Cradle To Grave
An unplanned pregnancy became something much worse…
Knocking on my daughter’s door in a new dress, I braced myself for her reaction. ‘Come in!’ she replied. Demi, 22, was sat on her bed, surrounded by make-up.
She looked up and gasped. ‘Mum! What is that?! Go and change!’she demanded.
I laughed. That was my Demi – young and feisty. As the baby of the family, she got away with murder.
She was the only bird left in the nest after my son Wesley, 28, had gone travelling, and daughter Holly, 25, had married.
‘What’s wrong with it?’ I laughed, pretending I was clueless.
‘Follow me!’ she said, leading me back to my wardrobe.
She picked apart every dress, blouse, pair of trousers and jumper I owned.
‘Nope, no, definitely not... How about this one Mum?’
She held up a silk dress that she knew I had always loved.
‘Please let me do your make-up too!’ Demi insisted.
She was training to be a make-up artist, and was putting together a professional portfolio.
Demi had done my make-up for as long as I could remember. She’d done her sister’s for her wedding – that was when she met her long term boyfriend, Mitch.
As Demi powdered blusher on my cheeks, I was so thrilled that all her dreams were coming together.
Suddenly, Demi doubled over with a yelp.
‘It’s fun being a woman isn’t it, love?’ I said, rolling my eyes.
‘I keep telling you Mum, it doesn’t feel like normal period cramps,’ she insisted.
Over the next few weeks, the pains grew worse.
One night, she cried out so much from her bedroom that I held her for hours in my arms.
The next day, I marched her to A&E, and demanded that a doctor saw her. Demi was exhausted as she did a urine sample.
Then the nurse returned with a smile.
‘Congratulations Demi, you’re pregnant!’ she said.
The room went silent. ‘But that’s impossible,’ Demi insisted. ‘I’m on the pill, and I’m on my period! There’s no way I’m pregnant.’ The doctors referred us to the Early Pregnancy Unit in Colchester for an ultrasound scan a week later.
I got butterflies as I saw the gel squirted on her flat tummy. Was I really going to be a grandmother? ‘There’s nothing there, Demi,’ the sonographer said, confused. ‘But it might just be too early for it to show.’ They took more blood tests and urine samples which all came back with the same thing. Positive. But still, Demi wouldn’t accept it. The pain was now tracking from one side, to her back, and then to her front. It was making her physically weak.
Then one day, Demi sat me and her dad down together in private.
‘I’ve decided to have an injection to get rid of the baby,’ she said quietly. ‘Mitch and I love each other, but we’re just not ready.’
I could see she was in pain, emotionally and physically, so I held her hand and promised to stand by her in whatever she decided.
The injection was supposed to get rid of anything growing in her womb, but her pregnancy hormone levels were still increasing.
She was bloated and vomiting, but it wasn’t morning sickness. After I demanded a third ultrasound, we got shocking results.
There was a mass of blood in her abdomen that suggested the baby was growing in her tubes. Demi was
whisked away for keyhole surgery.
I was in pieces when the surgeon returned to say they hadn’t found any baby or signs of pregnancy. Instead, they’d found another mass behind her liver. It was 12cm – the size of a baby’s head.
Demi took it so well. She was relieved they had found the root of her pain, but she was still in agony.
As she was transferred to a liver ward in Addenbrooke’s hospital in Cambridge, my little Demi was a superwoman.
Then we received the worst news a parent could wish for.
It was cancer.
‘This can’t be happening,’ I cried, devastated.
Suddenly my visions of a chubbycheeked grandchild faded away, and my eyes rested on my frail daughter. She was only 22. As the doctors kept her in the ward for the rest of the week, her sister Holly slept over and they relaxed with face masks. Demi was going through crippling pain but she still managed to laugh and paint her nails. She was just so strong through everything - as she always was. She started planning her life with cancer, thinking that it was just something she’d have to live with and manage for the rest of her life. As doctors took more blood and urine samples, we waited anxiously for talk of what Demi would need to do next to get over this we were expecting talk of drugs, radiation, and other treatments, such as chemotherapy. But it was terrible news.‘demi, the results from the second biopsy have returned,’ the doctor said. ‘I’m afraid it’s adenocarcinoma.’ All these long words meant nothing to me. ‘Am I going to die?’ Demi cried. The doctor looked her in the eye: ‘Yes, it’s incurable.’ It was a travelling cancer – there was no primary source and it would continue to spread around her body, shutting down her organs one by one.
‘I’m afraid you only have weeks left to live,’ he added softly.
My world crashed down right in front of me and her dad, Chris, collapsed. He was a military man and I’d never seen him cry. And now he was broken, like my heart. My baby was going to die. We held her tight, our salty tears soaking her hospital robe.
We stayed up all night reliving memories of her meeting Mitch at Holly’s wedding, her passing her driving test last year on the second attempt - and crying with laughter at her online shopping addiction. It was a night I’ll cherish forever. Over the next five days, Demi became a shell of her former self as she grew even weaker.
She developed jaundice, her beautiful hair became brittle and the cancer spread into her lungs and she could barely talk.
Soon, we had to make the difficult decision of sedating her. Her quality of life was worsening drastically and I couldn’t bear to see her gasping for breath.
We said our emotional goodbyes and she was sedated in her sleep. We couldn’t speak to her again after that, or even look into her eyes.
Demi had a peaceful death after finally escaping the pain and discomfort of the cancer.
You just don’t expect your own child to pass away before you. I’ll never feel whole again.
We have thrown ourselves into doing positive things.
Demi’s cousin Zoe completed the London Marathon this year for Cancer Research, and she has also set up a fundraising page which has raised over £20 000. As a family, we recently completed our second Race For Life, in Demi’s memory.
Demi was just a young girl with dreams for the future.
She was my youngest daughter
Demi and Mitch had their whole lives ahead of them
She was beautiful inside and out
Demi with her loving Dad