1st November 2020

Lung cancer is Still Here: Jimmy Reddington

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Losing her husband, Jimmy, has been incredibly hard for Kate. It all seemed to happen so fast and now she is left with unanswered questions. She joins the Still Here campaign to raise awareness of the disease and try and prevent others from losing the love of their life.

“Jimmy was a wonderful man, a great husband, a really loving father. He absolutely adored his sons. In fact, I think that was one of the best things of all in his life, was his two lads. We always used to joke that we got together to save another couple! Great fun. I mean we had our arguments; I don’t ever believe anyone that says ‘oh we never argued’ – we used to have some really good ones – or bad ones! But, we were together for over 40 years – so that says something.

He loved sailing and trained as a dinghy instructor so he could teach at our local youth sailing club. He was almost as happy on the water as anywhere else. It was such a sadness that, when he developed pulmonary fibrosis and then later lung cancer – that joy was taken away from him because he was no longer able to sail.

It was in January 2016 when a CT scan first picked up the lung cancer. In April, he had keyhole surgery but unfortunately microscopic cells were seen at the margin. His oncologist therefore decided he ought to have a sleeve re-section, which meant another operation. Not keyhole this time – full open thoracotomy followed by adjuvant chemotherapies. He had at least 3 rounds of chemo which thankfully he came through really well. He didn’t suffer too – very much at all.

However, in the following January/February, he noticed he wasn’t swallowing very well. He had an endoscopy and that confirmed that there was another tumour in the lymph node behind the oesophagus so at the end of March – beginning of April, he commenced four weeks of radiotherapy with concurrent chemotherapy.

Despite the treatment, we managed to get a holiday and went to Italy for a week. But when we came back, Jimmy was noticing he wasn’t walking very well. He thought he’d perhaps strained something so went for the follow up scan and the radiotherapy before his next appointment with the oncologist. We we were called straight in to see a different oncologist because his was on holiday and they said that the cancer was spreading and what was causing him to have difficulty walking was a tumour that had virtually eaten away at his left femur.

She told us that she couldn’t offer any further treatment. Jimmy asked her ‘How long have I got?’ It’s a question not everybody wants to ask or wants to know and doctors won’t just come out say it. She actually asked him three times if he really wanted to know before she would tell him. Then she said it would be months, not years.

The worst thing I think for him was walking out of the consultation having been told that there was nothing more she could do and that it would be palliative care. It was frightening. It was worrying. At that point, we thought it was months, but we didn’t realise how fast things would go. Within a matter of no time at all, he needed to be on oxygen because he was struggling to breathe.

It was very traumatic Because, we weren’t expecting this to happen then. We weren’t quite ready. I mean, nobody’s ever ready but, when you think you’ve got months and then suddenly it’s weeks.  

I managed to contact my older son. I just said to Tom, ‘I don’t know how you do it, get hold of your brother – get here. Just get here’. he managed to contact his brother and they were on a train within an hour. They got to the station, got a taxi to the hospital, and it was in that short time between the station and the hospital that they lost their dad.

There were some days, particularly around our wedding anniversary, when I did feel very low. I had days where I just wept. But, I’m coming through it – smiling again now. It’s helped me now to have some time for me. Time to actually grieve, which everybody is going to do that in their own way. Some people do it straight away, some people there’s a kind of delay factor.

I did start getting more involved with Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation early last year – you have all been so very supportive of me, even after I lost Jimmy. And that’s a great thing, the Foundation is there for everybody; be they the person with the illness, or the family, of friend caring.”