Supporting the

Neuroendocrine Cancer Community

NCUK have invited me and my lovely Dad to share our story of his battle with this awful disease over the last 2 years, as part of their campaign: Faces of NCUK. So here we go I guess…

March 19th 2018 – my Dad sat my two big sisters and I down and gave us the devastating news of his diagnosis. He had incurable pancreatic Neuroendocrine cancer which had also spread to his liver. He told us life was going to be a little different now, that we were to stick together like the strong little team my parents had raised us to be and to try and search for the positives in every scary day. I genuinely thought that right there, life was coming crashing down, but somehow, my Dad still had the strength to hold it up. Heartbreakingly, this illness isn’t going to go away – but importantly, my Dad is living with it, not dying with it.

There’s been too many scary days to count, but two of the most painful were having to walk out the hospital with my Mum and two sisters, leaving my Dad alone in the hospital the evenings before two life-extending operations, we couldn’t be absolutely certain that we would get to see him again, based on how life-threatening these operations were. The operations (between them) saw him have around 70% of his liver removed, his spleen removed, gall bladder removed, pancreas reduced, as well as the removal of various tumours. The operations themselves were of course, traumatic. I cried seeing my Dad cry in pain, but I also smiled – so proud – on his first days out of intensive care, first walks up the hospital corridor and of course, being able to walk back out of the hospital with him – these were the kind of positives that my Dad encouraged us to look for in every day. The small steps to others, which to us – were indescribable.

The last couple of years have been really frightening and I’ve been learning to cope with the high levels of anxiety, but through every scary day, every scary scan and every scary meeting – my Dad and I sing together. At the top of our lungs every night after dinner, I grab my guitar and we jam to our favourite songs – e.g. “My Girl” by The Temptations – and quite simply, it’s my happy place. For a while we can just escape. Music has been such an important coping mechanism for me through all of this, being able to sing out my thoughts, worries and fears on the days when I don’t want to physically talk about them. Even listening to and playing covers of my favourite songs helps – aside from my song writing. I’ve always been a huge country music fan and there’s something really special about the way tracks have the ability to positively impact my mood, especially on the days when I didn’t even know I needed lifting.

I’m absolutely certain we will find a cure one day. I cannot thank NCUK enough for the support they have offered my family through the most difficult days, I have taken great enjoyment from participating in fundraising events and bringing family and friends together to raise funds for such a special charity. In September 2018, my two older sisters and I ran the 5K Mud Run, raising over £1000, and in November 2019 I held a tea party with loved ones, raising over £300. I am so proud to be able to give back in whatever way I can to a charity which I hold so closely in my heart.

To me, my Dad simply is my hero. To me, he is the strongest man to set foot on earth. He possesses a type of bravery and resilience that I did not know existed, he is positive, fierce and most of all, he has a heart that is made entirely of gold. He listens, he never judges and he stands up for what is right. I wish there were more people like my Dad in this world, so I count myself unbelievably lucky that I get to live life right by his side.  He is my source of strength, my widest smile and my loudest laugh. I can only dream of becoming half the wonderful soul that he is, I thank my lucky stars that I get to call him my Dad.

I’ve been trying really hard to remind myself that it’s okay not to feel brave every single day and it’s okay to cry – because this is terrifying. But it’s also so important to remember to enjoy the finer things in life, to laugh often and show kindness, because we never know the scary battles that others are facing. I’ve been so lucky to be surrounded by the most supportive network, my friends have never allowed me to feel alone and always know exactly how to pick me up on the days when things feel a little more painful. And as for my two big sisters…I can only wish that everyone got so lucky to have sisters like mine.

This is the short version of the Shaw’s story. There’s a lot I could go on to say, but we have more milestones to be watching my incredible Dad achieving instead. “I didn’t believe in superheroes, but your hospital gown looked more like a cape.”