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The end of my cancer treatment did not mark the end of the battle, in fact looking back now that was when the real battle began.

How do you tell the man you love that you are going to be ok and he doesn’t need to worry anymore? That, yes it could come back but then couldn’t everybody get it if that’s the case, there are so many things that could happen. We had been given the gift of survival and we should have embraced that opportunity and cracked on with life. If only it was easy as that. It’s true to say that I didn’t understand mental health issues at the time. It wasn’t that I wasn’t sympathetic, it was just that I was ignorant I suppose. I’m not proud of the fact that I just didn’t get why Mark couldn’t just move forward with me and celebrate the rest of our lives together. I’ve learnt so much since this happened and would be much better equipped to help him manage his anxiety now. I would have gotten him help quicker and not waited, thinking he would ‘get over it’. If enough people told him I was better now and he should be happy and look forward, he would eventually believe it, right? Wrong!!! A big fat, whopping wrong! 

It’s scary how quickly when I look back, anxiety turned into depression and then into a serious problem. I don’t want this to be a story of doom and gloom but the dark cloud that was hovering over Mark’s head quickly and thoroughly enveloped him. Within months he was no longer leaving the house, getting dressed or doing anything at all really. It was a challenge some days to get a conversation out of him. He went to the GP, got counselling, had drugs prescribed…….but he wasn’t helping himself, he couldn’t help himself. Everything I suggested was knocked back. A walk out. A visit to see friends. A chat. Whilst I wanted, desperately to understand and empathise I had just had what I thought was the worst 12 months of my life, so I had hoped this year would be better. I felt I deserved it. But that was selfish. We had both had cancer really. The only difference was that I coped mentally better than he did. So, started the real battle……the battle to keep my husband alive!

This is the hardest part to write because this is where I let the man I loved down. Not on purpose. Not because I didn’t love him. Not because I didn’t care. Not because I didn’t think he was worth it. Certainly not because I didn’t want to be with him any more. But because I just couldn’t do it! 

Marks illness escalated quite rapidly, the pain he was feeling was numbed by alcohol. He went from being an average social drinker to an alcoholic in a matter of months, drinking vodka to extremes, all times of the day and causing himself more mental anxiety by trying to hide it. The day he admitted he was drinking because he didn’t want to be here, as in alive was one of the toughest I have experienced. When you do not understand this illness and someone says that its terrifying and what do you do? Whilst mental health is a far more open topic of conversation and carries less labels and connotations than it has in the past the help needed is still challenging to find when you get to this stage. It’s still embarrassing to admit that you or your loved one is an alcoholic.It shouldn’t be but it is. It still feels like it carries a stigma. I felt sick when we sat in a room at an alcoholic and drug rehabilitation centre and he admitted he was an alcoholic for the first time, my stomach still churns when I think of that day.

He did get some help, he even went through a couple of 7 day detox treatments but despite being seemingly committed and wanting to get better he couldn’t do it, the pull of the alcohol was just too strong, the black cloud that was hanging over him only cleared for a short space of time and then it was back and good old Mr. Smirnoff was at hand when it did.

Treatment for the drinking wasn’t really what he needed, I can see that now, the root cause was what needed sorting, the drinking was only a symptom of his depression

“Now the drugs don’t work…….. But I know I’ll see your face again”

The next few months were painful for everyone and I am not going to write in any detail about that, needless to say it was not only Mark who suffered during this time. the whole family were affected especially his beloved daughter. On May 30th 2019, Mark lost his battle with depression and alcoholism in the most final way, after several weeks in hospital he tragically passed away.

If I had the tools I have now available to me then, the understanding of the disease I have now and the patience, perhaps more time to recover from my illness would things have been different? It’s impossible to say.

I miss Mark every single day and know I always will. His death shattered my life in many ways, the future we had planned has gone, now it’s a different future I have to shape for myself on my own.

This is not the end for me. I do not give up. There is a new story and ‘Just be more’ is the start of that story.

A lot of what I am doing now is as a response to because of what happened to Mark. My discovery of Mindfulness came when he was deteriorating and I am pretty sure that Mindfulness is what saved me when I lost him.

Everything else I have studied around depression, support and treatment/ therapy is with a hope that in the future I will be able to help another Mark move through the fog and provide the right help that will get him through it and able to live the rest of his life.

Below is the eulogy from Mark’s funeral that his daughter Lauren (my amazing step-daughter) wrote, she wrote it to be heard so here you go, tissues at hand!

“My Dad is and always will be my hero.”

“For 24 years I have been so lucky to call Mark Hadcroft my Dad and, in that time, he taught me so much; how to drive; how to draw and most importantly (in his eyes anyway) how to roll a cigarette. I am forever grateful for all the memories we have created over the years: Holidays in Spain and Portugal; road trips to and from Aberyswyth and the hundreds of chicken fajitas we consumed over the years of Tuesday night dinners.

I have always loved my Dad with all of my heart.

Nothing made me prouder as a child then when my Mom would say “You’ve got a plaster for every sore, you’re just like your Dad.” 

Dad always had the ability to make me laugh. His witty one liners will be what I miss the most. After a recent trip with work, I complained to my Dad that I hadn’t been allowed to leave the hotel due to gang crime and risk of malaria – he asked where abouts in Birmingham I’d been staying. 

Not only was my Dad hilarious, he was caring and could turn his hand to anything. When I feared for my pet rabbit’s life – due to the terrible English weather – to stop me worrying, Dad converted my Wendy House into a two-storey mansion in order to keep Nibbles dry and safe.

Even on the saddest days, I have memories that never fail to make me smile, which I would like to thank him for. 

Thank you Dad, I love you so much.

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