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‘Never ever give up living’

Kelly’s Dad Alasdair was a healthy retiree, enjoying life and his passion for vintage and classic cars when life took a turn in 2017 and he was diagnosed with cancer of the gall bladder. We are very grateful to Kelly for sharing his story to help raise awareness. Here is the story:

“My Dad, Alasdair, enjoyed spending his free time working on a decent collection of very fine vintage and classic cars, classic racing and attending vintage car club events. He had become a Grandad for the first time in 2015 and was looking forward to the exciting years ahead of him. He had never experienced poor health before, he rarely even got a cold.

Dad had a new project to celebrate and spend time on. A 1960 Chevrolet Impala which he was looking forward to attending the Beach Hop with. It was while working on this car in November 2017 that Dad thought he had pulled an abdominal muscle, but the pain got worse so a trip to the doctor was in order. After an MRI scan was done, it was determined that Dad’s gall bladder was full of stones and must be removed. Surgery was done and unfortunately just as they were removing it, it burst, filling Dad’s abdomen with gall stones and infected tissue. This set about a lengthy recovery, a reaction to penicillin made his skin peel and made him generally uncomfortable. Still he proceeded on with determination. Meeting with his surgeon about what was found, there was a good confidence that this was not cancer. GI cancers are a strong cause of death in my family, so we did ask the question… we were told it was all ok.

Fast forward to May and Dad was doing well, his skin was starting to return to normal and his scar was healing, but then he turned yellow. A trip to the hospital and another MRI scan showed his bile duct was blocked, the surgeon felt this would likely be scar tissue. The surgery involved was lengthy and complicated. However, it was successful, and Dad was “re-plumbed” using part of his small intestine to make a new bile duct. His bile duct was sent for further testing and the surgeon still remained confident that this was not cancer.

On a follow up appointment in July, Dad was given the unexpected news… this was cancer. It was an aggressive type and in Dad’s words to me, it would take a fair amount of luck to beat it. He started a course of chemotherapy and was thrilled that the chemo he was undergoing, wouldn’t make him lose his hair, a blessing to a bald man! This was given until November, when it was confirmed that further treatment was futile, and he was given 3 months to live. Dad then turned to alternative therapies.

A 3 week race series was booked for early February followed by my wedding 2 weeks after. It was 2 weeks before this series I noticed Dad was going a bit slower than usual, 1 week before the race series was about to start, his tummy blew up like a balloon… still he carried on. He drove at the first race meeting. I went to watch on the Sunday but was horrified. Dad was sick, sleeping between races and vomiting. On the Monday, Dad went to hospital, where they attempted to drain his abdomen which was full of fluid, but it filled up again. Blood tests showed nothing to worry about but he was kept in and monitored. I spoke with doctors on Friday night and they were confident he was ok, I went home at 3am and was surprised to get a phone call from my mum at 10am to meet her at the hospital to discuss Dad’s end of life care. Dad passed away in the early hours of Sunday at the hospital with his family around him.

When Dad was first given his terminal diagnosis, it was a whirlwind of absolute terror. I had seen other family members die from cancer and they were in so much pain. The thought of my dear old Dad enduring the same pain broke my heart. We were very lucky that he never really experienced any pain at all.

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