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My husband's kindness and compassion lives on in our children

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25 Jun 2019

Debbie lived a happy life, raising her two sons with her husband Richard. Then out of the blue Richard was admitted to hospital, but the doctors couldn't work out what was wrong.

My husband Richard always had a great sense of humour. He was a real practical joker who fooled us all the time. Even after twenty plus years of marriage he could still catch me out.

We were a typical family. We enjoyed days out and went to holiday parks when our two sons were little. Whatever our sons were into at the time they were fully supported by Richard. He loved being a Father to them.

One day, out of nowhere, the muscles in his legs started to ache. He was in bed for three weeks, and I suspected something was very wrong.


When Richard suddenly fell ill with chest and back pain, paleness of the skin and a hacking cough, we took him to hospital. The doctors couldn’t put their finger on it. They kept asking if he’d been abroad. I can only assume they thought he had some sort of tropical disease.

The day before he was finally given the correct diagnosis, my husband was told he had cancer of the spine by a doctor and a nurse who visited him on the ward. That misdiagnosis was distressing for all of us and has haunted me for a long time.

But after more tests he was finally given the correct diagnosis of acute myeloid leukaemia.

Richard and his two sons, James and Andrew

Shock and confusion

We were almost immediately approached by a clinical trial nurse, and if I’m completely honest, we were still in shock from his diagnosis. It felt like we were being bombarded with medical terms we didn’t really understand. I believe Richard agreed to the trial without really comprehending what it would mean for him.

We’d been packing a bag to come home when he was suddenly transferred to another hospital for treatment to begin – intensive chemotherapy.

My beautiful husband had the best sense of humour in the world – yet this dreadful disease didn’t just destroy his body… it robbed everything from him.

He wasn’t the wonderful funny man that he’d been, and our roles in our relationship reversed. Although we became much stronger as a couple, the illness and treatment was soul destroying.

One last round of chemotherapy

His final course was gruelling. Seven days of chemotherapy for 24 hours a day.

Exactly one week after his course had finished, on the 14th September 2009, my wonderful husband and loving father to our sons passed away, less than six months after diagnosis.

We were devastated, and our lives changed forever.

There was no support available to us. I was given a leaflet from the intensive care team. One section said that in a few weeks’ time someone would contact me. I can remember sitting by my phone for three weeks hoping someone would call, just to help me understand what had happened. But no one did.

Seeing Richard in our two children

Coping was difficult at first. But Richard’s legacy lives on through our two sons, James and Andrew.

James and Andrew

They stayed incredibly brave throughout Richard’s illness, and he was a huge influence on them. He wanted them to do well in life, and the values and morals he taught them has moulded them into the lovely young men they are today.

I see all Richard’s qualities in them both – his kindness and compassion. They appreciate that life is for living and have stayed completely grounded despite what they’ve been through. 

Although we miss Richard and think about him every single day, my sons give me immense pride, and it helps to think about how proud Richard would be of them.

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