The fight is over

It is with deep sadness that I share that Pat lost his battle with Pancreatic Cancer on 20 January 2018. He fought long and hard until the very end. On January 8 the doctors shared the devastating news that there was nothing more they could do, and that he should consider hospice care and making sure his affairs were in order.

Early on January 17, Pat’s best friend went to his unit concerned because Pat hadn’t responded to their regular morning text messages. He found Pat collapsed on the living room floor having suffered a stroke. He was transferred to hospital and we were informed a short while later. Our family made the decision to fly home that night and we arrived on the 18th around lunch time. Pat was lucid for much of the afternoon, but the stroke had left him paralysed and unable to speak.

The doctor informed us that due to his condition, both the cancer and the stroke, they had elected to place him on a “care of the dying” pathway. From that point there was no further medical intervention, no IVs, no tests or bp monitoring. We just had time to say our goodbyes. We spent all day Thursday and Friday with him. By Friday evening it seemed the end was drawing near and Pat had made it clear that he didn’t want us there. So late Friday evening we went home. A few hours later, in the wee hours of the morning we received a phone call saying that he had gone.

We celebrated Pat’s life on 25 January, surrounded by his many, diverse friends. We were in awe of how many people’s lives he had touched.

As hard as his death has been for all those who loved and cared for him, it was the way he would have wanted it. He was in his home until the last days and surrounded by loved ones as he approached the end.


WordPress wasn’t working for a while.. so here is a post I started a week before Pat’s death

I can’t believe I last updated in September! A lifetime ago.

Pat is still fighting the battle, but now he’s going it alone. This week the doctor’s shared that there are no more options. The cancer is aggressive and widely spread and we’ve been advised it’s time to consider hospice care and end of life options.
It’s hard to take this news, Pat is still outwardly doing okay. He’s not in pain and he still lives at home, alone, independently. He is functional and not showing the significant tell tale signs of weakening. This week when asked by me, jokingly, what he would do with all his free time now that he didn’t have chemo and doctor’s appointments, he said it wouldn’t make much difference, because he spends most of the day dozing anyway. This was news to me and a good reminder that he is fighting this battle, with everything he has, even if chemo and medicine have failed.

To update, in October we flew home to spend a week with Pat and it was great. We went out a few times for lunch and made lifelong memories. There was lots of happiness, laughter, warm hugs and even a few selfies by Finn. I’m glad we went back. It gave us a chance to have a ‘normal’ visit. Yes, there were moments of sadness – talk of funerals, wills, power of attorney is definitely sombering, but there were more moments of light and laughter.


A dose of reality

Sadly last week’s appointment did not bring happy news. Pat’s CA19-9 markers have gone down from 16,000 to 4.900, which is lower than when he was first diagnosed. On the surface that suggests that the treatment is working well against the tumors. But on closer inspection the CT scan of the previous week showed the that tumor on the spleen has grown and is now pressing on the heart and lungs – causing, no doubt, some of Pat’s shortness of breath.  So the chemo worked.. on some of the tumors.

New chemo regime started with Irinotecan the tablet form of 5FU called capcitabine. There was a concern about diarrhea with the new chemo regime, but thus far, Pat has not had any adverse side effects.

This week they suggested that Pat should be setting up a Power of Attorney. Needless to say that’s pretty upsetting to hear – both for him and us. He’s also been given details of an organisation who will provide him with free transport to his appointments. It’s concerning to us that that’s been suggested as it makes it seem as though Pat is deteriorating more than he lets on over the phone.

It was Father’s day over the weekend so we made an effort to have a Skype call with Pat and the kids. It was actually the first time I’d ‘seen’ him since we arrived back in Bangkok and I was pleased to see that aside from being balder than before, he was pretty much the same. The doctor said he even gained back some weight this week with the steriods enhancing his appetite once again.

Found this photo of Pat, Trent and Finn from August 2011 while looking for Father’s day photos

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And from our wedding.. June 2008


Stopping chemo

Two posts in two days – a record! Yesterday was a big day for Pat, he had scans done of his lungs to try and work out what’s causing his ongoing shortness of breath and horrendous cough. Unfortunately it wasn’t good news, Pat’s lungs are inflamed, an apparently rare side effect of the chemo. So, despite being due to start round 3 today, chemo has been called off, instead he’s having a bronchoscopy to ascertain the damage to his lungs and to look for infection deep within the tissue. It doesn’t sound like a pleasant procedure and he’ll be in hospital for much of the day. Next Wednesday he meets with his oncologist again to discuss treatment options moving forward. It sucks, in the hospital’s history Pat is only the second person to have developed this rare side effect.

In addition to the news about his lungs we found out that Pat’s been losing significant amounts of weight. Throughout our three months with him he maintained a pretty stable 74-75kg. Since we left 17 days ago he’s lost 5 or 6kg and is down in the high 60s. With the loss of appetite and the issues with his lungs we’re hoping to see an improvement now that we know what’s going on. I’m looking into having meals delivered daily, he might not like it but I feel it’s the least we can do to ensure he’s eating well.

Finn is struggling too, he’s not aware of these issues but the stress of knowing his beloved Poppy is sick is weighing heavily on him. Yet again last night he cried himself to sleep. He begged me not to leave him to sleep alone so I think we may return to cosleeping for a while until we all feel a bit more secure. Tough times.

It’s been a while

It’s been a while since the last post. Not much has changed and yet so much changes. The last month of our time in Australia was difficult as stress of facing pancreatic cancer ate away at everyone’s positivity, mostly Pat’s.

In late July we celebrated Christmas in July with the whole family. Trent’s sister and her family joined us for a week on the Gold Coast which we packed with memories and noise.



Having 9 people (4 kids) in the tiny apartment each night was tough, but the memories made were undoubtedly worth it.

When Trent’s sister and her family left the apartment was quiet and the pressure of our impending departure weighed on all our minds. Pat struggled to maintain his spirits and at times he was quick to anger. This was tough to deal with for all of us, but mostly for my sensitive 7 year old son and my husband.

Treasured moments still shone through though, like the night when my 3 year old was in trouble for being a cheeky monkey and decided to escape to the only place she knew I wouldn’t take her away from – her beloved Poppy’s lap. There she stayed until she fell fast asleep – something that hasn’t happened for years with anyone except her mum (and occasionally dad).


By early August, Pat was finishing up his second round of chemo and we needed to head home for work and school. Leaving was unimaginably sad and I feel the distance every day. I’ve not spoke to Pat directly since our return, but I see the distance and stress weighing on my husband.

Pat’s struggling with a nasty cough at the moment and has lost his appetite. He met with the dietician on Monday and is meeting with a counsellor today, along with having his lungs scanned and his meeting with his oncologist. Chemo round 3 is due to begin tomorrow but I guess we’ll see how today goes before we assume anything.

Pat struggled with a cough and shortness of breath increasingly as we were leaving Australia so I think we’re all anxious to see where this goes.

In the meantime the kids are watching an Australian TV show called “The Block” which they started watching with Pat before we left and now they use as the basis for some emails. I love that Finn can have this with his Pop – these will be treasured memories

Hi Poppy

I miss you. I like watching the Block now. I think Sticks and Wombat will have the best room. Did you watch it yesterday? Don’t tell me who won. I will watch it tonight
I also liked when they screwed the shoes on the floor
I am sleeping in my own bedroom with Cha Cha now, and we got a new desk. 

Love you Poppy

Finn & Eowyn,
               I,m pleased you are getting to the block,Sticks & Wombat are my favourites too.That was funny when they screwed the boots down.I miss you guys to, but Poppy was too cranky, I,m sorry for that.
               I,m pleased you are sleeping in you own room now,Much better you guys & Mumma & Dadda.Make sure your desk is always neat & tidy.
            Love you little man glad you have a good teacher & friends in your class.Email me anytime.
               Lots of love to you all from Poppy Pat
Hi Poppy

Don’t worry about being cranky. I know it wasn’t really you, you were just feeling worried. I can’t wait to watch the Block tonight. 
I’ll ask mumma to send you some photos of my new room and desk. 

Love you so much Poppy and hope you’re feeling better

Hi Poppy

I don’t like ronnie and georgia, I hope they don’t win this week. i had a playdate with berrett this week and today is my first day of gymnastics. I have swimming tomorrow and so does cha cha. 

hope you have a good day
love you lots
Finn xoxo

Emotional wellbeing

The last few days have taught me a lot about mental health and emotional wellbeing. When that side of you is out of whack it can send everything else into a spin. Pat’s continuing to struggle emotionally, the smallest trigger will set him off in tears or anger and we simply cannot predict what those triggers will be. One day it’s the kids not answering a question the first time, the next it’s us arriving home later than anticipated. Trent is struggling to see his dad so unsteady and he reacts in his own way too – snapping at me or the kids and then feeling remorseful afterwards. We’re all coping in our own ways, for me, I’m using every ounce of strength to be a better mother. The stress wears us all thin and with two unsettled kids we don’t have our usual home, toys, books and routine and it’s easy for things to fall apart. I’m focussing on trying to not take things personally, to support the kids and to explain, explain, explain to Finn every step of the way.

Finn is struggling with the instability. He cries when reprimanded for the smallest infraction and is constantly offering insights and suggestions as to how to make Poppy’s life a little better.

Pat is still refusing to leave the house unless absolutely necessary. We’ll try again this week to encourage him to join us for whale watching or the Outback Spectacular, but I’m not optimistic. I’ve not even mentioned having him join us for our family photos this weekend as I’m worried about how he’ll react.

This weekend we took the kids away for a mini-break at mum’s. The Samford Show was on so we thought it was a good opportunity to show the kids what an Aussie country show is like – dagwood dogs, fireworks, carnies and sideshows. Keeping everyone seems best – making memories and keeping distracted.



Chemo 1-3 was my first visit to the hospital. Kept Pat in high spirits as we laughed our way through his treatment which leads us to this week which is NO CHEMO WEEK – woohoo!! It was shocking to me to see how busy it was – 22 seats, all filled with every shape and size of person, all taking their own toxic cocktail of chemicals in the hope of saving or extending their lives. It was humbling to be reminded that this battle isn’t just ours, it’s touching the lives of many people, every single day.

A final thought.. while waiting for our turn for chemo this week I saw a poem, it’s such a powerful reminder that whilst cancer does many horrible things to those effected, there are many things it cannot do

cancer cannot

The small moments

We’re back on the ‘warm’ Gold Coast again after a quick visit to Sydney to catch up with Trent’s mum. We jammed that trip with every imaginable adventure and hopefully the kids are feeling rejuvenated.

Chemo tomorrow, this time I’m taking the reins while Trent spends a much needed afternoon being Dadda to our kiddos.

Pat’s spirits have been up this afternoon; not quite as high as pre-cancer days, but compared to the last few weeks we’ve had a reasonably good afternoon. He spent an hour or so playing cards with Ninn and I. I feel like this will become part of our routine for the remaining 4 weeks or so. Then later he read to both the kids individually. Dinner was a mild Indian curry and he managed to polish off two kids sized plates – so that’s a considerable improvement over previous weeks.

I’ve now got the kids settled in the bedroom while Pat and Trent await the start of State of Origin #3. I hope for the sake of his household that NSW win tonight.

We have just under 4 weeks left here and we hope to jam them with good times. Trent’s sister and her family will be joining us here later this month, so it will be great to finally have all the grandkids together under the same roof. They are aged 10, 7, 7 and 3 and have never been together at Poppy’s house – so watch this space for mess and excitement! Booked into that week we have professional photos and Christmas in July. Since we live overseas Christmas is always hard for us – sending presents costs a fortune and this year we’re taking our kids to the North Pole, so to save the worry, we’re doing it in July – at Poppy’s house (what could possibly go wrong?!) And of course we have whale watching and the Outback Spectacular planned – let’s see if we can convince Pat to join us!

Tomorrow is the last chemo of the first cycle so I feel we should celebrate somehow (I might ponder that one tonight).

Pat’s struggling with a perpetual sore throat. It began shortly after the first round of chemo and hasn’t left him, the doctor suspects ulcers as a result of the chemo, but it is worrying to see him in pain. He’s also coughing a lot and suffering continued shortness of breath (presumably from the pulmonary embolism). I know this worries him, tonight he mentioned that he’s concerned that it’s cancer in his lungs. I assured him that it wouldn’t be, that the tests would have shown if it was, but it lingers, this constant threat.

More after tomorrow…

Mood swings

It’s blood test and oncologist day again today. Hoping for good news as the last few days have been tough.

The aftermath of chemo 1.1 was surprising. Pat was upbeat and happy, feeling well and eating well. That was Thursday and Friday. Saturday was a difficult day, he was angry and by his own admission took his anger out on the kids. He had no idea why, he just felt angry. At one point while standing in the kitchen I asked him if he was okay, he broke down and cried, his emotions are so unpredictable. The tears were the result of him beating himself up over taking his anger out on the kids. With everything he’s going through he is still so concerned about the kids. I reassured him that they are resilient little beans, but it didn’t change his feelings of guilt and remorse.

Saturday we dragged him to the library. When we first suggested it he said no way, but I had Finn put a little extra pressure on and he came. Then I spent the day wondering if his mood was my fault. It’s difficult to know when to push and when to leave it. I just don’t want him to give up on living while he’s fighting not to die. Saturday was also shopping day, we had to go to Benowa Woolworths because Pat doesn’t want to bump into anyone he knows. It’s strange because he’s so openly talking about it on the phone and to people who drop by, but strangers who he only knows to wave at are a cause of anxiety.

Sunday we had a quiet day at home. Pat and I wandered up to watch the Gold Coast Marathon leaders pack as they journeyed back towards Southport. The rest of the day was spent reading and hanging around the house.

Monday we took the kids to Movieworld. They’ve both been so good lately that it seems unfair to not reward them for their monumental efforts to be compliant in a small shared space. They had a great day and I think it was good for Trent to join us too – just to do something normal.

Yesterday we went to the library again and had a play in the playground. The dark cloud once again lingered over Pat, he’s struggling to shake it. Even this morning I can tell he’s not himself. I made him a beaded bracelet with crystals that suck negative energy away – and whether it works or not is insignificant, I just want to do SOMETHING.

Pat’s just left for the blood test with Trent following shortly. Hopefully they have some good news to lift Pat’s spirits as this darkness can’t be good for anyone and the eggshells are starting to crack. I’m even snapping at the kids over nothing, which isn’t fair to anyone. So I’m taking them out today – time for a play. No devices just mum and kids.. We’ll get through this

Chemo 1.2 tomorrow and then we jet off to Sydney for a few days to see Trent’s mum. I know we need to see her but I worry about leaving Pat while he’s like this, maybe a break from the kids is what he needs.

Chemo 1.1

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Today was chemo day. A day, that considering everything we have been through, we were all dreading. It turned out to be much better than anticipated. Trent and Pat were due at the hospital by 8.30. There was a minor mix up where only one chemo med was ready to go, but once that was sorted they were all set. Pat is on a combination of two drugs which together have improved outcomes when used with metastatic Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer (than when used in isolation). He’s on Abraxane and Gemcitabine, one after the other. The first is about 200ml and takes about 30 minutes to infuse and the second is a couple of litres and takes the same time!

Today’s nurses were Charlotte, Nikki and Karen. Charlotte was the youngest, bubbly and seemingly the person in charge despite her youthful (early 20s) appearance. Nikki had recently moved from Canberra where she didn’t like living, she had visited Seaworld with her two kids (age 3 & 5) and she didn’t like that either – Trent was wondering what she did like, but apparently she was lovely. Karen, we’re not sure what she was there for. After two failed attempts at inserting the cannula they had to get Nikki to help.. poor Karen. The tea lady came by while Trent was grabbing a coffee and delivered a cuppa and a sandwich to Pat, who was on the phone at the time. He excused himself to his friend on the phone explaining that the “tea lady” had just dropped by, which she rather indignantly tutted at as she explained that she’s not the “tea lady” but the “blue shirt”. I suspect Pat will continue to call her the ‘tea lady’ in weeks to come.

Post chemo, so far so good. They’ve given Pat steroids which should alleviate the worst of the symptoms and the chemo should be through his system in a few weeks, but a perk of the steroids is hunger! Pat’s hungry!! Tonight I risked it and gave him the same size serve as me and he did a good job on it – didn’t quite finish it, but since he’s struggled to eat kid serves lately I’m taking that as a win.

This morning the kids and I spent time cleaning the apartment. Both kids were really cooperative and eager to help. It’s great to see them helping in the little ways they can, they even join me to take the washing out every couple of days.

Pat enjoys reading Better Homes and Gardens magazine so I offered to make him anything he liked from the cooking section. He requested ginger and caramel biscuits and Honey Miso Chicken with Sweet Potato Mash. The kids and I made the biscuits as a team this morning so a treat would be ready and waiting for Poppy when he got home – but of course, he wouldn’t touch them because he thought the kids might want to give them to him (we were out).

As the kids had been so incredible, I decided to take them up to Seaworld for the afternoon. We had such a pleasant day, both kids were delightful and excited by the theme park. We bought annual passes on sale when we arrived in Australia so I thought we should start getting some value from them! When we arrived home both kids asked if they could go again tomorrow!!

The atmosphere in the house is more relaxed today. I think knowing that chemo is behind us for this week is positive, as is knowing we don’t have to go back to the hospital again until next Wednesday. I feel the entire house rides a wave of ups and downs depending on how close we are to the next hospital visit. I do hope that next week will be less tumultuous, fear of the unknown has wrecked havoc on the family, but at least that is behind us.

Memories from today

Pat encourages Cha (who he nicknamed Flossy) to dance , he notes that he thinks she’ll be a dancer when she grows up and shares that Trent used to be a good dancer (to Playschool etc) but was never a good singer. 

and another of his quirky sayings “Where’s my pocket? I forgot it”


There’s no doubt

Yesterday it was 51 days since the doctor in Bangkok told us that they believed Pat had pancreatic cancer. Yesterday the doctors here in Australia confirmed the same. So now the battle really begins. Thursday begins the first day of chemo. We’ve been assured that it will be well tolerated. The goal of the chemo is to slow the cancer, at this point there’s no cure. Assuming it is as well tolerated as they say then this is our best bet, it might buy Pat some more time and at least allow us to try to wrap our heads around this horrible disease.

They are starting with Gemcitabine, once a week for three weeks then a week off before the cycle continues. Wednesday will be bloodwork day, Thursday will be chemo day. At least now, we have a semblance of a routine in our lives. They will use Wednesday’s bloodwork to adjust the chemo each week. He will lose his hair and he has been told to avoid the sun – which is perhaps the thing he’s most upset about.

Last night was rough, everyone knew that it was “the” appointment so of course everyone rang to find out how it went. Pat’s feeling guilty for ‘ruining’ our holiday (his words not mine), but I’m just glad we’re able to be here with him during this time. Pat’s weight loss is beginning to show, I’m not sure if it’s because I know that he’s lost weight, or he’s wearing different clothes, but it’s noticeable. He’s eating well though, so at least we have that working to our advantage.


“If you pick a guinea pig up by its tail its eyes will fall out” – Pat’s words of wisdom to his grandkids today!!

The never ending wait

It’s Wednesday, we arrived back in Australia early Friday morning in time for Monday’s “big” appointment with the oncologist. I won’t draw it out. The appointment was a fizzer. Turns out the biopsy of the met in the groin showed nothing – no necrotized tissue and no cancer – just nothing. A complete waste of time. So they said we need to go and get a snip of the host cancer – the pancreas. This is what they had hoped to avoid, primarily because Pat’s pulmonary embolisms make it a little more risky than the surgeons would like. So the biopsy by endoscopy was rescheduled for today at 7.30. A LONG wait and the insertion of the cannula, all for naught. They were too busy today and didn’t get around to Pat’s biopsy.. they also didn’t mention it until he’d waited 5 hours total (3 in a bed with a cannula in). So we go back tomorrow. Disappointed doesn’t begin to describe my feelings about the public health system here in Australia. I wish we’d been able to get all this done in Thailand, but alas, it wasn’t to be.


Pat’s health continues to be good. He’s struggling with breathing at times but the oncologist attributes that to the embolism, not to the cancer – so that’s good news. Our hope is to get him active, with a daily walk with the kids to a local playground. It’s not much but at least it’s getting him outside in the fresh air and sunshine. Mentally it’s a struggle. Pat is reluctant to go outside, he’s concerned that people “know” and they “look at him with knowing eyes”. He feels this is because he’s lost “so much weight” and “looks pale”. In reality, he’s lost 4kg since May 5, 3kg of that was in the first week in hospital in Thailand, so 1kg isn’t too bad. As an outsider, I am concerned at how little Pat eats. He’s never been a big eater, but he’s particularly light at times now. That being said, there are other days when he eats well, so I guess it depends on the day – just like the rest of us!!


I think having us here is good for everyone. Together we face this monster as a team. The kids are great for brightening mood and providing ongoing distraction and comic relief. Cha is Poppy’s girl and I’m so glad they are getting to spend these moments together.


On the weekend Poppy showed the kids how to feel the rainbow lorikeets who come to visit his balcony most days. A truly memorable moment.19105954_10154441485902046_5656701965457848446_n


Tomorrow we were scheduled to go to Playschool Live, but with the biopsy being delayed, it looks like it might just be me and the kids. As time progresses, I’m hoping to plan more of these memorable moments, I just hope I can get Pat to buy in and join us.


Today I cleaned the house, sounds small but it gave me a sense of purpose. It felt good to contribute while Trent and Pat were at the hospital. Of course, Pat called me “a bugger of a kid” which is his favourite way to deal with any act of kindness on my part. Love this. Tears are always close, and I feel that maybe Pat feels or knows more than he’s letting on, but for now, things are seemingly stable and we have room to be hopeful that at the very least we may have a few more months f memory making, but, who knows, maybe we an beat this monster!


Before I leave.. an oldie I found on the wall.. 2006, back when we lived in Singapore