Gary's wife was diagnosed with secondary breast cancer on Christmas Eve. He tells us how he and their sons supported each other when she died.
Steph was diagnosed with breast cancer on Christmas Eve 2004
She was only 38 years old, and we had two young boys aged 9 and 11. I think she knew what the diagnosis would be before we went into the room to meet the consultant.
Steph was a nurse and was pretty pragmatic about her illness and asked very direct questions. On hearing that she had secondary breast cancer she was quite forthright about the operation she wanted, discounting a lumpectomy and happy to follow the consultants advice to have a mastectomy.
Steph had her mastectomy on her birthday on 8 January so it was a very difficult time for us all – we still managed to make Christmas special though. It's surprising what you can manage to do.
She was so selfless
She was very careful to present a cheerful and optimistic front for most of the following 10 years.
Telling our boys was the hardest thing. They were very thoughtful when it came to their mum; they both wore headscarves like hers when we went on holiday after she had chemotherapy.
If they had any questions Steph always answered them as honestly as she could. We were honest with the boys from the very start and they accepted the situation because of this.
She was a beautiful person with a genuine care for others
Steph was incredibly brave and unbelievably thoughtful about my feelings and those of all the people around her. She attracted people with her sense of humour, open nature and incredible warmth.
She had just started her ideal job, which she loved, as a community sister helping parents look after their premature babies at home. It really hurt her to retire because of ill health. She managed to fill her time seeing friends and having as full a life as possible as the illness progressed to secondary (incurable) breast cancer.
She really did light up a room with her presence, not just because she was a beautiful woman but also because she had a genuine care for others.
No matter how much we thought we had prepared for the moment, when we lost her it was devastating.
Setting up a tribute fund helped us to cope
Steph (centre) with friends.
Steph was able to get a lot of comfort and practical information from Breast Cancer Care and she recognised the important work they do. We had given to our favourite charities since before Steph was diagnosed, and I felt that Steph would have appreciated that she was making a difference to people through her tribute fund.
Having the tribute fund quickly became a way of coping, a way of remembering and feeling that we were doing something for others.
It was a focus for me during the harder times, particularly the first two years after Steph passed away. Initially I worried that people would forget Steph. But the tribute fund helped alleviate that worry. It then became a celebration of Steph as I realised I didn’t have to worry that she would be forgotten – she was, after all, such a wonderful person.
A Tribute Fund is where friends and families can donate and help remember and celebrate a loved one's life, creating a lasting legacy in their name.
Find out more or call us on 0345 092 0817.