A dying father is urging parents to be more open with their kids about death after describing the moment he told his nine-year-old daughter he has just months to live.
Charlie Bishop, 32, was diagnosed with a cancerous tumour in his brain and spinal cord in 2012 and has now been told by medics that he might not even get to spend this Christmas with his beloved daughter Hollie.
“There is so much we won’t get to do together,” says Charlie quietly. “I’m never going to see Hollie graduate and I won’t be able to walk her down the aisle – something we both want so much.
“She is such a Daddy’s girl. She knows I love her more than anything in the world and I don’t want to leave her.
“But Hollie is a smart kid, and she knows I am going to die.”
Charlie was speaking at the Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court hospice, in Gloucestershire, one of seven run by the charity which recently carried out research into society’s last great taboo – talking about death, reports the Mirror.
Up to 70% of Brits have not discussed their death with relatives, 68% have not written a will and fewer than 10% have planned their funeral.
And the charity claims dodging “the D-word” can stop us “dying well.”
Dodging the D-word is no longer an option for Charlie, who was diagnosed in 2012 with a rare tumour in his brain and spinal cord.
‘A love letter to Hollie’
But he has seen the fear in others when he tries to talk about his cancer and says death denial makes it harder for the terminally ill to live out their days.
So he has shared his story in a bid to tackle the stigma and as “a love letter to Hollie”.
And his courage, candour and humour were inspirational. Charlie and his dad ran a removal business when he became ill. He says: “Doctors thought it was anxiety but I got sent for tests and an MRI scan showed a golf-ball sized tumour in my brain.
“I had surgery and they took the top bit out but as it was also in my spinal cord they couldn’t remove it all.”
He had chemotherapy and radiotherapy and somehow, in the midst of treatment, managed to raise £10,000 for charity by doing a mass skydive with pals. But then he was told the cancer was grade III.
He says: “I remember the surgeon saying the world ‘terminal’ but also ‘treatment’. My mind went, ‘Right, now you know what you’re dealing with. Just do whatever they tell you’.
“I was on the edge of a diving board with absolutely no choice but to jump off – and I couldn’t think about what would happen when I hit the water.
“I trusted the doctors, but I had absolutely no control. My dad was there asking lots of questions but I was thinking only of that first step.
“I didn’t ask, ‘Am I going to die?’ and the doctor didn’t use the word. It’s still a social taboo. Now I realise that just makes things harder.
“On TV a ‘terminal cancer patient’ is someone lying in bed on a drip with no hair. But I look normal, except I’m not ‘me’ anymore.
“When someone asks, ‘How are you?’ I think do they expect an answer? Because I have friends who just can’t handle talking about it. But it’s worse when people go into denial and say, ‘Oh, you’ll be fine!’
“I want to scream, ‘No, I won’t and I’ll prove it… by dying’. Maybe I should do a little ‘Told you so!’ video for afterwards.”
But how do we get better at talking about dying? Charlie says: “By listening to people who are. Let them steer the conversation without shutting them down because it’s awkward for you. It’s really polarising to know you are going to die.”
‘It breaks my heart’
Charlie is separated from Hollie’s mum but they remain close. He has a new partner, Lara Elliott, 26.
Charlie says: “A psychologist told us, ‘If you don’t tell kids the truth they’ll imagine much worse’ to which I replied, ‘Well, it would be pretty impressive if Hollie came up with something worse than this.’
“But me, her mum and Lara sat her down and said, ‘Daddy is very poorly, with cancer and we are going to have to look after Daddy. He won’t be like before and is going to slow down’.Then a few weeks later we said: ‘Look, Daddy isn’t going to come out of this’.
“Hollie cried a lot, of course, but she’s very resourceful. She’d worked it out already.
“There are wobbles but she has help here at the hospice and at school.”
Charlie’s eyes follow his daughter as she skips out of the art room into the lounge. She chats to other patients, strokes Chica the therapy dog, and practises her cartwheels. But every few minutes she returns to her Dad’s side for a reassuring kiss and a cuddle.
“I try to shield her but you just can’t,” he says. “It breaks my heart – but you have to let them know.
“It doesn’t seem fair”
“Hollie wants to look brave for me so if she’s upset she will talk to her mum or someone else.
“When I started to plan my funeral I began recording messages for Hollie, but it didn’t feel right. I want to instil everything I can while I’m still here and compos mentis – to tell Hollie, ‘Don’t lead a sheltered life get out and see the world. Learn a language, have champagne for breakfast, feel the sand under your feet’.
“What could be better than me saying, ‘I love you’ to her face every day? She is so amazing.”
Charlie knows his cancer is growing again.
“It’s just a day at a time now, best foot forward for the little one.
“I have opted to come and die in the inpatient unit here and have done my Advance Care Plan. It is such an amazing place, so tranquil, and I know they’ll take care of Hollie afterwards.
“And, when it comes to the end hopefully I’ll be six sheets to the wind. But I do get angry sometimes. A few holes have been knocked in walls. It doesn’t seem fair. I had a good business and was working hard for my little one.
“So, if God is up there, I’d just like him to sit me down and explain why. If I was going to turn out to be a dictator I’ll say, ‘OK, fair enough’ then I’ll shuffle off quite happily and play chess on a cloud for ever.”
Charlie looks over at Hollie’s painting of that cloudless blue sky with its golden flowers. “And now it’s really happening isn’t it?” he says.
“I’m at the bottom of the dive. I’ve got the Speedos on, the wind blowing through what is left of my hair.
“This is it. All I have to do now is stick the landing.”
Original post: Source link