In memory of Andrew, written by his wife, Faye.
I had known Andrew throughout my teenage years, he was very popular, especially with the girls. I knew him from afar, I was shy and quiet and hadn’t ever spoken to him much. When I was 22 and Andrew 25, we ended up in each other’s company and hit it off, the rest was history, so they say.
Andrew was kind, caring and loving and was a very hardworking man with big dreams and goals. We very quickly fell in love and shared the same dreams and goals – one of them was to have a family and get married. Fast forward 4 years and we had our first child, a son, our gorgeous Ayden.
We were both the happiest we had ever been. Andrew was besotted with Ayden, he had his best friend for life. They shared the same interests and hobbies, including their passion for Manchester United football and their love for sports and the outdoors. Andrew would play games and Lego and take Ayden all over the place on the weekends when I worked. In 2011, Andrew and I got married. We had the most amazing wedding with our family and friends by our side, it truly was the best day ever. Not long after this we moved into our new home and then in 2012 along came our princess, Amy. Amy was the biggest bundle of joy with her short red curly hair and huge cheeky smile, we used to joke that she was going to be a handful. Andrew loved nothing more in the world than his children. He was the best daddy. He worked hard and made sure that we always had everything we needed as well as always making sure we had the best experiences and memories. Life was good. Of course, there were ups and downs and we had experienced some family losses, but we always remained strong and in love and Andrew always made me and the children his priority, we were his life.
Andrew had quite a lot of hobbies. His biggest one being Manchester United football. He liked to keep fit and work out, he loved to ride his bike, walk, and generally keep fit and active. He also enjoyed golf, fishing and had a motorbike. Andrew had lots of friends, many from being a child, he didn’t see them lots as he wanted to spend his time with his family, but he was a good friend and would do anything for anyone. Andrew came from a small family with one brother, his best friend. When he was introduced to my family, which is very large, it was overwhelming to begin with. He soon became ‘one of us’ and always joined in and enjoyed the family traditions we had. We were very lucky to have so much love and support around us.
In 2019 we decided that we wanted to make another one of our dreams come true and take the children to Florida. Andrew had been lucky enough to go as a child and we had gone together when I was first pregnant with Ayden. We planned our trip and decided that we were going to go out and do everything while we were there. We surprised the children on Christmas Day and went two days later spending new year at Disney. It was the most magical time with memories me and the children will have forever. When we returned a month later the world was going into uproar about Covid and not long after we hit lock down.
Andrew and I didn’t work for some part of lockdown. We made the most of this time with the children and had so much fun and special times together just the four of us. During this time Andrew took on the challenge of decorating our house from top to bottom! He single handedly decorated every room, built furniture and made our home look beautiful. His biggest challenge was left till last, the kitchen! Andrew wanted to tile the floors, something he hadn’t done before but as he always did, he could basically do anything he put his mind to. He worked so hard and during this time he started having pain in his back.
It made sense, he had gone back to work at this point since lock down was eased. He was working and then coming home and decorating every night, and on the weekends, it was taking its toll on his back. He continued to finish the work and was managing his pain with over-the-counter pain killers. But the pain was getting worse. He had tried umpteen times to get into the doctors, he was prescribed stronger pain relief and told it was a slipped disk and to rest. The pain continued. Andrew went to a private chiropractor for treatment, again to be told it was a slipped disk. He was continuously advised to continue with the pain relief which now wasn’t working or helping and to rest. At one point we even had emergency services called out but were again told the same thing. Andrew was now losing weight and was in crippling agony. We decided to go to A and E. Andrew went alone as there were still restrictions due to Covid. He was assessed and again told that it was a slipped disk. Andrew refused to leave and wanted more answers. He / we couldn’t cope anymore, he was in absolute agony and so unwell. He was such a strong man, but this was breaking him physically and mentally. The doctors agreed to take Andrew’s bloods and found something. They took him for a CT scan. The doctors came to Andrew and asked him if he wanted anybody there with him. He just thought they were going to tell him he needed an operation due to damage from the slipped disk. At that moment our world was shattered. The doctors told Andrew that they had found a huge mass at the bottom of his spine and other areas throughout his spine with secondary cancer. I will never forget that phone call. Andrew was crying inconsolably repeatedly saying I’ve got cancer, Faye it’s cancer. I had to get to him quickly without worrying the children, so I dropped them at my mums and briefly told her and rushed to the hospital. The doctors came to speak to us both, but I was numb and just remember saying what do you mean? He can’t have cancer, he’s 41! He’s fit and healthy and looks after himself, he can’t! We spent 3 weeks at the local hospital having continuous scans, biopsies and tests trying to find the primary cancer and the type of cancer Andrew had. It had already gone to his liver and other areas in his bones, yet they still never found the primary.
Later, we were called in to a meeting where they told us Andrew had neuroendocrine cancer. It had already spread quite a lot and Andrew had stage 4. There were treatments available, but it was terminal, and the type of cancer was fast and aggressive. I will never forget; Andrew asked them if this was going to be his last Christmas and they said that it was more than likely.
That Christmas is a blur. Andrew was still in so much pain he could barely walk or move, he had lost so much weight and looked very frail and poorly. We tried our best to make it special for the children and spent it with our family and loved ones, but it was heartbreaking. Andrew started chemotherapy just after Christmas and radiotherapy for the pain. We continued life on a very strict routine of chemo, medication and appointments while trying to spend time together with the children and continue to make memories. After 5 months of hell Andrew seemed to be getting better. Treatment was working well, some of the cancer had shrunk and Andrew was getting back to himself.
The doctors wanted him to have a break from chemo as he had had so much of it, and they said they couldn’t continue giving it him at that point because he was going to need it again in the near future. He had put weight on and was able to walk, he even went back on his motorbike and started fishing again. We went on a lovely holiday, just the four of us and spent some really special times with family and friends. Lurking in our heads though was this wasn’t to last. At the end of July the pain started to get worse again and after going back and forth to Christie’s and the hospice in the car, Andrew’s pain and mobility was getting worse by the day. He spent a lot of time in hospital and the hospice, with different infections and complications and unbearable pain. Chemo had started again but his body wasn’t reacting as well to it. Andrew was so weak and frail he was barely able to walk, move or stand so he was wheelchair dependent, and I cared for him 24/7. He was heartbroken, he knew that this was the beginning of the end. He tried to be positive, and he did everything they told him to with medication etc, but he was so heartbroken, and we couldn’t accept what was happening and what was to come. Andrew was unable to have more chemo at this point because his blood levels and liver function were all over the place. We decided to go away and have a few days with the children and our parents, celebrating an early Christmas together. It was lovely but Andrew was so ill, it was so difficult trying to make memories and enjoy this time, but we did it in our own way, matching PJs, and silly games.
When we came back, we went to Christie’s to see our consultant. Andrew was so poorly at this point he was unrecognisable. The doctors told us that there was nothing else they could do and that we should go home and be with the children. They didn’t expect Andrew to be with us much longer than 2 weeks and it was unlikely he would make it to Christmas. Andrew begged them to try more but he was too poorly and weak.
Andrew promised me that he wasn’t going to miss Christmas. Family and friends visited when Andrew was feeling up to it and Andrew spent his days mainly in bed with the children on either side of him cuddling, watching our favourite films, drawing pictures, and telling them how much he loved them. We had a hospital bed in our living room so we could spend all our time together. I slept on a chair next to Andrew. Christmas Eve came, and we did the usual Christmas Eve traditions. We all got cosy in the living room and watched a Christmas film. Andrew looked out of the windows, and it had started to snow, thick white snowflakes. The children ran outside in their pyjamas and played in the snow while we watched them. For a moment they looked like they had no worries in the world, they were laughing and smiling and having fun, seemingly unaware that any day their daddy was going to die. We had been open and honest with them from the start, so they knew what was to come, they had been amazing. They helped look after their dad and care for him. We were always so proud of them both but this past year they had been the most resilient, unbelievable humans to walk this earth.
Christmas morning came and Andrew was still with us, but he was different that day. He was more alert, looked like he had more colour and was more engaged. We opened presents around the tree and had breakfast together. The children went out for dinner with my family while Andrew’s family came to visit. I went to pick up a Christmas dinner for myself and Andrew from the restaurant and me and my Drew had our dinner together. He ate every bit of it! He was barely eating at this point, but he ate the lot and even ate my dessert as well as his own. This was the first Christmas we had ever had just me and him as we had always been with family and then the children. We watched TV, laughed, and cried and spoke for hours. Andrew said to me “I told you I would be here babe; I wouldn’t have missed today”. The children were at my mum and dads as we do every year and they played games and sang karaoke. We made it clear to everyone that they must have some normality, and everyone had to try and keep Christmas a happy memory for them, they were only 9 and 13.
Christmas is supposed to be the most magical time of the year for them, so everyone tried so hard to do this even though they were all heartbroken.
On Boxing Day Andrew was different again. He was drifting in and out of sleep constantly, he would usually spend some time in his chair but didn’t have the strength so instead he spent most of the day in bed. I knew this was it, I could just tell. He had put all his energy into Christmas Day, and he was exhausted. As the day went on, his mum, dad, brother and sister-in-law had visited, and I knew this was time. I called the nurses out and they agreed that this was time. I called my mum who had taken the children out for the day and told her to ask them if they wanted to come home. She brought them back and Amy came and lay with her daddy and told him how much she loved him. She wanted to stay with her grandma that night. Telling her that this would probably be the last time she saw her daddy is something you can never imagine. Ayden wanted to stay home with us. My mum and Amy said their goodbyes and they left. Ayden lay with his dad all night. It got late so I asked Ayden to go to bed but he wouldn’t, so he lay on the sofa next to his dad. I was in a chair next to Andrew. It was just the three of us. The end-of-life nurses were on hand, phoning me but Andrew refused medication to help. He was still awake and conscious and able to say the odd few special words to me. At 4:05 am 27/12/21 Andrew took his last breath in my arms, we had our favourite music on, and he had just told me he loves me forever.
It still doesn’t feel real, and we have the biggest hole in our hearts and lives.
I have spent so much time wishing we had gone to the hospital sooner, pushed for more tests earlier then maybe things would have been different, who knows. The children are doing amazingly, they are more and more like Andrew every day, especially Ayden. We are doing our best and trying to figure out how we do life without Andrew. We talk about him all the time; the house is full of his love and hard work and there are photos of our favourite memories everywhere. I continue to have counselling; I have suffered major trauma and struggle with anxiety and panic attacks, but my goal and purpose is our children. I will always continue to give them the best life possible. Everything is different now, but we continue to chase our dreams, make happy memories, and cherish every moment we have together with our loved ones because life is not promised, as we know.