Mark was diagnosed with cancer as Sharon, 52yrs, explained:
“Mark just got unwell. When I was 35 weeks pregnant with our son, he just started with some weakness in his arm – he went to get into bed and literally with the action of putting his arm down, something just went snap in his arm. His arm had broken, but it took six months for us to find out why.
“Down the line, they took an x-ray and there was no bone imagery there at all, it was just black.
The hardest part was seeing it in writing
“He was diagnosed with cancer of the kidney. It’s quite common to have no symptoms at all from it, which he didn’t. They reckon he’d had it for two or three years with that level of secondary disease in his bones.
“The hardest part was seeing it in writing, in black and white. A letter came through the post saying, ‘we estimate you’ve got twelve months to live’. It was hard to get my head round.”
“By this time we had a new-born baby and a little two year old, as well as our eldest son who was sixteen at the time.”
His aim was to see our daughter go to her first day of primary school
The family began to put their affairs in order:
“We finally walked down the aisle. We’d been together since 1999 and engaged for years and got married on three weeks’ notice. It was a lovely day and poignant because of the circumstances.
“Mark also did a few Bucket List things like he went to Vegas and Graceland, as he was a big Elvis fan.
“Mark actually lived for three and half years which was lovely. His aim was to see our daughter go to her first day of primary school which he managed.”
The beginning of the end
The family went on holiday to Portugal:
“Mark was very unwell and admitted to hospital there. So we’d get up, the kids would have a play in the pool and then go and see dad, and then find a beach, and then do it all again in reverse.
“We didn’t realise it at the time but when we came home, looking back, that was the beginning of the end.
“Mark died in October 2010. It was really, really hard on all of us and my youngest children were 3 and 5 at the time.
“As the children don’t necessarily have many memories of Mark because they were so young when he died, I took every digital photo we had and made them into a great big book each. Periodically they get them out and flick through them. It covers all his pictures and finishes with his last day.
“We talk openly about Mark, all of the time. We keep him right up and out there, and if the children ask questions, I always answer them. It’s worked for us and means their dad’s always there with us.”
The school nurse felt he would benefit from some bereavement counselling
Sharon and her children moved up to Oakwood in 2013 and they started attending the local school.
“When he was in Year 6, my young lad started having some difficulty at school. He started to ask questions around cancer and how do you get it, can I catch it, and stuff like that. The school nurse felt he would benefit from some bereavement counselling.
“Mark had died eight years ago at the time – when my son was just three years old – but the nurse helped me understand that as we grow and develop, our understanding changes a lot as well.”
The school nurse referred Sharon to Treetops:
“The counselling sessions were just for my son and it worked for him. He went for about eight or ten sessions, then he decided he was okay and didn’t need to go anymore. He got to the point where he was comfortable to come away from it. It made a difference and it was a positive experience.
“The counsellor said ‘the door will always open so if you ever do want to come, you’re always welcome’.
“Looking back, the counselling came up at just the right time for us and it’s allowed me to grow in my knowledge of bereavement.”
It’s not the amount of time we spend together, it’s the quality of the moments we get
Sharon and her children have signed up to KAPOW! as she explained:
“We’ve done loads of adventures and holidays since Mark’s gone, because if I wait till I’m retired to do things with the children, then who knows what will happen. It’s not the amount of time we spend together, it’s the quality of the moments we get.
“When I saw the KAPOW! advert, I just thought they’d really enjoy doing that and we can do it with the thought that we’re helping to support a charity that’s supported us. The children are excited about it.”
KAPOW! is a superhero-themed inflatable obstacle course taking place at Markeaton Park on Sunday 1 September. The 5km route includes ten challenges – including the Stairs of Doom, Mangle, Transformer and a foam station – that adults and children can run, jog or walk around.
The fun-filled, sponsored event – the only event of its kind taking place in the East Midlands this summer – will raise vital funds for Treetops Hospice Care which provides nursing care and emotional support for adults with life limiting conditions living in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. KAPOW! is being sponsored by Western Power Distribution plc.
Treetops services include Support and Information, Wellbeing Space, Hospice at Home nurses and Therapeutic Services including counselling, art therapy and complementary therapy.