My Wife Had A Pet Name For Me

My wife Bridget had a pet name for me, the first letter of our surname “P” Mostly she only used it when we were alone together, but then as our children grew up they would also hear her use it. Often it would be accompanied by a loving touch of the hand, a kiss or a hug. We were happy and I’m pleased to say we knew it.

We met on the 29th February 1980 when I was sixteen and she was seventeen (I used to joke about being a toy boy by a gap of four months). It was love at first sight, I saw her, danced with her, asked her out and fell in love with her all in what seemed like a single moment. We learned about life together, married, made a home together and brought two wonderful children into the world. We had our ups and downs like anyone else but whatever else happened we had each other. We did everything together if you saw one of us you knew the other would be close by. We became soulmates.

The first thing I noticed was she didn’t seem to be her usual self, I couldn’t say exactly what had changed but I knew something almost imperceptible had. She insisted she was just a bit tired but I knew it was more than that and asked her to go to see the doctor. Eventually she did and an unbelievable time of doctor appointments, various tests, scans and specialist visits began, all leading to that awful moment when a doctor walked onto the ward and said “Maybe we should go to a side room where we can talk more privately”

He started by asking what we thought it might be, I guess we knew but nobody ever wants to say cancer in that situation. But the doctor had to, it was his job and necessary, he went onto say it was inoperable pancreatic cancer and they wouldn’t be able to cure it. The most difficult thing any man can have to do is to tell his children regardless of their age that their mother is terminally ill, that’s what lay before me in the coming hours but I did it and we helped each other through those moments.

It’s impossible to prepare for your world falling apart, there is absolutely nothing that can ready anyone for that. We met it with stunned silence, then tears a little anger then disbelief. How can this be, we lived well, ate well and looked after each other and our family, it couldn’t be us, it must be a mistake.

But no it wasn’t a mistake. Over the next few weeks we quickly learned that the phrase “Why us” should be “Why not us” cancer does not discriminate it attacks anyone, the chemo ward is testament to that. But I decided to be as positive as I could I would always have something good to say, there would always be another channel to explore, I was determined to help Bridget through those days.

We turned our initial despair into hope, you have to, how can you live without it. The survival rate from pancreatic cancer was low but there was one, so we had to work towards that and hope for some good news. We sought out second opinions, the latest techniques and treatments, went wherever we needed to in order to see the very best people we could. Family and friends were fantastic doing practical things, searching for new ideas or anything that might help but most of all just being there for us, we had a safety net of love to fall back on.

Bridget bore her entire illness without complaint and with such amazing dignity. She was even known as the ward mummy to one of the nurses who cared for her, she inspired our entire family and friends giving strength to us all. But after a few frantic months and the very best of care, hope changed to inevitability. She wanted to be at home so we made arrangements to bring her home with a first class care package in place to help her and the family. I nursed her through every one of those nights doing things I never believed I was capable of and witnessing the love of my life go through such an awful time, it was at many times too much to bear but we had no choice. Then in the early hours of her last morning she said to me “P I’m dying” I knew she was and this time I was out of hope I couldn’t find any words other than “I’m here with you I love you” I held her we shared our final loving touches, kisses and hugs. I whispered in her ear so she would know I was there, mine was the last voice she heard. Just after three that afternoon Bridget’s heart stopped and mine broke, we were at home surrounded by our family just as she wanted. Her funeral was on 29 February 2016 thirty six years to the day since we met. I am so blessed to have known such love.

On November 6 this year my daughter Laura is running the New York marathon in memory of Bridget to raise much needed funds for pancreatic cancer research. If you feel able please support her and help to prevent other families going through this awful ordeal by clicking the link below. But if you prefer not to thank you anyway for taking the time to read our story.

https://www.crowdrise.com/projectpurplenyc2016/fundraiser/lauraswan