23
Oct
2019

Julie M's bowel cancer story (husband diagnosed age 65, NSW)

My husband Peter was diagnosed with colon cancer in January 2016. He was 65 at the time. He had a stage 4 cancer which had metastasised to his liver.

Up until that point he had taken 7 days sick leave from work in the 34 years I was married to him.

He underwent surgery within a week.  Radiotherapy, chemo and a lot of other horrible treatments followed.  He was so brave.  Never complained. 

By the end of 2016 the surgeons thought they had got everything.  For a few weeks at the end of 2016 he was apparently cancer free.

In January 2017 we were told he had grown a new cancer in his liver.  He underwent surgery and then went on another 20 weeks of chemo. 

Again, in September 2017 we were told he had no cancer in his system.  Once again, through all of this, he never complained. 

In November 2017 we were told that the cancer had come back and he had 3 months to live.  Even then, he didn’t feel sorry for himself which he was certainly entitled to do.

The photo included with this story was taken 2 weeks after we were told he was dying.  To look at him you’d never know.

That was the beginning of an incredible journey.  A joyous time in some ways, sad in others.  By this stage both my children, Sam and Kate, had told us they were both gay.  There were no more secrets.  We spent lots of time together, we had fun, we travelled, Peter drank good wine and ate good food.  He was happy. Our hearts were broken.

Peter got a new job in September 2017 just before his terminal diagnosis.  After 50 years of working in the financial sector, he got his dream job – as a financial analyst with the Australian Investments and Securities Commission.  They knew he was sick but they wanted him anyway.  He joked about being a spy.  He wasn’t a spy but loved his job.

He loved his work so much that he worked until 9 days before he died.

At the end, he died at home in our bed.  He had his 67th birthday 5 days before he died.  We were lying together talking – it was a relatively normal morning.  I left the room for a minute to call my daughter and when I came back, I lied beside him.  He squeezed my hand.  He died about 2 minutes later.

His funeral was beautiful.  We played Beach Boys songs and had his skis resting on his coffin.  We covered his coffin in winter flowers reminding us of Thredbo, where he had lived for the 8 years before meeting me. 

My son Sam asked me to dress him in his travelling gear - for the last 15 years he always wore the same clothes on an international flight - jeans, a particular shirt he only wore on international flights and his travelling blue blazer.  We put one of his old qantas business class boarding passes in his hand.  Sam said we needed to make sure he travelled in style for his last great journey.

In 4 weeks, it will be a year since he died.  We have cried, laughed and cried some more.  We have survived such a dreadful loss.  As a family we are a pretty strong group of individuals and my husband’s courage has sustained us.   

I would welcome the chance to be a sounding board for anyone going through what I have been through.  I was lucky enough to be in a position where I could draw on the support of a psychologist during this journey and I realise that isn’t an option for many people. 

The support I have had throughout this process was incredible, however I had quite a remarkable husband and that made it easier.

So, if there is anything I can do to help, please let me know.

Banner Bowel Cancer Australia Helpline
Support Bowel Cancer Australia
Bowel Cancer Australia Bowel Cancer App