She steps in with kidney for dad after sibling’s cancer blow
DEVOTED daughter Claire Eggleton was a week away from giving her dad the kidney that would save his life when doctors told her the operation was off – because she had breast cancer.
Instead of preparing to be a transplant donor Claire, 46, began life-saving chemotherapy of her own, an ordeal made worse believing it might sentence her dad William Rillstone to death.
She broke the devastating news to William, 72, and wife Gwen, 75, then went home to tell her two sons and the fiancé she had been planning to marry.
She did not know that the transplant process had already begun again...
As soon as she heard, Claire’s younger sister Kathryn, 43, called doctors and volunteered her own kidney instead.
As Claire had radiotherapy, a lumpectomy, six rounds of chemotherapy, lost her hair and suffered terrible nausea and mouth ulcers, Kathryn supported her – while preparing for her own op.
“I felt terrible,” said Claire. “I felt so low, just black, like there was no joy.
“The day Kathryn went to the hospital I cried saying: ‘It should have been me.’ I felt I’d let everyone down.
“As the older sister, I always protected Kathryn, and I was full of guilt that the one thing I could do for my dad after all he’d done for me had been taken away.”
The transplant earlier this year was a success, but it took months for William and Kathryn to recover.
It wasn’t until this summer – three years after William’s illness began – that the family, from Salisbury, finally had a chance to celebrate as Claire married.
“We all needed that celebration,” she said. “It was amazing for us all to have made it that far.
“We had almost called off the wedding at so many points, but I’m so glad we didn’t as it gave us all something to get better for.”
The family’s ordeal began in 2014 when William – who had never had a day off sick in 50 years as a train driver – was rushed to hospital with pneumonia.
His kidneys failed and he was put on to dialysis.
“He went downhill rapidly,” said Claire. “He took a turn for the worse so we talked about transplants and my sister and I were a match.”
The sisters agreed teacher Claire would donate a kidney as she was physically fitter and had a wider support network than single mum Kathryn.
“I wanted them to wait and think about it,” recalls William. “They had kids and the rest of their lives ahead of them.”
But during final pre-op tests in February 2015, doctors at Portsmouth Hospital found he had Myloma – a cancer of the blood in his bone marrow – and called it off. The only hospital that SUPPORT: FIT AND WEDDY: SURVIVOR: now agreed to do the high risk operation was Guy’s Hospital, London, who began the long testing process all over again.
A week before the new transplant date last October – with her dad growing weaker – Claire found a Malteser-sized lump and mentioned it to a doctor.
“Within a week I was having scans, mammograms and biopsies,” she said. “I was devastated because of Dad. Letting him down was the worst thing.”
Mental health worker Kathryn went with her to chemo and looked after her sons, James, 16, and Will, 14, and stepson Josh Eggleton, 13.
“She was so brave,” said Kathryn. “It was hard to see her go through something like that, and to see dad suffering as well.”
Last Easter it was Claire’s turn to care for her sister. As Kathryn came round after the op, Claire was at her bedside. Hours later, their dad was wheeled in to the ward for an emotional reunion.
“I’m very privileged to have such lovely daughters,” said William. “I’m so grateful to them.” His pride shone through as FATHER’S PRIDE: Claire married military police officer Richard Eggleton, 38.
“It was an emotional day,” said Claire.
“I caught Dad’s eye as I was walked down the aisle by my two boys and he had to look away he was so teary.
“I choked up during our vows. We said we’d all done the In Sickness bit, now it’s time for In Health.” ■■Claire was supported by Breast Cancer Care. To raise vital funds visit www. breastcancercare.org.uk/October
such lovely daughters WILLIAM RILLSTONE GIVEN DAUGHTER’S KIDNEY
Claire during cancer ops Kathryn with dad in hospital Proud William (left) at daughter Claire’s wedding
William with daughters who both volunteered to save his life