I've chosen to raise money for research into Bowel Cancer, which sadly claimed the life on one of my best friends on November 4th last year.
We all know the importance of early diagnosis in improving cancer survival rates, however Fran has no obvious symptoms until it was too late. The period of time between her first experiencing symptoms and death, was only 8 months.
Fran was only 44. She experienced a dramatic change in bowel habit at the end of March 2018. By June she had been diagnosed with bowel cancer and at the start of July a CT scan revealed that the cancer had spread. At that stage she was told that without treatment she could expect to live for 2-3 years. She was given chemotherapy, which sadly had no effect in shrinking the cancer, which continued to spread.
The decline I witnessed I can only describe as brutal. To give an idea of how rapid her illness progressed, the weekend before she died she was assessed for mobility aids to enable her to continue living at home, these were not for end of life care. On the following Tuesday she was admitted to hospital and on Thursday her partner, Mike, told me "we are going to lose her very soon". The only thing left for Mike to do was to arrange their wedding.
After meeting with the registrar and the Chaplin at The Royal Derby Hospital, Mike arranged for their marriage to take place at 3.30pm on Saturday November 3rd. I know Fran and Mike were planning to get married and this was the one wish that could be fulfilled in the time that was left. I was honoured to be part of a really special moment, the emotion of which I cannot even begin to describe in a few short sentences.
I must also add here that the staff on ward 302 at the Royal Derby Hospital could not have done more to help fulfill Fran and Mike's wishes. They decorated a room on the ward with lights and flowers, and local businesses provided food, flowers, drinks and a wedding cake. They did everything they could to make Fran and Mike's wedding special and looked after us all so well.
Hannah & I left the hospital at 9pm that evening. I feel lucky that I was able to say goodbye to Fran. The last thing I said to her was "I love you". What else is there to say at the end? She said "I love you". That was the last thing she said to me. Something I will always treasure. Mike sat up with her all night and on the following morning, Sunday 4th November, she passed away.
We hear of people dying after a "short illness", but never imagine it will happen to someone close to us. Sometimes I still can't believe what has happened to someone I knew I'd be friends with for the rest of our lives, little imagining the life of one of us would be so short.
Since my friend's illness and death I've been shocked to discover that:
- Bowel cancer is the second biggest cancer killer in the UK.
- 6 in 10 people with bowel cancer survive for 5 years or more, which of course means that 4 in 10 people do not survive that long. 25% of people do not survive a year.
- The incidence of bowel cancer amongst people under 50 is increasing, yet screening is only done from the age of 60 in England and Wales (50 in Scotland). Currently a 1 off screening is also being offered at 55, with the government looking into introducing screening from age 50 in England and Wales.
So, although I can't help Fran, I've chosen to raise money for research in to bowel cancer in the hope that the survival rates will improve for others, and that other families, partners and friends will be spared the grief we are experiencing.
I also want to do something positive in memory of a my friend. A friend who, whether she knew it or not, helped me understand what true friendship is. I will never forget that. Nothing is ever forgotten.
Thanks for reading this and please donate if you can.