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Something to live for

Posted by
09 Aug 2018

Twenty years ago my husband was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. At the time we had two children who were eight and five. The promise he made our daughter kept him going.

In 1998, we seemed to have a happy future ahead of us.

My husband Simon and I had just moved to a larger family house with our two children, a daughter of 8 and a son of 5. Within a week of moving in, I noticed a small lump on his neck, and insisted he went to a doctor (against his wishes, he knew it was nothing).

After a few months of dithering the doctor finally sent him for a biopsy, and non- Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) was diagnosed.

At the time it was really hard to find information. We had no history of cancer in our family and had no idea what this was, whether we should be frightened or not.

Making our daughter a promise

Our daughter was old enough to realise something was wrong, so we tried to explain what we knew to her. She looked her daddy in the eye, as only a child can do, and asked if he was going to die?

He looked back at her and promised he would be there to walk her down the aisle when she grew up.

We were lucky that the NHL was low grade, and for the next nine years he was on a watch and wait with no treatment.

We treasured every minute together, because we realised how easily it could be taken away.

A turn for the worse

In 2008 however, he started to get sicker, and needed to start chemo. Then blood tests revealed the NHL had become chronic lymphocytic leukaemia, and things sped up.

Simon started full chemotherapy, and we had to travel from the Isle of Wight to the mainland to Southampton.

Every month we went over for two days of chemo, then a day of rest, before going back to work as if nothing had happened.

Sadly, the chemotherapy didn't work, and in December 2009 we had the news that without a bone marrow transplant Simon would only survive three years at most.

Three years to live

We travelled home on the boat, and I remember that it started to snow, blocking the roads and giving us a day off work. Our children were both at home for Christmas so we all talked together.

Simon wasn't ready to leave them, but there was no family match, and no donor inthe UK.

But then Simon got lucky when a match was found in a lovely lady in Germany named Kati. She had watched a TV programme about donation and felt God tell her to become a donor, just at the time we needed her! We're not religious, but this was very special.

Simon had to wait until September 2010 to actually have his transplant, again in Southampton in his isolation room.

Nine weeks alone

He stayed in there for nine weeks, only able to see a few family members.

The transplant wasn't easy. It was a slow road to health, but he was determined to survive. And he did.

Getting better still had complications, but again he pulled through abd although he had to give up work, he remains as determined as ever.

Keeping his promise

On July 21st 2018, nearly 20 years after making that promise, Simon walked our daughter down the aisle on her wedding day.

it was a beautiful, emotional day.

In his speech he told everyone how that promise kept him going through the hardest times. There wasn't a dry eye, but still so many smiles!

If you've been affected by blood cancer, you can visit our information and support pages or call our support line free on 0808 2080 888.



Hello Claire, thank you so much for telling such a moving story! I cannot even imagine how tough it was for you and your family during this time. It is lovely that your husband was able to walk your daughter down the aisle and keeping a promise for 20 years. Very emotional and such a powerful story. Thank you for writing Claire.


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