Caring for someone with a terminal illness

John & Joyce ' Interview 10

Age at interview: 78

Brief outline: John's wife Joyce was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2001 and died 7 months later. John describes how during this time they spent a lot of time together seeing family and friends.

Background: John is a widower and has 4 grown up children. He is a retired marketing manager. His ethnic background is white British.

Audio & video

John’s wife Joyce was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2001 after being hospitalised with ongoing stomach pain and jaundice. At the time, John believed that Joyce would recover because initially they planned to remove the tumour and he describes how his Christianity gave him faith. When they were told that they could not operate and it was estimated that Joyce had only six more months to live, they were shocked and John describes this news as a ‘hammer blow’. Joyce then started chemotherapy, but could not tolerate it and so stopped after three months. Eventually Joyce became very unwell and died peacefully in hospital.

During the last six months John describes how they spent a lot of time together with family and friends. John still has his diary from this period and he remembers it as a ‘nice time’. John explains how they continued their interests and activities as normal, and he believes this helped them to take their minds off the illness and future. John discusses how the main source of support came from family and members of their church. Joyce remained fairly independent and so could look after herself until very near the end of her life.

Joyce and John had recently returned from a holiday with family when Joyce became very unwell and was admitted into hospital. At this point they understood that she was nearing the end of her life and had planned that when the time came they would bring Joyce home and nurse her there. However there was not enough time to do this and John was only warned the day before she died to prepare for her death. John and his children stayed with Joyce throughout the night and were with her when she died the next morning. He explains how it was very peaceful.

After Joyce’s death John discusses how he was very emotional and how sometimes this emotion would take him by surprise. John’s family and friends were very supportive throughout this time and he describes his son as a ‘tower of strength’. During the last four years John has also become involved in cancer services at the local hospital; providing patients’ perspectives by drawing on his and his wife’s experiences. John discusses how Joyce had had symptoms two years previous to her diagnosis but it was not recognised as pancreatic cancer at that time. John strongly believes that there should be more research into recognising the symptoms of pancreatic cancer by interviewing carers and patients about their experiences to enable earlier diagnosis.


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