Trevor's story of his wife Christine, diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2009
My wife Christine collapsed just two weeks after her 59th birthday. Two weeks later she was diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic cancer and was given less than six months to live. We had been married 41 years. I retired immediately to look after Chris & became her full time carer.
We decided that in order to survive this tragedy we needed help. Three days after her diagnosis I sent an email to friends, family & business contacts informing them of our sad news. We received so many messages of love and support, support that continued right up to Chris's passing twelve months to the day that she collapsed, that helped turn our personal tragedy into a life affirming and inspirational journey.
This support continued and sustained us throughout the year. I believe it was critical in helping provide Chris with inspiration to live for a full year, much longer than was originally diagnosed.
The effects of pancreatic cancer were immediate. Chris was so weak that she was unable to continue her normal household chores. She could only walk a few hundred yards before becoming tired. She had to take strong pain killers, which made her drowsy & a little confused. We resolved the painkiller situation in the first couple of months, and for the rest of the year she took minimal drugs and kept fully alert throughout her illness.
But as both the person who loved her & her carer there were two actions that ensured Chris's final year was both enjoyable and fulfilling. Firstly, our act of asking for help from our friends etc. This support, that arrived by email, letter, card, telephone & personal visit on a daily basis, was crucial in maintaining Chris's spirit. I kept everyone informed with a monthly update on her condition and our activities. In return, the responses we received were heart-warming.
Secondly, I applied a simple business technique that also applies to life. In business, to be successful, you must have objectives & targets. The same applies to life. I took that belief and applied it to our situation. I set targets & objectives for us, and so did Chris for herself.
The objectives I set were based around holidays & friends. I booked trips many months in advance, way beyond the dates the doctors had given us. Chris had decided she was going to see her next birthday - her 60th, she was going to have at least one more Christmas, she was going to celebrate our 42nd wedding anniversary.
These actions meant that Chris always had something to which she could look forward, always had a reason to keep on keeping on even if she was feeling really unwell. We went on a two week cruise around the Canaries just four weeks before she died! Right to the very end we were discussing where we would be going next.
Thanks to our friends and our objective setting Chris's last year with us was a meaningful one, not one spent racked with pain & depression over her cancer but one filled with light & happiness right to the very end.
Trevor has written a book, Shelter From The Storm about how the couple coped following Christine's diagnosis and how family and friends supported them. Any profits from the book are being donated to Pancreatic Cancer UK & Pancreatic Cancer Action. For more information visit www.shelterfromthestorm.me.uk