Trigger warning: Cancer/Child Death. To those of you struggling today, you are not alone. Lush retailer and father Nik Allebon talks about the unimaginable pain of losing your child to cancer.
National Celebration days and cards are a lovely way to recognise the special people in one’s life. Yet these overt dedications to mums, dads, and more can also be extremely painful for the huge group of people who have experienced loss, no matter how recent. If you are one of those people, in the words of Cariad Lloyd, “you are not alone”.
10th September 2014, my wife H gave birth to our first son, Logan. After a pregnancy involving several scares and prefaced with multiple miscarriages, this was utter relief. It wasn’t without trauma, he decided to arrive four weeks early, and immediately after he arrived H was rushed into theatre due to fairly hefty blood loss. Luckily, all was well and both came through it in fairly good health.
Fast forward through a fantastic three and a bit years of Logan growing up and thriving, becoming an incredibly loving, generous, thoughtful and giving human. He particularly adored being out in nature, whether that was planting in his garden, feeding the ducks along the canal, or splashing about in puddles.
In 2018, we became concerned about him losing his appetite, vomiting frequently, and being very wobbly on his feet or not wanting to walk. We visited several doctors over a matter of months, with the reasons being put down to normal developmental lack of coordination, the heatwave causing him to be dehydrated, and fairly normal childhood constipation. Despite the treatments given, he went rapidly downhill and we made the decision to take him to A&E in Cardiff on the 12th August where he was admitted. The following day one doctor examined him and recognised the link between the symptoms, organising a CT scan and confirming what she had feared: Logan had a medullablastoma brain tumour.
Over the following months, Logan had four different rounds of brain surgery, stem cell harvest, two bouts of meningitis, one bout of norovirus, his 4th birthday in hospital, a transfer via helicopter to Bristol, and three rounds of radiotherapy treatment. Crushingly, despite them being able to remove 100% of the tumour initially on the 16th August, an MRI on the 26th September showed that it had not only begun to regrow in the initial site, but had encompassed the lining of his brain, had grown in his frontal lobe, and was fully encasing his spinal column.
On the 28th September, we made the decision to stop his treatment, as it was not going to stop the cancer and was just causing him pain and distress. We took him home to be together for however long we all had together. Logan fought on for a further two weeks before dying in our arms on the 14th October, just two months after we had taken him to A&E and just over seven weeks after the cancer diagnosis.
Nothing is the same, and everything is triggering. Not only are we grieving and mourning Logan, but we are grieving and mourning everything that he would have done and gone on to do. We’ll never see him having his first day at school, taking part in sports day and school plays, falling in and out of love etc. We’d been intending to get him a bike for his fourth birthday, so seeing any kids of his age out on bikes brings it all back, and normally causes us to have to head inside back to the safe bubble that is our house.
One of the hardest things for us during the whole treatment was that, following the successful removal of the brain tumour on the 16th August, Logan developed posterior fossa syndrome which meant that he never spoke or moved under his own power again. The last time I heard him say ‘Daddy’ was the afternoon of Thursday August 16th 2018 in recovery after having the tumour removed.
Adjusting to a life without Logan physically is excruciating, and most days is too much. We go up to see him everyday in his meadow on the outskirts of Cardiff, reading him his favourite stories and chatting with him about how much we need him back and what we’ve all been up to.
Nothing makes sense, accepting that he isn’t coming back just doesn’t work, and we still get the feeling that he will be in the front room terrorising the dog every time we walk down the stairs at home.
Whilst Logan was fighting his way through treatment, countless people got in contact to offer help of any kind. Not being able to think of anything that people could do we just asked them to “Go out and do something beautiful for someone. Friend or stranger, just give them a lift in the day and let them know it’s love from Logan.” Logan is such an incredibly loving, gentle, and giving human. Without fail, no matter how we were feeling, Logan would do something to lift our day and pass on a bit of joy and love to lift us up. I want his legacy to be that others are out bringing joy.
This is one way that we are attempting to cope with life at the moment, by doing some kind of love from Logan each day, no matter how big or small. Trying to counter the emptiness that we feel by bringing a little spark of joy and colour to someone else’s life.
If you are still reading this, thank you! To those of you struggling today, you are not alone. It is perfectly reasonable to want to avoid everything going on, and if that is what will protect you then you do you. Those that matter will be there when you are ready to be with them. Look after yourself, find your safe space, and do what you need to do to get through the day.
If it would bring you joy, then please go out and do something for someone. Whether you do it in Logan’s name, or in the name of whoever you are thinking of, just try and spread a bit of love and kindness. That’s what is helping us to get through each day, and it may help you.
If you are looking for bereavement support, help is available.