We thought we'd have rest of our lives together .. then I was told he had only 21 days left; HOW MARIE CURIE NURSE HELPED FAMILY THROUGH DYING DAD'S CANCER ORDEAL.
Today, one mother opens her heart to NICOLA BARRY on how Marie Curie nurses helped her cope with the most painful moment of her life
CHRISTMAS was all but cancelled in the Hendry household last year.
Normally, Lesley Hendry, husband Eric and their three young kids would go up north to spend the festive season with family.
Last year, they didn't go. Eric wasn't feeling well - just the odd stomach pain.
Lesley put it down to stress. Eric, 49, was well-known - the timpanist with Scottish Opera - and, a year ago, the company were having financial troubles.
But the terrible truth was that Eric was dying.
Lesley recalls: "On the Friday after Christmas, he sat me down and said ... `It's bad news - I've got cancer'."
A consultant had told Eric that there were `appearances' on his liver - Eric decided to keep the news to himself until after Christmas.
Lesley adds: "At first, I went numb with shock. I kept denying it, saying it couldn't be true.
"Because of the children - Sandy, 10, Rebecca, eight, and seven-year- old Kathryn - I had to pretend everything was normal.
"But I knew when they said `liver' it was bad. I knew there was no cure. But I thought we would have time because it was a secondary cancer - we later learned the primary was in his bowel."
In early January, Eric told Lesley he had to have an operation. Doctors would remove the primary cancer by cutting out part of the colon. The plan was for Eric to start chemotherapy once he had recovered his strength.
The operation went well and Eric returned home in the third week of January. But he couldn't eat and he was frequently sick.
Then Macmillan nurse Gerry O'Hare, who was seeing the family to give them advice, turned up one day to speak to Lesley.
She recalls: "Gerry said ... `This is a very aggressive form of cancer - I would give Eric about three weeks'.
"This came as a major shock. I had thought he would have chemotherapy.
"Suddenly, it all began to race away. At the start, we had been thinking he had years. Then it was months - and now weeks. All this in the space of 21 days."
She adds: "I had to tell the children their daddy was not going to get better. They kept asking me why. Why this, why that. Why couldn't they do a transplant - like they do on Casualty?
"I didn't lie - I just said nothing could be done."
Within days, Eric was back in hospital - the tumour on his liver was pressing against nerves in his spine.
Lesley says: "I went into the hospital to speak to Eric's consultant. He said: `I'm sorry, there is nothing more we can do'.
"I was devastated. I went through to the ward and looked at my husband. He was only just recognisable - skeletally thin, very drawn.
"I later found out that Eric had asked Gerry whether he was dying - and Gerry had answered `yes'. Eric then asked to be taken home as quickly as possible.
"Our GP told us we needed 24-hour nursing care in the house."
It came in the shape of Marie Curie nurse of the year, Gwen Dennison.
Lesley admits: "I was worried about the Marie Curie nurses coming to the house. I thought they would take over - I didn't want to be shoved out."
She smiles: "But I needn't have worried. They gave me the confidence to cope.
"They came for three nights. On the first night, Eric was hallucinating. He was trying to get out of bed and go to the toilet. The nurse came upstairs and helped me calm him down.
"They would relieve me every so often so I could go and have something to eat, or just have a break. Sometimes, they would just sit and hold his hand.
"On his last night, the children came in to kiss Eric goodnight. By then, he was in a coma.
"I was lying on the bed beside him when he finally stopped breathing - just after midnight.
"I didn't tell the children until morning. They were wonderful. Sandy went off to play football as usual. He said his dad would have wanted him to.
"I was angry. I think I went through every emotion. To watch such an intelligent man waste away like that was horrific.
"But it would have been much more frightening had Gwen not been there. She kept the lid on things - she stopped us panicking."
Gwen also made sure the family did not rush their last, precious moments with Eric.
Lesley says: "Gwen made us all sit down and say our goodbyes. Then she asked me what clothes I wanted on Eric and went to dress him."
She adds: "I don't know how the Marie Curie nurses do it. They manage to be involved without ever being intrusive.
"I was so glad they were there because they let me be close to Eric as he died.
"If you like, they did it my way."
HOW YOU CAN HELP
MARIE CURIE have adopted the daffodil as their symbol of caring.
And tomorrow they launch a drive to raise pounds 5million for their hospices in Hunter's Hill, Glasgow, and Fairmile, Edinburgh.
You can help by buying a Marie Curie badge from any BP garage or Marie Curie shop. When you buy the badge, your name will be inscribed in The Flowering Of Scotland Book Of Hope.
If every Record reader were to buy a badge, the target would almost be met.
Or you can send a donation - however small - to the Flowering Of Scotland Appeal.
Make cheques payable to: Marie Curie Cancer Care at 29 Albany Street, Edinburgh EH1 3ZN.
Phone 0131 478 7050 for more details of how you can help.
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|Publication:||Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)|
|Date:||Nov 7, 1997|
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