David shares the story of his wife, Wendy, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2016
Wendy, my best friend and my ‘baby chick’ as I liked to call her, was a truly inspirational and strong person. She was beautiful inside and out, she was loved and admired by all who knew her. It was her true courage, strength and determination that she fought this horrible illness for 2 and a half years.
Wendy was diagnosed in April 2016, she was 52 years old. It had been a tough couple of years as Wendy’s Mum and Dad had passed away a year before within 5 months of each other. When we received the devastating news that Wendy had pancreatic cancer it came as a massive shock to us all. Our initial thoughts were – what is this cancer? What are Wend’s chances of surviving this? We looked it up on the internet – I know you probably shouldn’t, but we found ourselves compelled to find out more.
Wendy’s symptoms and diagnosis
If only we could have found out earlier, but with this particular cancer the symptoms are not that obvious that it is pancreatic cancer. In Wendy’s case she had gone for a test for diabetes, which proved positive and she managed this with diet and tablets. She had lost a bit of weight but we put that down to the diet and her job which was quite physical. A few weeks after that I noticed that Wendy’s eyes looked yellow, so we immediately went to the doctors. They did some blood tests, and we had a call the next day asking her to go to the hospital as soon as possible for further tests. They did a scan and detected a mass in the pancreas area. Wendy’s biggest fear was confirmed; it was cancer, but deep down I think she knew that already.
Then the difficult part came to tell the family, her three children Sarah, Sammy and Ashley, her sister Sally and brother Grant. As you can imagine they were all totally devastated. It soon became clear that there was no cure but they were able to manage it, but for how long was the question we all asked. Initially the doctors said maybe 3-5 years as they had caught it in the early stages and youth was on her side. No one could really know for sure how long, but we hoped for the best.
Chemotherapy and radiotherapy
Wendy began her first course of chemotherapy about a month later. This made her very sick and weak and she lost most of her hair and developed thrush in her throat. It was heart-breaking to see her go through such an intensive treatment and how it knocked her for six. How she dealt with this we will never know, her strength amazed us all. After 6 months of chemo, then followed by radiotherapy, Wend seemed to be coping well, her hair grew back and she was getting back to somewhere near normal. It gave us some hope that she could keep fighting this horrible disease.
Wend had to have scans every 3 months to check that the cancer hadn’t progressed, it was like standing in front of the firing squad waiting to see if it had. 12 months later Wend received the news we had all been dreading, the cancer had progressed and the doctor said she should try more chemo while she still could. Wend started the next course of chemo which was really the start of the end. Wend became incredibly sick and weak and again the thrush came back. She was having trouble eating and was having stomach pains every time she ate and was having bad diarrhoea which in turn was making her weaker by the day. Wend had a turn for the worse and was being continuously sick, she had to be admitted to hospital and spent a week there. At this point there was no way she could continue her chemo, she was to weak and had lost too much weight to cope with it.
Looking forward to family events
Wend came home and again amazed us all with her strength and seemed to recover from her spell of sickness. At this point we knew we had to just try and keep her positive and give her things to look forward to, like spending time with her children and grandchildren Tyler, Macie, Coby, Oscar, Alfie and Hayden.
She had her niece’s wedding to look forward to and her sister took her shopping to find her outfit. She was so excited with her new outfit and started looking for her accessories to go with it. The wedding day was lovely and Wend had a great time despite feeling ill and very tired.
It was her daughter Sarah’s 30th birthday and Sarah’s sister Sam threw a surprise party for her. Sarah had no idea her mum was going to be there, it was an emotional evening. This was the last big event that Wend had been well enough to attend, and the last time she came back to her hometown.
I did all I could to make Wendy’s life as comfortable possible, as she was determined to stay at home at all costs. I rearranged the bedroom to put in a special bed and took care of her 24/7 and gave her everything she wanted.
Wendy, my baby chick, lost her battle and she passed away at home on the 21st October 2018 at 6.26 in my arms with all her family there.