Living with a terminal illness

Living with a terminal illness

On the day of her diagnosis, Jackie made a decision - she could either give up or carry on with life as normally as she could.She chose to enjoy life while she still can and today her husband, Robert, is her carer - taking her to every hospital appointment, sitting with her during hours of chemotherapy - when they play travel Scrabble and she always wins - and supporting her in everything she does.

And that support will even include joining Jackie and other family members on May 3 for a fund-raising parachute jump where they will be raising money for Addenbrooke’s hospital, Cambridge. Jackie worked there as a theatre support worker until her cancer diagnosis and it’s the hospital where she is now receiving treatment.

Six months after the diagnosis, Jackie admits she couldn’t face the future without the love and support of Robert, a minister at a Cambridgeshire community church.

‘Robert has been wonderful all the way through this,’ says Jackie (59). ‘He’s a tremendous support to me and I don’t know how I could manage without him.’Life has been particularly hard for Jackie. Her first husband - and father to her two children - was killed in a motorcycle accident when her daughter was just one.

She met Robert at a church they both attended in London before he trained as a pastor. Life was good for the devoted couple until two years ago when Jackie started to feel unwell. She was diagnosed with ovarian/peritoneal cancer in January last year and also had extra complications including a deep vein thrombosis and blood clot on the lungs. She had chemotherapy and surgery and in October 2013 she was told she was cancer free.

‘We celebrated with a real treat - a cruise,’ says Jackie. Sadly, Jackie felt unwell while they were away and when they returned, doctors told them the cancer had returned and that she was not expected to live more than a year.

She has now planned her funeral and is visiting hospices to find somewhere she will feel comfortable at the end of her life.
Robert admits he’s found it hard to cope with Jackie’s practical way of planning for the future but the couple’s firm Christian faith has meant they feel able to face the future - however long or short it may be - together.

Jackie wants to encourage other people that life can still be enjoyed even when the future is uncertain. ‘It would be untrue to say I don’t have moments when I worry about the future,’ says Jackie. ‘But doctors have assured me that they will be able to control any pain. ‘Meanwhile we just get on with life in the best way we can and my illness is not something we talk about every day.

Obviously I have a lot of hospital appointments and my mobility isn’t good but we still go out and I enjoy my garden and nature.’
Jackie and Robert have been comforted by the support and care they have received from family and friends and they are both excited at the prospect of a parachute jump.

‘I do feel scared, but I will definitely do it,’ says Jackie. ‘I want to raise money to help make things more comfortable for other people receiving treatment at Addenbrooke’s. I hope my story encourages other people facing serious illnesses that life can still be good.

‘No one would choose to have the diagnosis I’ve received, but with Robert’s love and support and my Christian faith, I’ll face whatever lies ahead.’