Beating bowel cancer together

Jodi Davies, Pontypridd

My husband Daf died from Bowel Cancer aged 38, just eight weeks after diagnosis.

Daf and I had been together for 20 years, we have two beautiful children together and a lovely happy little life. Daf also had a daughter from a previous relationship and had recently become a grandfather.

He had always been such a fit man, a 6ft2 rugby player, huge in stature but a gentle giant by nature. Just after Christmas, in January 2021, he started suffering with indigestion. We initially put it down to lots of good food over the Christmas period but when over the counter medication didn’t work, he made an appointment with the GP. The doctor diagnosed chronic indigestion and prescribed medication. The following morning Daf woke in incredible pain, nothing shifted it and he agreed to speak to the out of hours doctor. They saw him and initially thought it was gallstones, they admitted him and arranged a scan to confirm. The scan the following day picked up on spots on his liver and his bloods showed infection. A more detailed scan was scheduled for the following day. As this was during covid I was not allowed in the hospital, but we had regular contact over the phone. That afternoon I received a phone call from the hospital asking me to make my way down as the doctors needed to speak to me. I instantly knew that it was bad news however I could never have imagined how devastating the results were. The scan revealed bowel cancer which had spread covering 70% of his liver. The doctors and nurses were all visibly upset and told us that they weren’t used to seeing someone this young with such an aggressive cancer. The bottom of our world was completely ripped out that day.

Daf insisted on being discharged that night, he just wanted to be home with us to try and process this horrific news. Overnight our roles shifted; he was always my safe place, my protector, I now had to step up and make him feel safe and protected from what he was about to face. I also had to hold our children together, even though my heart was completely shattered, but there is a strength in all of us when we need it.

A week after his diagnosis we met with the consultant – the news was bleak. The cancer was so advanced there was no hope of surgery, palliative chemo may give Daf longer, but they thought he may only live a year. He was terminal: 38 years old, fit and healthy with terminal cancer. How do you process that? All our hopes and plans for the future were snatched away, our children would be living the rest of their lives without their beloved Dad, it was beyond cruel. Daf, as always, remained his positive, strong self, determined to prove the doctors wrong. I was, as always, in awe of him.

Devastatingly, Daf’s health deteriorated rapidly over the coming weeks. Scans revealed the cancer was doubling in size every week, chemo was not an option and the only care he could have now was palliative. He was admitted to a hospice for pain medication and, while we were there, they told us he only had a few weeks left to live.  He was very weak at this point but still managed to reach over and comfort me while the doctors explained what to expect. He was my hero always. We had already discussed his final weeks and he wanted to be at home with me and the children. He remained in the hospice overnight while I got everything in place to make sure he would be comfortable at home. Our living room was stripped out and a hospital chair and bed put in.

I had to explain to our children (who are 18 and 12) that the doctors couldn’t fix Daddy and he wasn’t going to survive. Watching their little faces as they realised what I was saying will forever haunt me. Its beyond cruel but they are amazing children who have their father’s strength. The following morning, I went to collect Daf and bring him home for the last time. The car journey home was very emotional, I knew he was taking everything around him in: the trees, the birds, fresh air, knowing this was the last time he would be outside. How you deal with that I will never know but I will forever be proud of his strength.

I was determined there wasn’t going to be a morbid atmosphere at home. I wanted him to be peaceful and surrounded by love. My biggest worry was that I wouldn’t be able to manage his pain at home but thanks to the amazing district nurses he remained comfortable until the end. I was by his side with my brother – his best friend – when Daf passed away peacefully two weeks after coming home from the hospice, exactly eight weeks after his diagnosis. The cancer absolutely ravaged his body but never his spirit, he really was the most amazing man in every way, I was so lucky to call him mine. I will forever be grateful for every second we spent together and the love we shared, the beautiful family we created, he lives on in all of that always.

It’s now been 18 months since we lost Daf and we have all changed forever, you can never be the same people you were before something like this happens. It’s been an extremely tough road but I’m so proud of us all. We live honouring Daf, whose life was cruelly snatched from him; we are determined to live our lives to the fullest as he made us promise him. Life is so precious and you always think there will be a tomorrow but that’s not guaranteed. During the worst time of our lives, we have seen the best in people, the love and compassion shown to Daf and us as a family has pulled us out of the darkest times.

The hope in sharing Daf’s story is that it will bring awareness that bowel cancer can happen to anyone: it doesn’t discriminate on age. Know your body and what’s normal for you and if something doesn’t sit right get checked out.

If something doesn’t feel right, talk to your doctor. You can also check out our symptoms page to learn the most common symptoms of bowel cancer.

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