Although Jane had been ill for some time, the suddenness of her decline in the last six weeks of her life came as a shock to us all. Jane was first taken ill with cancer of the liver at the beginning of July 2000. We were first told that Jane would not live to see the Christmas of that year, but after a successful operation in Leeds, Jane returned to Lisburn in the September and enjoyed steady recovery from then on. This is covered in more detail in the page on Healing
By the end of October 2000, Jane and I were able to enjoy a week’s holiday in the Canaries. In the following February we were able to join Jane’s parents in celebrating their golden wedding anniversary. In March 2001, Jane enjoyed a grand tour of England seeing friends in Ashford, Leicester and Yorkshire. In the April we had a lovely weekend in Guildford sharing in my mother’s birthday celebrations. However, Jane’s jaundice returned in May. She went into hospital to have a drain fitted that left the tube coming out of her midriff that was to remain until the day she died. At the time it was hoped that a series of monthly visits to hospital would relieve what was thought to be problems associated with scar tissue. It meant that we had to cancel our planned Norwegian cruise to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary in July. We did manage to get away for a few days in B & B accommodation in the South of Ireland. We enjoyed some wonderful scenery and were able to make the best of Jane’s declining health as she began to suffer from back pains and other unexplained problems.
By last October it became apparent that there was more to Jane’s problems than scar tissue. Yet all the scans and all the blood tests failed to detect any return of the cancer. By then, Jane had lost a considerable amount of weight and was down to under 8 stone. Jane spent most of November in the Royal Victoria Hospital, and by the end of the month she had the opposite problem of swelling and fluid retention. We were then referred back to the hospital in Leeds where Jane had had the successful operation the year before. They did something about the swelling and carried out yet another scan. This time they detected the return of the cancer to her liver. The surgeon was very distressed to have to tell us that the cancer was inoperable. He broke the news to us on 12th December. As Jane had to be discharged from the surgical ward, the surgeon asked us where we would like to go. Our first reaction was to be with the family. So he made arrangements to transfer us to Nottingham, which is where Naomi is studying and is halfway between Sheffield where Abigail is working and Leicester where Jane’s parents and family live. After a few days at the Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham Jane was transferred to the hospice at a Hayward House on 18th December.
Some months before, Jane and I had booked holiday accommodation near Matlock in the Peak District National Park for us to spend Christmas with the girls and with Jane’s parents. We decided to go ahead with the holiday and use the chalet at Matlock as a base for us to visit Jane at the hospice in Nottingham. It was only an hour’s drive for us to see Jane, and the chalet gave us the space and the peace we needed to make the most of Christmas. It even snowed – very picture postcard!
Much as we valued the care and attention that the hospice gave Jane, we were still living out of suitcases. It was not the same as being at home. So the hospice did all that could be done to make Jane fit enough to travel. On 27th December they organised ambulance transport both at Nottingham, and Belfast so that we could make the journey home from East Midlands Airport. On our return, the Lisburn health centre pulled out all the stops and arranged for daily visits from the district nurse. In the New Year they arranged for a carer to come out every weekday morning for three hours so that I could pop out and do the shopping and even call into work on a couple of occasions (Solectron gave me special leave during January to nurse Jane).
We are indebted to Dr Palmer, from the health centre, who organised Jane’s medication so that she was virtually free from pain throughout her last weeks of life. However the effect of the painkillers was to reduce Jane’s stamina and concentration. Her illness left her unable to think or communicate clearly, which she found very frustrating. We soon gave up planning ahead and learned to take each opportunity as it came to us. The girls came home on the 12th January for what we all assumed would be their last weekend with Jane. Naomi had a particularly tough time in that she had to go back on the Sunday evening to begin two weeks of exams that are part of her final year degree examinations. On the Monday evening, Jane made her last outing, a short visit to see two of her Goddaughters. From that point on Jane’s decline was rapid. From the Wednesday I had the benefit of the services of a Marie Curie nurse for eight hours of night care. In the early hours of the Saturday 19th January 2002, Jane died peacefully in her sleep.