Coronavirus and cancer: ‘I don’t know if I’ll see my mother or brothers before I die’

Covid Stories: After going through chemo for 14 months, this feels like a kick in the teeth

‘Other than my husband and children, I can’t see who I want to see or go where I want to go. We can’t do any more bucket list stuff’

‘Other than my husband and children, I can’t see who I want to see or go where I want to go. We can’t do any more bucket list stuff’

 

On December 6th, 2018, I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. At the time, I was 43 and married with two children aged eight and six. A treatment plan was put in place, and before Christmas that year, I had a port-a-cath fitted so that chemo could begin in January.

Throughout 2019, I underwent chemo. Each scan I had showed the chemo wasn’t working, so I was changed from one form of it to another during the year. I also spent some time in hospital, due to infections and other various complications. My husband and I kept the children informed all along, answering their questions and making sure they got the right balance of age-appropriate information.

I was very lucky that, for the most part, I tolerated the chemo well. I was able to get out and about myself, was very rarely sick or nauseous, and spent time having coffee or lunch with friends when the children were at school. These meetings with friends were a lifeline for me. I would often genuinely forget that I was sick, as our chats didn’t revolve around it.

It transpired during the year that the cancer had spread to my liver, and my prognosis was bad. Around September, it was confirmed to be terminal. I continued to feel relatively well, and my husband, the children and I went to Disneyland Paris in October as we started to work on the bucket list. It has been a tough journey.

On March 4th this year, we met with my oncologist. I was taken off chemo, as none of them had worked. I’m now just “managing symptoms”. The pain has got progressively worse. I have been very positive throughout the journey, and been grateful for how well I’ve felt and how I’ve been able to carry on almost as normal, and grateful for the care and kindness I’ve been shown at every hospital and doctor appointment I’ve attended. However, I know now that my time is running out.

Just when I thought things couldn’t possibly get any worse, Covid-19 hit. My brothers were due to arrive home from Australia on April 6th so we could spend some quality time together, but that had to be cancelled.

Other than my husband and children, I can’t see who I want to see or go where I want to go. We can’t do any more bucket list stuff. If the cancer gets me before lockdown is lifted, my funeral will be attended by my immediate family, who will stand in a graveyard with no support from friends and extended family.

If I do catch Covid-19, I’ll die alone. I don’t know if I’ll see my mother or brothers before I die.

I know this is affecting so many people in so many ways, but I feel like I’ve got a real kick in the teeth, after being so positive while undergoing chemo for 14 months solid. So many people say “we’ll get through this”, and every time I hear it, I think, “maybe I won’t”.

To reflect the many ways life has changed in Ireland by the coronavirus outbreak, The Irish Times is inviting readers to share their Covid Stories. You can submit yours here

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