Heath’s Story

Our youngest daughter was born, life was good, our family was complete, and we were happy. A couple of months afterwards, my husband Heath got sick with abdominal pain and vomiting. It would go and then come back. There was little rhyme or reason, but after a couple of months, and wondering if it was a flare-up of his Crohn’s disease (something diagnosed years earlier that had caused little to no issues since), he went to have blood tests and a colonoscopy. All were fine. The intermittent gut pain and vomiting persisted. It had been about seven months now, and a specialist confirmed it was severe Crohn’s, and an operation to remove the section of the narrowed bowel went ahead.
But Heath didn’t bounce back after surgery as expected. He still had pain, and he knew something wasn’t quite right. The specialist called us in for the post-op consult. That meeting, that room, that conversation is forever etched in my memory. ‘Pathology showed secondary cancer. It wasn’t visible during surgery, but it is definitely there. It has spread from somewhere else in your body. We don’t know where yet
I’ll never forget Heath’s reply…’ But you can fix it, right?’ All the colour drained from the room and from our world, and from that day forward, everything changed.
After exploratory surgery confirming small bowel cancer, Heath was given a terminal diagnosis. This wasn’t meant to be our story. We had plans and dreams. The diagnosis ripped out those chapters from our book and left us not knowing how many pages there would be left for us.
We owe Crohn’s disease because without the surgery, there wouldn’t have been the pathology which picked up the cancer at an imperceptible size. It meant we had time to process what was going to happen. We were absolutely blessed to have another three years together. During that time, our daughters got to spend precious time with their Dad, and we had the fortune to talk about everything we needed for the future that would eventually be without him. At the age of 38, with our girls aged 3 and 6, Heath passed away at home.
It has been ten years since Heath died, yet the ache of his absence will always be there. I have learnt that it is a privilege, not a right, to grow old. And above all, to love hard right now with all you’ve got because the future is not promised.