The Final Blog

Since my husband Patrick died in January this year it’s felt very special to continue his blog. Over the last few months, I’ve shared my experience of grief and the impact of Patrick’s illness and death on our family.  There’s no tidy ending with these life changing events but it feels a natural place to stop so this will be the last update to the blog. As I bring the blog to a close I thought I’d share my thoughts on what it’s meant for me, and leave you with Patrick’s Christmas bowel cancer limericks which he wrote in December 2018.

Patrick started this blog after he was diagnosed with stage 4 bowel cancer in June 2017. Those early months were a blur as we all faced up to the reality of a terminal diagnosis and adjusted to a life full of uncertainty, endless appointments, chemotherapy, and Patrick’s new stoma. Although the outlook was gloomy, he was determined to enjoy life and make the most of the time he had left. Some loose ideas came together and Patrick posted for the first time on 13 November 2017. It was a step into the unknown but he was a natural. Over the next two years he wrote a moving, honest and humorous account of living with cancer, and I wrote occasionally about the impact his illness had on me. After Patrick died in January, I picked up the story, and our daughter Alice (26) shared her thoughts about losing a parent. This year the blog had nearly 50,000 visitors. Since he died, we’ve been comforted to hear from many people who followed the blog and been particularly moved by stories and messages from those who it helped in some way.

There wasn’t a particular plan. The blog evolved as Patrick found his feet and it followed the twists and turns of the illness. Patrick was clear from the start that he would be open about his experiences and try to demystify cancer and death. He also wanted to use the blog to raise awareness of the symptoms of bowel cancer and campaign on some important cancer issues. We’d quickly realised how difficult it is for everyone to know what to say. We too found it hard. When people kindly asked how we were we often replied as we were in that moment when actually it’s much more complicated. We both found it easier to describe the wider sweep of it and the messiness through the blog. Writing the blog was a kind of therapy helping us unscramble and process how we felt about it all. Before cancer I was naturally quite private and sometimes it’s felt a little uncomfortable – we shared some very personal things. But when you’ve been through so much your inhibitions quickly fall away and I don’t think so much about it anymore.

The blog opened doors. Life changing experiences are isolating and it introduced us to an online community of people in the same boat. It was comforting sharing experiences and in meeting kindred spirits we felt less alone. We have also heard from many people who told us how Patrick supported them – despite his illness he always made time for others.

People liked what Patrick was saying and he was soon busy raising awareness of bowel cancer and the many issues faced by patients and those close to them. He spoke at various meetings and conferences, was interviewed on radio and TV, recorded a couple of podcasts, wrote articles and was a prolific tweeter. He knew how easy it would be to retreat into his shell and kept challenging himself – health permitting. It was quite a surprise to discover new skills and interests as Patrick’s life was drawing to a close – we were all so proud and excited about what he was doing.  

When we think of our own mortality, I guess we all hope to leave a small mark – something we did which made things a bit better for those we leave behind. Patrick did something truly extraordinary through the blog and all the things that flowed from it. That makes me happy.

The blog has a special place in my heart since Patrick died. As I quietly read his words again, I hear his voice and see that lovely familiar smile. It’s not always an easy read but it’s a nice reminder that we had some happy times too. It’s kept me in touch with lots of the people he met through his illness giving me another way to share memories.

I hope people continue to stumble across the blog but the world turns quickly and I know it will slip deeper into the blogosphere. Others will come along and tell their stories and so the conversation will continue. This absolutely isn’t goodbye – I’ll still be around on twitter and look forward to staying in touch. And I very much hope that in 2021 I will be able to meet up properly with family and friends again – it’s been far too long. But even so I’d like to say thank you to everyone who supported us over the last three years – it helped so much.  And for those whose lives are affected by cancer – I send you courage and strength. And now I’ll hand you over to Patrick:

The trouble with Christmas good will

Is that I am rather ill

But I’ll be just fine

With gifts, food and wine

Plus chemo and neuropathy chill.

***

As the turkeys all head off for slaughter

I got a gift for my wife like I oughta

But it’s such a strain

With my chemo brain

To recall what the f**k I have bought her!

***

As Santa Claus sets off tonight

His route lit by stars shining bright

With no time to stop

He’d be caught on the hop

With a stoma bag filling with shite!

***

Bowel cancer this festive season

Gives to me a wonderful reason

To eat a big meal

With a passion and zeal

But with my stoma, no sprouts and no peas on…

***

As we approach a brand new year

Buoyed by booze and much good cheer

My biggest plans

Are for chemo and scans

And, no doubt more bowel cancer fear!

***

A mad Christmas spending spree

And presents around the tree

The gift I require

To escape from this mire

Is to be told that I’m cancer free!

15 thoughts on “The Final Blog

  1. As always, Sarah, your moving words are a fitting tribute to Patrick and we will all be thinking of you, him, Alice and Tom this Christmas. Goodness knows what Patrick would have made of this year but I think we all know he would have probably written a lot of limericks about it! Lots of love from Ian, Jo, Clea and Sasha. xxxx

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for sharing Patrick, yourself and family with all of in this bowel cancer space. Patrick’s open insights have been and will continue to bring understanding and hope to others. His sense of humor and writing is how we knew him. His bowel cancer is what I and many readers share with him. Those of us who remain behind are grateful he graced us with his words. Best of luck to you as you explore your next chapter of life.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is a really touching post Sarah. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings with us and of course, Patrick’s wonderful limericks. We will never forget Patrick and all that he gave to the community despite what he was going through. Love to you and family, Cheryl xx

    Liked by 1 person

  4. A beautiful account of your journey and the wider cancer community are so very grateful. I lost my dad in June 2019 to bowel cancer and it has been a rollercoaster of journey since for my sister, mum and wider friends and family. Talking about it and sharing stories is so powerful, giving confidence to others to do the same. I’ve followed this blog for 18 months now and it has been a humbling read. Such a kind and wonderful man lost too soon. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts since and I wish you all the best of health and happiness for the future. Kevin x

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    1. Thank you Kevin. I’m really sorry about your dad, I’m
      sure it still feels hard. But I hope you will have a peaceful Christmas with your family and can share your happy memories. Sarah x

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  5. What a powerful finish to Patrick’s blog. It has been Humbling reading them.
    Wishing you, Alice and Tom all the happiness you deserve in the new year.
    Patrick will never be forgotten.

    Jenny and Len xx

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I came across this blog during a time just after my dad had died and a close friend was dying of cancer. He shared his story with humour and courage and his love of family was very moving; an amazing piece of work. Wishing you all the best for the future.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi Sarah,
    Blessings to you at this time; you will miss Patrick this Xmas, and at other Xmas’ as time goes on, but you will have the children, family and friends to share memories with which will be precious.
    I hope to meet you one day with Caroline. Until then, much peaceful love and health to you and the family,
    Lots of love
    Dinah

    From Dinah

    Like

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