Support our Christmas Appeal so Families Don’t have to Face Cancer Alone
Lisa’s Strutt’s husband John was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in December 2017. Sadly John passed away in October with his family by his side. Lisa is supporting our Christmas appeal so other families living with cancer can benefit from emotional support.
“I never expected that my family would need help from a children’s cancer charity, but now I can’t imagine how we would have coped without Cancer Fund for Children’s support.
It all started at The Killers gig at the SSE arena in Belfast on Friday 17th November 2017. It was the first gig that my three children, Rosie, James, and Holly, were able to attend with myself and my husband, John. The Killers is one of the bands we all agreed on, partly because one of their CDs was stuck in our car CD player for over a year!
During the gig, John started to feel unwell. A few days later he went to see the GP, who sent him straight to Antrim Hospital. John had an initial assessment and was kept in hospital overnight with a suspected blockage in the Common Bile Duct.
It was Rosie’s 16th birthday. We were due to go out for dinner in Belfast. I took John an overnight bag to the hospital, expecting he would get back home after a few days; we decided that Rosie should still have her special celebration, so I went home, collected the children and went to the restaurant.
Ten days later, on Friday 1st December 2017, at 44 years old, John was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
In January, John had Whipples’ Procedure – a surgery that takes over 7 hours – at the Mater Hospital, followed by around 7 months of oral chemotherapy, during which time he continued to work full time from home as a Cybersecurity Analyst.
Then there was a break of about 6 months when we started to put cancer behind us. But in April 2019, a CT scan revealed that John’s cancer had returned. This time the outlook was not good, and we were told that John’s cancer was incurable.
At First Cancer Was An Inconvenience
At first, cancer was an inconvenience; something that came along very suddenly and got in the way. It was a shock for all of us. John and I decided from the outset that our children would always hear news and updates from us first; that we would be honest and open and be willing to answer any questions as best we could. However, the reality is that three teenagers can easily look up cancer prognoses, statistics, and outcomes online, and that can create fear and uncertainty.
The second time around was more problematic, not least because of the severity of the prognosis but also because of the timing coinciding with exam season. On that occasion, we waited until Rosie had completed her AS level exams, five weeks later to tell them. It was one of the most difficult decisions we had to take.
Age Appropriate Support
I discovered Cancer Fund for Children when I was looking for some support for our youngest daughter. I was trying to find other young people who were going through something similar. John and I had discovered that as parents of teenagers, we were often saying or doing the ‘wrong thing’, according to our children, in spite of our best efforts.
From the first moment I talked to our Cancer Fund for Children Specialist, Gareth, I felt such a sense of relief. Gareth completely gets young people. He’s on their wavelength. He has such a depth of knowledge, of resources and experience to draw upon. And, on the flip side, he recognises the concerns parents have navigating these uncertain waters.
Children and young people who experience cancer in their lives have a lot to deal with when their mates are simply figuring out life. Whether it’s a parent or sibling that has passed away. Cancer Fund for Children helps make sure these young people get the help and support they need to go ahead and lead a full and joy-filled life in spite of the grief and loss in their lives. No other organisation focuses on the needs of teenagers in the same way.
The Impact of COVID-19
Added to the challenges we were already facing John had to self-isolate, while I cared for him, in a separate location away from our family home to keep him safe. Rosie, now 18, was the boss at home with James and Holly and our Beagle, Henry.
It was very difficult being apart from our children, but they made us really proud, with their courage and resilience. Cancer Fund for Children played a part in that by helping them recognise their strengths and gifts. They were there to support Rosie when we couldn’t be:
“Being away from my Dad due to COVID was very strange. I was so used to making sure he was okay and sitting chatting to him with a cup of tea then suddenly all of that went away and I found myself only making one cup. I was lucky that I could see him over FaceTime and through the window, as I stood outside the apartment he was staying in, with a flask, to have a short chat. I’m glad I had the support of Cancer Fund for Children over lockdown. Sometimes even a text message from my Cancer Fund for Children specialist gave me that push to be stronger for my brother and sister” (Rosie,18)
After those two long months apart, we were so happy to be able to reunite as a family again.
Our Lives Changed Forever
But, on Monday 26th October 2020, our lives changed forever. Our hearts were broken when John passed away.
As my children approach their first Christmas without their dad, I am so thankful for the continued support of Cancer Fund for Children.
That’s why I’m asking you to please donate what you can today to help support other children and young people whose lives have been devastated by cancer.
Your gift of £15 could help Cancer Fund for Children provide bereavement support to children like mine who have lost a parent to cancer, helping them to open up and discuss their feelings.
Please give what you can today by donating here.
Thank you so much,