Bereaved Story

“He never shared any fear or doubt with us; he took it upon himself to make sure that we didn’t stress or worry. He was doing everything he could to beat the cancer.”

Today, Clarisse Honore shares her dad’s tragic story of pancreatic cancer, how his symptoms were missed and how hard he fought to beat the odds.

Dad was a Project Director in the Oil industry; he had to travel away for work a lot: three months in Iran, six months in the USA, and then out to the UAE for another three. Meanwhile, Mum and I stayed in Paris, Dad would call us every night and would try his absolute best to come home whenever he could. He loved his job, but his family was his greatest joy in life, and I couldn’t have asked for a better father.

When they retired, they moved to the South of France and bought their dream house, which turned into a bit of a project; it was finished just three years before he got sick, which was so sad as he had spent 45 years working so hard to retire and then ended up with so few in his dream home with Mum, who Dad adored.

My Dad, Gilbert, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in October 2021, just a few months after the birth of my daughter. She was his sunshine, and he was mine. He had lost weight for a few years, but nothing too noticeable, or at least not enough to worry him to get to the GP. He always found a reason why he’d lost some weight, whether that was a lot of gardening, sailing, or exercise out in the sun.

He had lost so much weight that we had almost convinced ourselves that it was normal, and nothing was the matter. Until one day when he woke up yellow with jaundice and started to feel something was very wrong. He was seen quickly by a GP in France – where he lived – and was immediately referred for a CT scan. The diagnosis came only 3 days after he noticed the jaundice.

“That day changed all our lives, and it broke something in me.“

It was a lot of ups and downs throughout the next 18 months; the hardest day was when he had surgery to remove his pancreatic tumour after chemotherapy had shrunk it to an operable state, and doctors found a second tumour that stopped them from being able to remove anything, and they had to close him.

Despite everything, he never gave up and always kept the faith that he would be healed – if the doctors told him he needed to walk 10 minutes a day, he even went as far as to eat seven small meals daily. He never shared any fear or doubt with us; he took it upon himself to make sure that we didn’t stress or worry. He was doing everything he could to beat the cancer.

Mum did everything for him, she put her life on hold for 18 months. She was afraid that Dad would get worse if she went outside (COVID). She did everything day and night, and the most important thing was cooking. She spent all her waking hours in the kitchen creating the most incredible food that was perfectly tailored to his dietary needs.

Dad said so many times, “I’m so lucky that you are my wife; if I was on my own, I don’t know how I would cope”.

After a couple of stays in the hospital, his health condition deteriorated. He entered the hospital for the last time on 20th March 2023 and passed away on 10th April 2023. I tried to support Mum and Dad as much as I could until his last breath. I consider myself lucky to have had him by my side for 18 months, even though I know how hard it was for him and us to watch.

I am dealing with grief, of course, but I have no regrets as I did everything I could to make sure I was there as much as I could be, I made sure my daughter got to spend as much time with him as possible, and my Mum was incredible, she did everything in her power to help Dad.

He received great care from the medical system in France, but I cannot stress enough how important it is to bring awareness to the public about pancreatic cancer symptoms, as well as the doctors and pharmacists, to detect this disease as early as possible. My dad did not drink, smoke, or have diabetes, so I want everyone to realise that it does not always happen to your neighbours, and you must be aware of the symptoms.