Together at the end: ‘my husband died exactly how he wanted to’

Chris died just three weeks after being diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. But his family managed to cram into that short time a lot of love and quality time – and hugs.

Chris’ diagnosis came as a bolt from the blue.

He’d started feeling unwell around Christmas-time, and by February the pain was so bad his wife Fran took him to hospital. The registrar noticed his eyes were a strange colour and referred him for tests.

The results confirmed all their worst fears. Chris had hepatoma, a rare form of liver cancer, and was told he only had weeks to live. Chris wanted to die at home so the family – Fran, and sons Tom (45) and Matthew (42) – were referred to Marie Curie, which swooped in immediately to help.

Peaceful goodbye

 “The Marie Curie Nurses were fabulous,” Fran recalls. “They visited whenever we needed support, and towards the end would stay the night. We also had support from the district nurses, so we were well cared for.”

“Whenever I felt we were struggling, we just asked for extra help from the nurses and it arrived straightaway. They really were a fantastic team.”

Most importantly, the nurses ensured the family had a loving and peaceful goodbye. “Chris died at home with his family around him, which is exactly how he wanted it,” Fran says. “Afterwards, I remember entering the room and finding our youngest son Matthew alongside him asleep.”

Social whirl

After Chris’ death, friends and family really helped. “The people in my village were such a wonderful support to me throughout this period,” she remembers.

And one friend, in particular, gave her some golden advice. “My old school friend, who has been through a similar experience, called one day and announced: ‘Now, listen my dear; you need to make sure you have always something in your diary to look forward to’.

“It has been the most invaluable piece of advice – my calendar is now a work of art!”

Tremendous help

These days, Fran’s diary is often filled with fundraising activities for Marie Curie.

First, she raised £1,000 for the charity through a collection and the sale of some of Chris’s belongings. Then she brought in another £400 last year through hosting a Blooming Great Tea Party.

“I’m already looking forward to hosting another tea party next year,” she says. “I’m willing to do anything I can to help Marie Curie. They were such a tremendous help for our family, in particular Chris, during a very difficult time.”