In 2016, Gary and Jane Fry sadly lost their son Liam to a brain tumour. Liam was just 27 and received care from City Hospice nurses who saw he was comfortable and pain free in his own home.
“I know that every parent who goes through something like this will tell you their children are lovely, but he really, really was. He was so generous and a wonderful man. You would be hard pushed to find anyone who would say a bad word about him. He was just lovely; funny, he would give time to anyone. He wanted to please other people more than himself. He was just lovely.”
In March 2014, after suffering from extremely bad headaches, Liam went to A&E. “He rang from work to say he was going straight to the hospital after he’d finished because he couldn’t cope with the headaches anymore.
“He rang later to say he hadn’t been seen and they wanted to send him home with paracetamol but he wasn’t going anywhere. He rang again to say ‘something’s wrong Mum. I’ve had a scan and something’s wrong.’ So, of course, we rushed to the hospital and they told us he had fluid on the brain. It had been building up over a long time and if he hadn’t gone to the hospital, he would’ve died. The following morning, he had surgery and recovered really well from it.”
As the family were leaving the hospital, the doctor said they could see something on Liam’s scans, some sort of tumour but, because of what he’d been through, Liam was told to go home and recuperate. In the meantime, he had an appointment at Velindre Cancer Centre where Liam and his family were told he had a tumour on his brainstem.
“They said he had approximately 10 years to live, there was no miracle treatment and it was inoperable, but they would try radiotherapy and chemotherapy. We were just acknowledging that was happening and he got ill again and had to have more surgery. He recovered remarkably well from that and started his radiotherapy, every day for six weeks. He was remarkable every day we went despite the trips totally wiping him out. He was never the same after that.”
Jane’s Brother-in-Law in Scotland, Mark, wanted to raise money so Liam could do all the things he wanted to. In May 2015, a team of three friends of Mark, unknown to the family, cycled from Edinburgh to Cardiff over three days, raising £6,000 so a trust fund was set up for Liam to have everything he wanted. He had a holiday with his sister and went away with his partner, Warren, too. Jane said “He loved holidays and our family favourite was Portugal, so we had a couple of holidays with him there after he was diagnosed. We had wonderful, happy holidays and Liam always made us laugh, he would talk to anyone!”
The family got through 2015 even though Liam was deteriorating. Scans were done and everything was fine but by Christmas, Liam said he wasn’t feeling right and he thought things were getting worse.
In January 2016, a scan showed the tumour was growing again. In March, Liam started chemotherapy but to no avail. He knew himself it wasn’t working. Scans confirmed this and the chemotherapy was stopped. “On 24th June, we were told he had six months to live. Two days later we went to Disneyland Paris because he really wanted to go. We said ‘whatever you want to do, we’ve got to do now’. So, we did Chester Zoo because he was watching ‘Secret Life of the Zoo’ on TV which he loved, and Monkey World. Then everything changed. He progressively got worse. He had to sleep downstairs and had to have a hospital bed. His partner, Warren, stayed with him at first, then I stayed with him for the last few months. He just got worse. We were lucky enough to keep him at home the whole time and out of hospital”.
Liam was referred to City Hospice after living with his brain tumour for 2 years.
Meeting Kath and Lynette, City Hospice’s Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNS)
“After his final treatments, we were feeling a little bit lost until the day Kath turned up. I’ve got to be honest, we see Kath as some sort of Guardian Angel. She just came and spoke to Liam and treated him with so much respect.” Kath took on the role of liaising with doctors and an occupational therapist as well as organising medication and pain clinics whilst keeping the family informed. “She took us through all the difficult stuff. He wanted to do an End of Life Plan and Living Will.”. Having completed a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR), a discussion with Kath and a more thorough explanation highlighted that it wasn’t actually what he wanted and was scrapped.
“The reflexologist, Cheryl, came to give Liam treatments which he loved. He felt really special because I don’t think Cheryl goes out to a lot of people. She was lovely”
“As Liam deteriorated, Kath managed it really well. She managed the District Nurses for us, who found Kath’s help invaluable as it was easier to speak to her than the GPs. The doctors respected everything she said and did. I was totally obsessed with knowing when he was going to go. It was quite sad that Kath wasn’t here at the end with Lynette who had also been working with us. We’d built a relationship with both of them and they were absolutely lovely. The care Liam got was brilliant.”
Kath organised for the City Hospice Head of Counselling and Bereavement, Sarah, to visit Jane. “I’ll always remember, she came to the house to start my counselling, which definitely helped me. Sarah would come and I’d have a chat with her while Liam was having his treatments from Cheryl. Overall, City Hospice were phenomenal. The six months we had with him were fab. I know the whole thing’s sad but we were lucky. We were lucky because we knew it was happening. We were able to say goodbye. ‘Lucky’ is the wrong word sometimes. In the end, we knew things were getting worse and stayed up overnight to look after him. Lynette was there when it happened which I’m also really grateful for. If it could’ve been lovely, it was. It was tremendously peaceful for him.”
Liam was 27 when he died. His Mum said he never complained or moaned and was very brave. “I was able to talk to him about what he wanted at his funeral and he was able to choose songs. It was hard for all of us to discuss but we got it sorted. I’m grateful that I was the person he wanted to tell and I love that.”
After he died Jane went to see Sarah. “I looked forward to it and took time to talk about Liam. He was so lovely and that’s why I like talking about him. I can look back and see that what was painful two years ago, is now a comfort. Talking about Liam almost keeps his spirit alive which is really nice.
People do tell you it’ll get easier to be without someone but it doesn’t. The anniversaries are hard. I think of his bravery and try to be brave myself. He had a massive impact on our lives which is incredible. You become so grateful for what you had. My explanation to myself is that he was so special they needed him in heaven. Someone needed him more than we did.”
A huge thank you to Jane for sharing her family’s story.
A donation made during the Light Up A Life campaign will make a world of difference to a family facing terminal illness in our community. To donate visit http://www.cityhospice.org.uk or call 02920 524150.