An epic ride
We’re facing an uncertain future, but we’re doing it together
If I’d told him once, I’d told him a thousand times...
‘You need to go to the doctor!’ I said.
My partner Gareth stopped rubbing his leg. ‘OK, I will,’ he agreed. It was April last year, he’d been complaining of a pulled muscle for nearly two months.
I’d been nagging him for weeks to get checked out – but as a keen cyclist, Gareth, then 39, was used to the odd injury.
‘The doctor thinks I might have arthritis in my hip,’ Gareth said as he returned from his appointment.
I was worried, but I knew Gareth was strong and healthy.
Yet after an X-ray, doctors noticed a shadow on Gareth’s pelvis.
‘We’d like to send Gareth for an MRI scan,’ they told us.
We stayed positive, decided there was no point worrying until we knew more.
That June, we left our children Harry, 6, and Willow, 4, as well as Grace, 14 – Gareth’s daughter from his previous marriage – with my mum and dad.
We headed to the hospital for the MRI results.
Gareth’s face was white as we sat waiting.
‘I’ll be right by your side,’ I said.
But as we walked into the consultant’s office, I knew it was going to be bad news.
‘There’s a massive tumour on your pelvis,’ he said. ‘It’s chondrosarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer. It doesn’t respond to chemo or radiotherapy.’
The only way to get rid of the tumour was to cut it out. The blows kept coming. ‘The tumour is growing into your pelvis. We’ll try our best, but because of its position, we might need to amputate one or both of your legs to remove it completely,’ the consultant said.
I looked at Gareth as his eyes widened with shock. My head was reeling. ‘I’ll have the surgery,’ Gareth said firmly.
In July, the night before the op, we travelled the 200 miles to the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital in Birmingham.
‘I might not have legs tomorrow. Let’s go out for a last supper,’ Gareth joked.
So we headed out for Mexican food, followed by a cinema trip to watch Dunkirk.
The following morning, I planted a kiss on Gareth’s cheek as he lay in the hospital.
‘I’ll see you soon,’ I said, smiling through my fear.
The next seven hours were agonising, but finally, I got the call I’d been longing for.
‘The surgery went well, you can see him now.’
As I approached Gareth’s bed in the Intensive Care Unit, his face was grey.
‘I can’t feel my legs. Are they..?’ he asked.
‘It’s just the pain relief numbing them. They’re both here!’ I grinned.
To cut out Gareth’s tumour completely, parts of his pelvis and his bladder had to be removed too.
It was such major surgery, he had to learn to walk again.
But he faced the challenge head on, gritting his teeth through the pain.
Two weeks later, Gareth was home. He kept working hard on his fitness, and in less than two months, was back on his bike.
‘I’m going to do a ride for charity,’ he said over dinner one night last September. ‘You’re mad,’ I said, laughing. Within a couple of weeks, Gareth had arranged a three-day, 240-mile bike ride with a group of pals.
‘We’re going to cycle from Launceston to London,’ he said.
All the money raised would be going to Sarcoma UK.
He started training, clocking
I Iooked at Gareth as his eyes widened with shock
up the miles on his bike.
Only, as we headed into the new year, I could tell Gareth wasn’t himself.
He struggled to put on his socks, unable to bend over due to the pain.
I felt the familiar knot in my stomach again.
And sure enough, at his checkup in April this year, we were given more bad news.
Gareth’s cancer was back – and the odds weren’t good.
‘If you do nothing, the cancer will eventually kill you,’ the consultant told Gareth.
‘But if we can guarantee the cancer has not spread further than your pelvis, then you’ll be eligible for another op.’
The doctor explained that it would involve removing Gareth’s bowel, his bladder, his prostate and his colon.
He’d need a colostomy and ileostomy bag for life.
And even then, there would only be a 30 per cent chance he would be cured completely.
‘If there’s a chance it’ll work, and I can, I want to go ahead with the op,’ Gareth said.
During the car ride back to Cornwall, Gareth and I talked.
‘I’m so grateful you aren’t giving up,’ I said quietly. ‘I don’t want to lose you.’
Gareth’s charity bike ride went ahead on 25 May.
And despite the warm weather, he did brilliantly.
I’m just happy he’s made it back in one piece!
That epic ride has kept him positive. His brilliant attitude is keeping me going, too.
So for now, we’re making the most of every moment we have together as a family.
And keeping our fingers tightly crossed.
Amazing Daddy! Us with Harry and Willow
The scar after his operation
On the road Cycling 240 miles for charity in May this year