Father and son standing together with arms around each other on a large city square

Chris & Chris

Chris was full of life kind and had a tremendous sense of humour. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in November 2021. His son, also Chris, shares their story.

This was our father Chris, a loving, devoted and sensitive man. A passionate physics teacher at his college, full of life, kind and had a tremendous sense of humour.

We knew something wasn’t right

It started around the summer of 2021 when my father had lost so much weight. At that time he had been going to the gym religiously to keep his weight under control (he had type 2 Diabetes). However, as he started going to the gym less and less, the weight loss had persisted, we knew something wasn’t right.

In November 2021, the doctors discovered a mass in his pancreas, but did not give a conclusive answer, could be pancreatitis or even worse the dreaded ‘C’ word. By January 2022, my father was put onto intense chemotherapy (FOLFIRINOX) and was initially told by the doctors that they could perform an operation if the mass receded, leading us to believe that the mass was caught at an early stage. Despite the chemo, my father, determined as ever, kept working as a physics tutor from his hospital bed and still held onto the hope that he could be operated on.

It was strange not seeing him at the house, but we got used to it and kept convincing ourselves that he would get better.

Getting the terrible news

Wednesday 18th May 2022. A day that I will never forget. The day of our father’s scan results. My mum and dad promised to call me as soon as the appointment was finished. While walking with my severely autistic brother in the park, a couple of hours had gone by and I still received no phone call, I knew something was wrong. After several attempts to reach my parents, they eventually picked up the phone, to which my dad said, “It’s terminal son”, to which I kept replying “No” while sobbing in complete disbelief. My brother looking at me puzzled, he couldn’t understand why I broke down in tears.

After breaking the terrible news to our friends and family, I researched frantically hoping that perhaps the oncologist had made a mistake, perhaps this wasn’t cancer. After all he couldn’t have been dying, he looked fine. We went on our usual yearly holiday to Spain. And later on in July we went to get a second opinion in Israel which has a renowned cancer clinic, but unfortunately the diagnosis was the same. By August, we then started to notice that Dad had badly deteriorated, his skin and eyes began to yellow and he grew more and more tired from the effects of chemotherapy and painkillers.

Taking a trip to the USA

By September the chemotherapy had stopped. We had booked a trip to New York for October 2022, as he had always dreamed of going to the US. Before we could go, we had to find the proper insurance to cover him. One day that is etched in my memory – he sat on the sofa with his head in his hands and in tears, “No one will cover me” he said. I assured him that there was one out there, and to his delight we eventually found an insurance company that was willing to insure terminal cancer patients.

On day three in New York, while walking through Central Park, I noticed just how unwell Dad looked, his face was skinny and his skin jaundiced. Despite his weight before, my dad could walk miles on end but in New York, he could barely walk a few hundred metres. On the fourth day of the holiday, we travelled to Boston by train. This would break my heart as it was always his dream to see the New England states in the autumn and seeing the beautiful landscape, but due to the effects of the painkillers he slept through the entire journey.

After arriving in Boston, my father had to be rushed to hospital immediately due to severe blood loss. The doctors in the US had informed us that cancer had spread to his lungs. Our top priority at that point was to get him back to the UK.

Dad was transferred to a hospice for his final days

Once we arrived home, dad was in hospital for two weeks, until he was transferred to a hospice on his final days. I said to him “I love you dad” his reply, “I love you too son” the last thing he ever said to me.

On 14th November 2022, a Monday, sitting next to him for hours on end, until I heard a huge gasp as if in the briefest of moments he had gained consciousness, he looked at me and slowly went to sleep in my arms.

Adjusting to life without Dad

The past year has been difficult for me and my family, however despite the difficulties, we have pulled through and are gradually adapting to life without him. Dad was the chair of a community group for people with disabilities which we are now turning into a charity. We are now trying to live life to the fullest.

But, it’s painful not to hear him come through the front door at 6pm from work with his signature blue shirt and tie, not seeing him at the dinner table enjoying my mum’s food, not feeling his hugs when I was sad and not hearing his voice and his infectious laughter.