Thank you all so much

Kate, Morgan and I have been so incredibly moved by all the wonderful messages. Like Elaine, I am not often lost for words but I find it hard to describe the emotions the responses to the “Farewell” posting have aroused. Thank you all so very much.

Morgan has written from Cambridge asking me to add to this page the following message:

“Thank you all so much for your contributions. I’ve been sat here this afternoon reading them, with tears streaming down my face. To me she was my mum, but to see what a profoundly positive impact she had on other people’s lives is incredible and I am very grateful to you all for sharing your thoughts and feelings about Elaine. You have no idea what a comfort it is to read them. This is an extremely tough time for me, so you’ll understand if I keep my thoughts brief. I was just so overwhelmed by your tributes that I felt compelled to write a few words of thanks. I will try and write in more detail about her and what she meant to me at some point soon. Thank you all so much.”

For those who can make it, the funeral service and celebration of Elaine’s life will be at Wainsgate Chapel, Old Town, Hebden Bridge on Friday, 12th October at 1pm followed by burial in the church graveyard and wake at Old Town Community Centre. All welcome. Family flowers only please. Donations to Winston’s Wish (for bereaved children) care of Valley Funeral Services, Hebden Bridge.

Elaine cycling in 1987We have criticised the Health Service at times over the past three years, but that usually didn’t apply to the individual health workers who have been fantastic. For the past few weeks, we have had the most superb and extensive support. The district nurses, Macmillan nurse and GP have all been totally brilliant, often going way beyond what they had to do. Nurses would even phone up when they were off duty to ask after Elaine because they were so fond of her. Elaine always let them know her appreciation, and I would like record my very profound thanks too.

We have started a memorial page on the Hebden Bridge Web which Elaine co-founded.

Farewell

With great sadness I have to tell you all that Elaine died at home this morning at 2.20am.

Her daughter Kate and I were with her, and she died very peacefully from liver failure.

She was in no pain but had stopped being able to communicate with us on Saturday.

As her friends learn of her death, we are receiving cards and emails. This is from one and is typical: “her writings, her ability, her infectious humour and her kindness – she leaves a legacy of wonderful memories.”

I will post funeral details as soon as we have them arranged. And we are thinking about a memorial page for friends to post comments

Thanks to everyone for all their support. I knew it was coming but I am missing her with such a passion.

We were together for 26 years and the closest of kindred spirits.

“Keep buggering on”

Elaine’s ability to move around has greatly deteriorated over the past couple of weeks or so. Last night, she only made it up the stairs with an extreme effort, and with me doing everything I could to help from behind. But at the top, she finally lost her remaining strength, and just lay down in the corridor. I couldn’t get her up, and we decided it was a job for the paramedics so we called an ambulance. They were terrific, and soon got Elaine to the bathroom and then back to bed.

Yesterday morning, we had been visited by A, the occupational therapist who is sorting out a hospital bed and all sorts of aids for Elaine. But it is very doubtful whether there is going to be any solution to the stairs problem.

Elaine decided a couple of days ago that sadly there was no way she would be able to make the journey to Cambridge. So Kate will come over and stay while I take Morgan down to Cambridge.

I’ve just read this to Elaine and she replied, Churchill had a saying for this: “Keep buggering on”.

Changing rooms

The arrival soon of a hospital bed for me has necessitated that I have a bigger room. Chris had suggested he give up his large office room before but I hate re-arrangement of furniture etc so much I’d said no to it. What an idiot I was !

They spent 9 hours on the job yesterday whilst I stayed at Kate and Jonathan’s flat (thanks again, guys)

The transformation is quite incredible. It has made me feel so loved both the work they’ve done and the uncomplaining way in which they‘ve done it.

No more chemo

At Cookridge today, Dr F took a deep breath before saying what deep down we already knew. Elaine is too weak to be offered any more chemotherapy. They will still treat her, but only symptoms.

Elaine is finding it very difficult to walk or climb stairs, and gets breathless from activity. She is now very thin, having lost 3-4 stone in the past three years. The Macmillan nurse has successfully treated Elaine’s nausea. But the breathlessness is being aggravated by an enlarged liver pushing on the lungs.

Although we both feel pretty miserable this evening, Elaine’s first thought was “Thank goodness I didn’t buy the wig” (The next round of chemo would have led to hair loss).

Elaine is still really hoping she might find the strength to travel down to Cambridge in two weeks time.

More student appreciation

Elaine continues to be buoyed up by messages from former students and their families as they learn of Elaine’s illness.

Today she received the following:

“We were so sorry to hear about your health problems and that you were leaving ***** School. Z was particularly upset as he has the utmost respect for you as a teacher and really appreciates how much you have done to make English an enjoyable subject for him. His father and I never thought it possible that Z would ever actually enjoy creative writing as he has always been so resisitant to trying it and he now freely admits that he finds it very satisfying. He also now voluntarily contributes to the ***** School Times which we find amazing. We feel that this is all down to you as his teacher, you have brought this out of him and inspired him. We want to thank you so much for all that you have done and let you know how much you will be missed at ***** school.”

Tomorrow, we go to Cookridge for an assessment of how Elaine is doing and whether she is strong enough for the next round of chemo.

Update

It’s a couple of week since the last post. Elaine has days where she is fine, sociable and relatively normal, but she also has many days where she is incommunicado. That is she just wants to sleep, and won’t talk with visitors or those who phone. But even when she is fine, she is currently suffering from breathlessness from any physical activity. There was a thought it could be anemia but a test last week showed that her bloods were fine. Now there is a question about whether there is some fluid on the lungs. We should know more when the 23 August scan result is available. We’re waiting to hear from Cookridge about when the next round of chemo is going to start. I suggested chasing them up, but Elaine indicated she was in no hurry!

This morning she sent me something written by a former student, now in her thirties, which continues the theme of the previous post. Here’s one paragraph from the message:

“I owe a lot to you, Elaine. If you had never taught me for that year at ***** College, asked me to consider myself as having a talent and ability and, through your teaching, opened another world up for me, I probably would never have become so academically-minded, never done my MAs, and never even thought that I could possibly write. In short, I would not be the person I am today. You set me on my path, and I am so very grateful for that.”

From one of Elaine’s students

Very reluctantly, Elaine has had to give up her online teaching, and tell her colleagues and students.

I’ve been very moved by this message from an 11 year old Japanese student, whose brightness I’ve heard about regularly from Elaine.

* * * * * * * * *

“Dear Elaine,

Hello.
I just heard about your cancer, and I was terribly surprised.

My mother feels the same way, and she has sent you the kindest regards.

I was looking forward to meeting you next Term, so I was disappointed.

But I would like to tell you this.

I want to thank you for teaching me, and tell you that there will be no teacher as good as you.

I hope and pray that you will be able to live as long as you can.

We will never forget you, and if (our school) one day becomes bigger, your name will always be remembered.

I think I have taken a great liberty in writing this letter, but I sincerely hope you will forgive me.

Yours sincerely,
Y . . . . .

P.S. My Dad.. father says he is sorry as well. And I have another word..

‘If you are sad, and want to give up, put your fingers to your lips and pull.
Look at the mirror, and smile to yourself. Remember, a smile on your lips, then there is peace at heart.’

Whoever said this, it’s very good… I myself have been encouraged with it.

May God Bless You.”

* * * * * * * * *

Apart from everything else, it’s so unfair that Elaine has to give up when she has so very much more to give.
C

Results day

After all the negative results I have had in the past few days it was great to have an uplifting one!

Yesterday, 16th of August, Morgan got his A level results from Greenhead College – six grade As! Yes 6 As in Philosophy, English Language & Literature, Medieval History, Politics, Sociology and General Studies. He took so many because General Studies is compulsory and he was so interested in all the subjects he was doing that he didn’t want to give up any of them. They give students their marks these days, and each subject was 94% or more.

He has always been an academic and intelligent person but the last couple of years at Greenhead have developed him so much and it has been exciting to see him discovering the joys of the intellectual life as we ourselves did so many years ago now. Morgan was interviewed by the Halifax Evening Courier and made today’s front page! You can read the online article here.

His entry into Greenhead coincided with the diagnosis of my illness which he has coped with so well. Here’s hoping to see him graduate.

I was rather annoyed with myself yesterday when about 5 yards away from the main door of the college I fell again. I have no idea why. I scraped my nose, burst my lip, have a bump on my head and felt as if my teeth had been knocked out. Fortunately they hadn’t been. My glasses will have to be replaced because of bad scratching on my plastic lenses. The dentist examined me today and said it looks like I have been “very fortunate” as he can’t see anything that needs immediate attention. Return in a fortnight for an X ray to see if they have fully tightened on their own. My elbows are also strained. Phoned for one of my Park Attwood Clinic appointments (See earlier post) where Dr. A who I spoke with said that she felt I should ask for a neurological examination as well. I know what she’s thinking and the idea of brain cancer too feels just too terrifying.

The Fall

Elaine wrote this yesterday evening.

Last night (I don’t quite know how) I slipped and fell down about 7 steps of our very steep staircase. It was very frightening as I saw the wall approaching & thought that I was going to go straight to the bottom but luckily I managed to use the stair’s hand rail to save myself. Very shaken up and with Chris’s help I made it to the sofa where I was aware that I had some pain at the back of my left knee but felt OK once the shock had worn off.

It was when I began to get up to go to bed that my real problems started. I was in such awful pain reaching my feet that Chris claims I made far more noise than during Morgan’s birth. Getting up the stairs was agony & I didn’t even clean my teeth because of the small amount of extra movement it would require to reach the sink in the bathroom. I needed to go to the loo in the night. It took me almost 5 minutes to get there even though it’s right next door to my bedroom.

This morning I called out our GP who said I must have an X ray because chemotherapy weakens bones considerably & he feared something might be broken. As he left I felt as if I couldn’t face much more. A broken knee in addition to everything else? I felt at such a low ebb.

The ambulance crew were a cheery couple who when they had skillfully manoeuvred me in a chair down the stairs were very chatty. O telling me all about his recent trip to Saudi and L about her recent grandchild. O and I had recently watched the same programmes on India and Pakistan as part of the 60th anniversary Partition commemorations. He had actually seen the closing of the border gates between India and Pakistan which formed the funniest part to us of the programme led by Sanjeev Baskar & told me that amongst the huge crowds which go to watch this ceremony every day you can always tell British born Indians and Pakistanis because they are the ones laughing hysterically at the Ministry of Silly walks goosestepping which the soldiers use.

I was seen very quickly, X rayed and told I didn’t have a break but a sprain in my knee. I don’t even need crutches just an elasticated bandage and painkillers both of which have brought tremendous relief. I have had my criticisms of Calderdale Hospital but have always found A&E there to be an excellent and very well run department.