‘I’ve managed to move forward from grief’
Instead of crumbling, I went into lioness mode
Kirsty Ettrick, 46, is the founder of the London Medical concierge. she lives in Bedfordshire with her children, Lewis, 21, Grace, 10, cameron, eight, and Lizzie, six.
My life changed one saturday in June 2014. We were in the middle of our son Cameron’s fourth birthday party when one of our friends – also the family GP – asked, “Have you noticed anything wrong with Neil lately?” With three kids and a breastfeeding baby, I was barely noticing my husband Neil, but my friend said, “He’s looking quite jaundiced,” and as I looked I saw she was right. she said, “you need to get that checked out… immediately.”
so we went straight to a&E. they ran blood tests – and the results showed abnormalities. two days later they’d found a tumour on his pancreas. We were in shock. We listened as they talked about the operation he needed – we were told he’d be put on the waiting list. back home I spent all day looking after the children, but in the evenings I sat researching Neil’s symptoms. It’s hard to describe the desperation I felt when everything I read said “life expectancy: six months”. but instead of crumbling, I went into lioness mode. I simply could not allow this to happen.
as the weeks went by, I became increasingly concerned about my research versus what was happening in his treatment. I love the NHs, and the staff work so hard, but the wheels turn so slowly and when time is of the essence, that’s not oK.
When the NHs consultants and surgeon were too busy to talk to us, I got time with them by booking appointments via the local private hospital. When they advised that he be treated at addenbrooke’s Hospital but there were long waiting times, we turned up day after day until a slot for emergency transplants opened up, which it did.
the operation was a success. they’d got the tumour out and we were told that Neil should wait to see an oncologist. However, he was deteriorating and six weeks down the line, the lack of urgency seemed at odds with his condition. so I started researching doctors who had dealt with Neil’s tumour. I found Justin stebbing in london. He did a full body scan and it looked like a map of the universe; the cancer like stars peppering his body. Neil went through chemo but his body couldn’t take it, and he died on 8 November.
His death shook me to my core. there was a sense of failure that I hadn’t been able to get him what he needed in time. I let myself sink into a fog.
but our beautiful children needed me, and bringing myself back to the now really helped. and people who knew how much work I had done in trying to get access to treatment for Neil started asking me for advice. I realised there was a need for a service that could connect people to the advice, professionals and treatment they needed in a stress-free and timely way. It had been too late for Neil, but for others, the early detection and treatment my company helps them to access may save their lives.
We will never stop missing Neil but we continue to live our lives and be happy, as he would have wanted. >>