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A brain tumour took my dad away from us long before he died

My dad was the life and soul. To be honest, he used to do a lot of people’s heads in because he’d just take the mick out of everybody.

He was always working really hard; for as long as I can remember, he’d be up at the crack of dawn. He played rugby all his life and was always going out for runs. He was really fit and active. 

One day in 2012, Dad was on his way to work and had a fit at the wheel. We thought he’d developed epilepsy – it’s a weird thing to say, but I actually wish it had been that. 

Dad had a brain scan and then a month later – I still remember the day like the back of my hand – doctors sat us down and said they’d found a mass on his brain. They wanted to do an operation to take a little bit out and see what it was, and then go from there.  

The turnaround was crazy: within a month they’d operated, and we found out Dad had terminal stage 4 glioblastoma multiforme (GBM). My dad would never admit that he was going to die. He’d say, ‘We’re going to get through this’. 

He did so much research and met people in Facebook groups who were going through the same thing. He was looking at treatment over in America, and took so many vitamins, about 20 a day, thinking they were going to help.  

My dad had an operation early in the summer and they removed quite a big mass. He was actually alright after that – he even went on little holidays with my mum, staying in country cabins, doing stuff that he’d wanted to do before. 

But then Dad would do weird things, like sometimes he wouldn’t be able to focus properly. He’d either be all there, or completely not there. That was the hardest thing for me; I don’t like it when you’re talking to someone and you can tell they’re not there.  

Around Christmas time, he was in so much pain. He was on steroids to reduce the swelling, but they also made him act really strange. We were at Christmas dinner and he picked up a candle and tried to drink it. 

I remember another time when Dad got an ice cream out of the fridge and then walked to the living room, and collapsed. He was looking at me and I could tell that he felt so guilty that I could see him having a fit, but he couldn’t control it. At the end of it, he actually said, ‘I didn’t drop my ice cream, though, did I?’  

Between Boxing Day and New Year, Mum spoke to the hospital and they removed another mass. But this time, when my dad came round, he was a completely different person.

He couldn’t focus his eyes. It was funny because he was still able to take the piss out of people, but he wasn’t able to have a full conversation. It was like he was drunk. We knew that it was the end.

He said to my mum one day, ‘I just want to go home and die’. That was just after New Year. It was about a week after he left the hospital, when I got a call from my mum’s friend saying, ‘You need to come home, your dad’s gone into a hospice’.

I went home and I saw Dad a couple of times, but I didn’t want to remember him like that. 

I was in bed one morning in January and my brother came in at about seven in the morning. He said, ‘Dad’s gone’. That was it.  

There was only 10 months between his diagnosis and his death. When my dad was doing all his research, he’d reached out to brainstrust, a charity that supports people with brain tumours from the point of diagnosis through to the end.

Dad would never admit defeat to us, but I think he spoke to them and said, ‘Can you help my wife Paula?’, because he knew it was going to be really hard.  

They were so helpful with my dad – they knew it wasn’t just about him and his illness, but how it affected everyone around him as well.

That’s what my dad loved about the charity, it was a whole family matter, and it was about the person, not the patient. So he trusted them enough to know that we weren’t on our own. 

I’ve since done some work with them to help raise awareness. Brain cancer is a massive killer; it’s one of the least researched cancers – there’s not enough money pumped into it. 

The difference between brain cancer and other cancers is that it takes the person away from you before they’re even dead. The thing is, when you get cancer anywhere else in the body – obviously, they’re all just as bad – but when it’s in the brain, it affects you as a person.  

You don’t have that time, in the last few days, where you can have a conversation and enjoy your last days with them. That’s the hardest thing: the suffering at the end, and them not being able to tell you how they feel.  

If they have limited time being themselves, you have to make the most of every moment you have with them. 

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