On the 30th of November 2009, I lost my father to gastric cancer, at 69, a week away from his birthday.
Over the course of nearly a year, I watched my lion slip away, and every visit to some hospital ward was ever more desperate. For any of you going through cancer in your family, I’m sure you’ll appreciate how it feels when the doctors are too busy, when no-one keeps you informed, when you want to scream, but if you do you’ll be asked to leave, even though it’s those who want you to leave who are making you angry in the first place. You just want answers, some communication, some…..Respect.
And then eventually St John’s Ambulance arrive at the door, and the person you love so hard is taken away by two nice people in green uniforms, and you watch him, weak, glassy eyed, and they take your loved one to Sobell House, on an alloy stretcher, tucked up under a thick blue sheet. As you walk in, the doctors ask how you are, as well as the patient, your hero. People pay attention to you, to my frail Dad, to my Mum as she watches her husband of 40+ years slowly disappear from her. I just want to turn the clock back.
Sobell House is the stage before death for many, and I could not fault the total respect, commitment and warmth they gave my Father, and every other patient and visitor. On one visit I walked past a family who had lost a loved one only minutes before, and we all understood what that building meant, how those walls are a last chance to evaluate life, to reminisce on times before the illness came with it’s outstretched fingers.
Dad decided to come home for what would be almost three weeks of post Sobell life, but I know he totally appreciated his brief time in there, as many others have. They comforted him through pain, through the starving. They always came round on time. They made him feel at ease with his final stage. They made him feel like a priority.
If he can see me now he’ll wanna kick my arse, because he used to get annoyed when I did fundraising events, only because he was a private man, but I believe he was quietly proud of me.