Often, it’s hard to find the right words. It was this problem that first brought Vicki and her husband Rob to Maggie’s Swansea when they needed help telling their children, Ffion, then 10 and Lily, then 5 about Rob’s terminal diagnosis.
In 2005, Rob was referred to an ear, nose and throat specialist with a lump on his neck thought to be a cyst that needed draining: “Because I was pregnant with Ffion, we asked if Rob could have the surgery before the baby was due,” says Vicki. “It was not until the consultant opened him up that we realised it was more than just a cyst. That was March 2005.”
Rob had just a few days with his new baby daughter before starting intensive chemo and radiotherapy. He lost a staggering five and a half stone but recovered well enough for the couple to start getting their lives back together.
They were planning their wedding when, just months before the big day, scans picked up more cancer in Rob’s lymph nodes. Again he recovered and the wedding went ahead. But not long afterwards, Rob’s vision started to blur and doctors found a tumour on his optic nerve: “We couldn’t believe it,” says Vicki.
This time, Rob was referred to the Royal Marsden Hospital in London for treatment – and once more he bounced back: “We had a year and a half clear and we were confident,” says Vicki: “We planned and had Lily, but in 2010, the cancer returned – and by 2013 it was growing in places the doctors could no longer get to. There was no cure; only prolonging life.”
It was at this point that Rob and Vicki turned to Maggie’s Swansea.
Before coming to Maggie’s, Vicki had been a bit apprehensive: “I thought it would be a room at the back of the hospital full of old people - all of the doom and gloom side of things.” But all her fear and anxiety went away within a minute or two of coming through the door.
One of the things Vicki really appreciated about Maggie’s was the way we supported her daughter Ffion.
Lily was still so young, a lot of things went over her head. But having advice and guidance on how to talk to Ffion and prepare her for losing her Dad, that really helped.
For example, Rob and Vicki knew it was unlikely Rob would make it through to Christmas, but they were able to prepare: “We told the girls, Daddy’s not very well and you’re so special that Father Christmas is going to come early,” says Vicki. They moved everything forward and managed to have a family Christmas before he died – and that was so precious.
Rob died in December, and Vicki came back to Maggie’s to see a bereavement counsellor: “We took Robert’s Mum to Maggie’s and my parents,” says Vicki:
My sister in law was stuck and didn’t know how to speak to Rob’s nephew, so she went too; it was a great support for the whole family.
How to access support at Maggie’s
We run Kids, Teen and Family Days at many of our Centres across the UK to support families affected by cancer.
If you’d like to find out more about these or any of the support we offer, please contact your local Centre.
You can also find information and support online. Our Online Centre offers the same supportive community and practical, emotional and social support as you’ll find in all our Centres.