My family have been rocked this year as my dad, Neville Heywood Porter, died on the 13th of March at 8:34 in the morning, aged 74.
He died peacefully after a short illness.
My family and I are utterly devastated at his untimely demise and the speed that his illness took hold.
I’m writing this as I need to get these thoughts out of my head and onto a piece of paper, not just so I can move on but I also have have a memory I can come back and read at a later date as I’m struggling to cope with this at the moment.
So, what happened?
Let’s rewind about 6-months from the date of my father’s death and my dad was fine physically but mentally he is beginning to forget things and generally exhibit strange behaviour, something which doesn’t go unnoticed by the family especially myself and my mother who are in contact with my dad most of the time.
One of the first things I noticed was when my dad was making his daily roll ups and as I watched him he made one purely with filters and another with no tobacco!
However, just shortly after Christmas I purchased a house and my mum and dad came round to help me do some of the renovations which was usually something my dad add loved to do.
However on this day he seems very distant and I asking him to do a task that he had no problem doing before in the past. On this occasion he really struggled and in fact made a complete Horlicks of what I’d asked him to do. What I’d asking him to do was just chisel out a channel in the plaster for electrical cabling, a job he’d probably done dozens of times before and a job i’d already part done and all he had to do was follow the lines I’d already chiselled out.
On this particular day he really struggled and by the time he had finished he was completely shattered. He also chiselled a channel much wider than I’d marked out and not vertical. Imagine, starting as a straight line and then making a diagonal line.
As my parents went home I quickly spoke to my mum who said he’d been like this for a couple of weeks and despite my dad’s protestations she was taking him to the doctor’s the following Tuesday.
“I’m alright” my dad would say!
The following Tuesday comes and goes and my dad goes to the doctor’s and they send him home I’m with some painkillers and antibiotics for a chest infection but a week later he’s back there with more severe symptoms and a definite breathing issues.
This time, because he’s 74, the doctors sent him for a chest x-ray. The results of which show my dad had quite a sizable amount of shadowing inside his lungs and the doctors must have thought it was very serious because they sent a taxi to the house with documentation asking my dad to attend the hospital again the next day for a CT scan.
So, we take my dad up to the hospital and dad has the CT scan and after he’s had this they ask us to sit down with the specialist, a nurse and a Macmillan nurse. The very fact that there is a Macmillan nurse there said to me that the news is not going to be good and it did put me on tenterhooks.
In the room there is three members of the medical profession and my dad, my mum and myself. The specialist speaks “we’ve got the results of your tests Mr Porter and there’s no easy way to say this this will you have lung cancer”
My dad immediately shut down as the information that’s just been put in front of him, I think, was too much for him to take at that stage in his life. For then on he became very blank and distant for quite a few days afterwards. Different people I suppose take this news if very different ways.
Mum immediately burst into tears and wept uncontrollably for quite a long time despite being reassured by myself and the nurses. My dad at this point has completely shut down emotionally and there’s no expression on his face whatsoever. Like he’s staring into space.
He told me a week later that he really struggled to take in the information at that point and and it did distress him until he’d actually processed what he’d been told. He told me “I’ve got cancer, I’m going to die and I’m going to die soon”
I’ll be honest, it was very difficult for me to understand what we’d been told but from that moment onwards my only concern was the well-being of my dad and making him comfortable because the doctors did tell us that he had days left rather than months.
The cancer but my dad was diagnosed with is called Metastatic Lung Cancer and despite the name it is anything but static. If you have Metastatic Lung cancer, parts of the lung cancer break off from in the lungs, we’re talking minute particles here and then they travel around the body and in my dad this had also spread to his brain. This secondary brain cancer was the symptoms we were seeing in the dementia like symptoms of forgetting things not being able to do do easy tasks that you’ve been previously able to do. The Metastatic Lung Cancer and also spread to his kidneys is liver had also spread to his bones, kidneys and liver.
Which ever way you look at it he was fucked.
We had the option of treatment but there was a massive caveat with this that it may only extend his life buy a couple of weeks and he would be in pain during the treatment and because of the severity there was only a slim chance of success.
I don’t know how my dad comprehended this as the information presented to me was like being hit really hard. I admit it made me cry my bloody eyes out. My dad is going to die, in days or weeks. Not months. The specialist did say “days, not weeks” which is like a double whammy.
On that day a non resuscitation order was signed so if my dad did die he wouldn’t be resuscitated. His request.
On the same day that we had dad’s diagnosis he was admitted to Springhill hospice in Rochdale. Firstly, so that the heath care professionals could assess him and also to get him on the correct medication for the coming weeks.
He didn’t want to be in there though and protested but I think the few days he was in there did him some good and enabled the health workers to get him steady on medication. He wouldn’t let them near him with morphine though!
The staff at the hospice do do an amazing job and they are really nice people but my dad was never truly comfy there and all the time that we went to see him he would just said that you wanted to go home. On the following Sunday my mum and I took the decision to bring him home and care for him in his own house.
The hospice put a care plan in place where carers would come round several times daily and help my mum with things like getting my dad up, getting him dressed, getting him washed. Ultimately though these ladies did a lot more than that the last week his life as he was incapable of doing pretty much anything himself.
The first week he came home and I was there every other day and we did have some long conversations but other times he wasn’t there and several times he would just fall asleep half way through a conversation.
The last week of his life though he changed drastically, unfortunately eating was proving difficult and even breathing in the end was very hard for my dad.
The day before he died, he was particularly struggling to breath, and he laboured all day, despite the drugs. This wasn’t helped by my dad’s constant want to get out of bed to “help my mum” but alas couldn’t even stand up on its own and had gone from 12 stone to just over 9 stone in the week preceding his death. From his diagnosis to his death was just over 2 1/2 Weeks.
He died the following morning and I wasn’t there, I had to come home the previous evening and was on my way back there when I got the call from my mum and the carer that he’d passed away.
I pulled off the M60 at the Trafford centre and sat and cried and cried and cried. I honestly have only cried like that a few times in my life and they have nearly all been at the death of a loved one.
I’m incredibly, incredibly sad that I’ve lost my dad but I am also very happy that I got to spend a final two and a half weeks with him and we did discuss quite a few things about life, the universe and everything. I’m also very happy to have know Neville and have the pleasure of calling his, Dad.
After the initial shock of being told that he had terminal cancer and when he came home my dad did have moments of lucidity and in those moments of lucidity he told me that he was ready, even though he was not a religious man, he did say he was ready to meet my Grandma (his mum), my auntie Mary and his dad
“I’ve had a good life, I’ve had a useful life, I’ve travelled the world and seen all the places that I wanted to see and I’ve had a love of a beautiful woman. I’m ready”
He told me this and every time I think about it it makes me cry not with sadness but with joy and pride that even on his deathbed my dad was eloquent enough to say those beautiful words.
I hope when is my turn I can be as philosophical as my amazing Dad.
So, rest I peace, Neville Heywood Porter, my mate, my friend, my occasional conscience, my teacher and most of all my beloved father.
I shall see you when I’m ready and I hope wherever you are you’re enjoying yourself, you’re not in pain, there’s plenty of fags and booze and you’re happy.
Love You Dad and I’ll see you again soon.
I know it’s taken me almost a month to write and publish this but each time I’ve read this, thought about this, wrote this I’ve needed up in fits of tears.