January is a difficult month for most people, yet it used to be a time of year I looked forward to as Michael’s birthday falls at the end of the month. While everyone else was fed up with the cold weather, dark days and depleted bank balances, I would spend January happily choosing and wrapping gifts and planning a birthday celebration for my love.
But in recent years January has bought nothing but devastating news, and so now it is a month full of dates and reminders which I have come to dread. In January 2014, Michael had a seizure out of the blue which led to the discovery of a brain tumour, and a week later he bravely faced brain surgery on his birthday to remove as much of the tumour as possible. In January 2015, we were told that the tumour had started to grow back despite an intensive course of radiotherapy, and he had to face surgery again. In January 2016, after waking up with a crippling headache and being rushed into A&E, an emergency scan revealed that the tumour had returned and was aggressively growing and there was nothing more that could be done. It was already pressing on the vital parts of the brain which control breathing and heart rate, and it was unlikely he would survive the night. After responding well to a huge dose of steroids, Michael made it through those treacherous 24 hours and we were able to take him home. He died 7 weeks later, just a few weeks after his 35th birthday. The picture above is the last photo I have of Michael taken on a day out with my parents to Gladstone Pottery Museum, which was the day before he was rushed into hospital last January. Despite how poorly he had already become we had a truly lovely day, and I’m glad to have captured that moment and his cheeky smile before everything changed.
I can’t possibly describe to you what it felt like to be told that my 34 year old husband, the centre of my universe, was dying and there was nothing anyone could do to make him better. For the first few months after we lost Michael I battled with an intense guilt over this, as I just couldn’t get my head around the fact that I had known I was going to lose him but was powerless to stop it. If I’m completely honest, I still don’t believe it now, and I don’t think I ever will. I cannot comprehend it. To have found the other half of my whole and shared the kind of love some people spend their entire lives searching for, but lose him before we had even celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary, is beyond words.
The only feeling I can describe is the anger and the fire it ignited within me to keep fighting for a better chance. I can’t bear knowing that every day, people all over the world are given the same devastating news. That no matter how hard they have fought, how brave they have been, how much they are loved, in the end cancer will take them anyway. A beautiful, kind and brave young friend has just been given the same devastating news and my heart is broken for her and her wonderful Mum, who I have come to know and admire.
I read a report recently from Cancer Research UK which predicts that survival from brain tumours will remain virtually unchanged over the next 20 years, despite an expected fall of 15% overall in the number of cancer deaths by 2035. This has to change, and I will keep fighting. I will keep raising money for more research to give those diagnosed with a brain tumour a fair chance. I will always, always talk about Michael and the cruel illness that took him from me, and raise awareness of this hidden killer.
I’m gearing up to join in with The Brain Tumour Charity’s upcoming awareness day on 3 March, when everyone is encouraged to grab a bandana and #wearitout to raise awareness and funds to help find a cure. I’ve been busy making a mountain of bandanas and planning fun ways to get involved with the appeal which I will share more of in the coming week, once I’ve taken a few days to celebrate my Michael’s birthday and claim back some of the happiness January used to bring. I hope you will join me on 3 March in making a stand against brain tumours, because a cure can’t wait.