew the signs, and with a hospital bag in one hand I get Erin into the car and off to the hospital we go. A couple of hours later, our middle son, Zak, was born.
Oh, Wait, What not AGAIN !!
For nine years, life was going great. We had our ups and downs like every couple does but worked our way through it.
Money was a bit better as I had a promotion at work. Then one day in February 2014, Erin looks at me and all of a sudden I have a flashback of that day in the pub when we found out
that we were expecting our first, and without any words, I knew that there was a third on the way.
Now both the other kids were old enough to understand what was going on, so we sat them down and without saying anything we gave them the tester (clean of course) and asked them if they knew what it was and what it meant. With many tears of joy and hugs, we started our journey to welcoming our new little person. Now, this little one wasn't going to be plain sailing, during one of the scans the sonographer found a problem.
We were sent off to Southampton for a more detailed scan, after an agonising wait we were told that there is a chance that our baby may have an open spine at the base of the neck. With regular check-ups we carried on as usual, then the night before Halloween, we sent the kids up to bed as usual. We sat down for a chilled evening, but there is a look in Erin's eyes, and I know something isn't right. Just as I go to ask if everything is OK, Erin's waters broke! So off we go again, fearing the worst as we still do not know for sure what is going to happen. After a couple of hours and what the midwife called a "textbook birth," we were on our way home with a very healthy, albeit small baby Amelia.
Now is a good time to get the tissues ready...
Still with me? Wondering where this story is going? Read on
Well after we got home things weren't all that great, without going into too much detail, Erin was bleeding quite a bit after "a normal birth" so off we went to the doctors
and was told that this was normal after a third child. A couple of days later, we were back at the doctors as the bleeding hadn't stopped,
and then two more visits to the doctors before they decided that something may be wrong.
Mid-November 2014, we have an appointment with oncology, and after what feels like a lifetime, we go and get the results, well the words were just noises as our world came crashing down around us, Erin had Cervical Cancer, now Erin wasn't having any of it and had decided that this thing inside her wasn't staying for long and signed all the forms to get treatment started right away.
How do we tell the kids?
Once we had got our heads around what the consultant had told us, somehow we had to tell the kids. Telling them wasn't going to be easy, but we have always been honest and upfront with them,
there is no point trying to hide something like this from them.
We decided that we weren't going to tell them at home, as we didn't want the worst news they were going to get to be in a place they had to be every day, so we took them down to Weymouth beach and got fish and chips. It took a while for us to get the words out, but we told them.
In 34 years, I have never felt my heartbreak so much as I did at this point. After a long walk, many tears, hugs and a lot of questions, we all went home with a plan that we were going to beat this thing.
Light at the end of the tunnel?
So for nearly a year Erin went through Chemo and Radiotherapy, it was one of the hardest years we had been through, I'm not going to lie, it was bloody hard,
there were arguments, we both ended up sleeping on the sofa at some point, and then we had some fantastic days, trips to London and somehow spent £90 in M & M world !!,
trips to the beach, just loads of great times which made us forget about Erin being ill. Some days we weren't able to do too much as the treatment was taking it out of Erin,
but were still enjoying ourselves the best we could
Then in September 2015, we go for another scan, and after a few sleepless nights, we go to see the consultant. We looked at two scans, the first scan and then the one we had a week ago. It was gone, the cancer had gone. This time I heard every word and they were the best words I had heard for a long time. We started planning Christmas; it was going to be the best Christmas we had for a long time.
Time to get our lives back on track
Just before Erin had the diagnoses of cancer, I had taken up sailing, well trying not to fall off a boat and drowning.
For all the sailing enthusiasts out there you will know that the Round the Island race is quite a big thing in the sailing calendar, for those that don't,
it involves thousands of boats racing around the Isle of Wight, the first year we did it Amelia was only about nine months old, myself and a couple of the boat crew sailed
the boat from Weymouth harbour to the Isle of Wight while the "ground crew", Erin, the kids and partners, caught the ferry over.
Once the ground crew got there, they set up the tents and waited for us to get there. We all had a lovely weekend even though Erin was still going through treatment. Anyway, at the end of the weekend, we all decided that we would do this every year as it was a great weekend away with friends.
So to cut a long story short, in January 2016, we booked a caravan as tents were not going to work; we needed some home comforts. Unfortunately, someone forgot to book a mooring for the boat so there was no way we could have raced, but decided that we would still go and watch from the shores. In July 2016 we all went and spent the weekend watching everyone sailing round the island. We had fun in the evenings, drinking and chatting to friends. But there was something not quite right with Erin, and we couldn't quite put our fingers on it; she had pains in her back but didn't stop her having a good time. One thing we did notice was that when she had a drink of alcohol, and there was a fair bit of it, the pain went away.
No, it can't be...
Not long after that weekend, Erin had a routine scan and a consultant appointment. When we walked in the consultant's office,
we knew straight away there was a problem as the consultant was very quiet and not her usual self.
It was back, this time in the liver.
Without saying another word, the forms were signed, and off to tell the kids again. We couldn't believe that we would have to give them the devastating news and that we had another fight to get through, so we took them back to the beach and bought them fish and chips, then Javen just looked at us and said "it's back again, isn't it?", no words came out of our mouths just a nod of the head.
The treatment was harder than the first time, the chemo drug was a lot stronger, and Erin was tired more often. We did manage to get out and about, went to London again to visit the Science Museum, but our trips were short as the tiredness kicked in. We had another fantastic Christmas even though we knew this could have been our last together.
Erin's last chemo was booked in for the 27th December, so I dropped her off like I usually do; as the treatment room was too small for partners to stay. I went back and sat with the kids and started messaging Erin to try and keep her company during her chemo. I could tell something wasn't right from the way she was wording the messages. When I picked her up, she said that she had horrible pains in her stomach but then put it down to overeating at Christmas.
Erin didn't eat much for the next week. She was still saying the pain was in her stomach, after a visit to the doctors we went for another scan, but the scan didn't flag anything. Fast forward to the second to last week of January 2017, and I come home from work to find Erin in bed bent over double as the pain was unbearable and I rushed her to A&E. Two days before Erin's 35th birthday she was taken into theatre to have a stoma fitted. Hopefully, this would solve everything, and we could get back on track with the chemo, how wrong were we.
After a couple more visits to A & E, as the operation wounds hadn't healed properly, we were told by the consultant that there would be no more treatment as Erin wasn't getting better and her body wasn't strong enough to take the chemo. So we were left to fend for ourselves and try and get Erin's weight and health back up, which meant we had to eat more high-fat foods, have takeaways more often.
From about the end of February when the consultant told us that there was no more treatment, to the end of April Erin had gone back into A & E three times due to low blood levels and infections. On the last visit to hospital the doctor was doing his rounds and came and saw Erin, now, unfortunately, I was not there when this happened, and it is the only time I have never been there when we there has been bad news, the doctor told Erin that this would be the last time she would come into hospital and to go home and enjoy herself.
On Christmas day 2011, I proposed to Erin with the intention that we got married in 2012, for one reason or another, it never happened. Once Erin had told me what the doctor had said there was absolutely nothing that would stand in my way from getting married to her. On 6th May 2017, 17-years after meeting Erin, in our front room where we had lived together for 16 years and with our family around us we both said, "I do". Because Erin was getting tired all the time and we only have a small living room we arranged to have our wedding reception a week later. So on a sunny Saturday, we took over a very close friends farm and had our wedding reception with everyone who had been in our life's through thick and thin.
Is it time to say goodbye?
Go and get another box of tissues; you're going to need them.
Throughout the rest of May, we tried to carry on as usual, well what had grown to be normal, but we both knew that things were not looking good.
Javen, now nearly 16, was just about to start her GCSE's and helping where she could to look after Amelia.
Zak was trying his best to help Erin and me out and do his school work, both sets of parents and Erin's sister were doing what they could to help out.
We had two regular Marie Curie nurses coming in daily to make sure that we were all OK and to help with anything that needed doing.
We had decided that I was going to do everything I could to care for Erin, and the Marie Curie nurses only to help if needed.
We had a bit of a standing joke with the nurses that they were only coming in to put their feet up.
Of course, this was further from the truth as they always spent time checking Erin was comfortable and that her medication was doing the job and keeping her pain free,
as well as checking on the kids and myself.
Then on the 26th May, I was woken up by Erin sobbing, when I asked her what was wrong she said "I woke up, I didn't want too".. OH MY GOD!! As we had daily visits from the district nurses, we told them what Erin had said. They had told us to make sure that family and friends were around as this was Erin accepting what was going to happen.
So Erin's parents came down with camping beds and bags of clothes ready to camp out in our front room, Erin's sister, husband and daughter came down and stayed at the friend's farm. That evening we took a walk to the top of our village and watched the sunset. During the night or the early hours of the morning (it all sort of rolls into one now) we had a massive thunderstorm, so we sat and watched that until it passed over.
Time for one last memory.
Then on Saturday, Erin decides that she has too much to do and is not ready to go just yet, and plans a day out to West Bay and go crabbing.
Some time ago Ricky Gervais had a T.V. series called Derek, in one of the episodes they are on the beach, and one of the patients was asked what he was doing,
and his response was "flat surface, shiny marker" and was seen to be drawing on a crab. Ever since seeing that Erin always wanted to do it,
so armed with marker pens, we went and caught some crabs, (Sorry to the crabs of West Bay).
One thing Erin's dad is known for is his BBQ's come rain, shine or snow a BBQ will be lit, so Saturday evening we had an impromptu BBQ, no crab wasn't on the menu.
Unfortunately, the last two days took their toll on Erin, and the Sunday was a day of sleep. The following week was much the same for Erin, sleeping. Erin's mum and dad had to go back to work, but with regular visits, that is how the week continued. On Friday 2nd June with the weekend approaching Erin's mum and dad set up camp in our front room again, sister, husband and daughter came down, this time the mood had changed, and we could see that we did not have much time left with Erin. We chatted and looked at old photos when Erin was awake. It was now that the Marie Curie nurses came into their own, they could see what was happening, and with the greatest respect, they helped me care for Erin without taking over and making sure our wishes were carried out.
On Wednesday 7th June 2017, with her mum, dad, Amelia and myself by her side.
Erin drew her last breath and quietly passed away.
Now I said that having to tell the kids that Erin had cancer broke my heart, this was going to be even worse.
Not only was this the worst news they would ever hear, but it was also Zak's 12th Birthday. Javen and Zak had gone to school that morning.
I went and saw Javen first, and I didn't even have to say anything, she just knew there would be only one reason why I am coming into school,
even the teachers knew and were in tears.
Zak, he was slightly different, I was sat in the headmasters' office when he came in, and I could see in his face he was not sure why I was there.
When I told him, his reaction did make me smile in this darkest time.
Now I don't condone kids swearing but his response "On my f***ing birthday" (I'm sorry if that seems selfish but),
I think that was quite tame after the news he had just received.
Unfortunately little did I know, this was not going to be the end of my world falling apart. Not long after we told Nan about Erin passing away, she was taken into hospital and sadly passed away on 12th June 2017.
So hopefully I haven't sent you to sleep, or you got bored and went and found a web site full of cats falling off walls.
I want to take this opportunity to say thank you to a few people:
- Thank you to you for taking the time to read my story
- Thank you to our Marie Curie nurses for everything you have done for us, I am not sure how we would have coped without you.
- Thank you to the District Nurses that came out every day and night to administer the pain relief for Erin.
- Thank you to the Weldmar nurse who came out regularly to make sure we all the equipment we needed.
Thank you to the Macmillan child support for being there for the kids when they needed them,
and my Macmillan Citizens Adviser who helped me manage my finances during and after Erin's illness.
- Thank you to Javen and Zak's teachers for taking the time to talk to them and help them when I couldn't.
- And finally a massive thank you to my friends and family, who have been there with me throughout our journey.