Sunday 31 December 2023

2023: A Review Of The Year - Goodbye & Good Riddance


So, here we are on the last day of 2023, and honestly, I cannot wait for it to be over.

2023 will go down as the year that firmly kicked me in the balls, and kept kicking me when I was down. It started badly, and just went down hill from there.


The year started with the news that my wife – Janet – was once again suffering from cancer. Not only had the cancer returned, but it had spread into her spine, her kidneys and her lungs. The prognosis was not good. Her cancer was manageable, but most definitely life—limiting.

At this point, she was already pretty much bed-bound and needing 24hr care, which was happily provided by my kids and I. Seeing to her every need. She was due to start Chemotherapy in the middle of January, but her bloods never came back with the results that would mean she could safely be administered the Chemo.


A chink of light. Finally, her bloods were good enough to start her Chemo treatment. Ambulances were arranged – she was too ill to be able to get from her to a vehicle – so that she could be safely stretchered out of the house and down to Singleton Hospital down by the seaside. The first of the assistance arrived as our house was measured up for all the assistance aides that she was going to need. District Nurses started calling on a regular basis. Me and the kids continued to see to her every need 24 hours a day.


A few setbacks when she was unable to have her weekly Chemo sessions on occasion due to her white blood cell levels not being considered to be conducive to safe Chemo. By now she had lost the use of her left arm. X-Rays confirmed that the cancer had eaten away the bone at the top of her arm, such that there was no bone attaching her arm to her shoulder whatsoever. She could have an operation to rectify this, but it would mean Chemo would have to stop for at least 6 weeks. Given how aggressively the cancer had been progressing, she took the decision to live with her left arm being useless and push on with the Chemo.

The Palliative Care Team were by this time regular visitors to our house and very familiar to us all.


New equipment arrived and was installed in the house, including a hospital bed that would be used to keep her more comfortable. Raise, fall, tilt, you name it, this bed could do it all. She even had an air mattress that she could inflate or deflate with a switch and which would make her as comfortable as possible. The house was literally turned upside down in an effort to make everything as accessible as possible to assist in her care.


May started badly. Within the first week of the month, I went for a routine hospital appointment. As soon as I walked into my appointment, the Nurse asked me if I was alright as I didn’t look well – I had been feeling unwell for a while but assumed it was due to the stress of working full-time whilst also being a full-time carer for Janet.

The result was my finding myself hooked up an ECG and finding that my resting heart rate was 145bpm. Way, way faster than it was supposed to be. A Cardiac Consultant was brought down to see me and I found myself immediately being admitted to hospital (and not even the same hospital as I was already in). It was considered so serious that I was not even allowed to drive my car home. I fought them hard not to admit me to hospital with Janet needing 24hr care at home. It was apparently that serious that they told me that without being treated in hospital, I might not be going home at all. In the end, they won. I spent the next week on a hospital ward under close supervision and being treated to bring my racing heart back under control.

The kids had to deal with Janet’s 24 hour care on their own. Something they were happy to do and a job to which they applied themselves with vigour – despite the fact that they also had their own jobs to go to as well.

After week-long stay, I was finally allowed home. I was signed off on sick-leave from work for a month, and finally had the time and resources to care for Janet properly. 

We did get to celebrate our 34th Wedding Anniversary on the 20th.

Four days later, Janet went off in the Ambulance for her weekly Chemo treatment. When she came home, she was completely exhausted as normal and was quickly asleep. The next day she was really sick, as is so often the case after Chemo. After a further two days of being really ill, she was prescribed morphine to help with her pain which had to administered intravenously by the District Nurse. Two days later, she was in a coma and had to be rushed into hospital.

While in the hospital, my younger daughter and I were told that Janet had developed Sepsis – which apparently is not uncommon for patients undergoing Chemo – and that she would not survive the weekend (She was admitted on the Friday afternoon). The family were informed of the seriousness and they all started coming in to see her. By the Sunday, we managed secure her a bed at the local hospice and she was duly transferred.

Janet survived the weekend, but eventually passed away at 11.25pm on the Tuesday night without regaining consciousness. The wailing of my kids when she passed is a sound that will live with me for the rest of my life.


I was just completely numb for the start of June. I had her affairs to take care of, and also her funeral arrangements. Various family members kept calling at the house, and everything seemed surreal and a blur.

The funeral date arrived. I was signed off work for further 3 months due to the hospital not sanctioning my fitness to return to work and also due to Janet’s passing.

Janet’s funeral took place on the 19th. A day I will never forget and one which I never thought I would ever witness (it never occurred to me at any time in my life that she would pass before me). Again, a surreal day. Heavy rain first thing in the morning. But then the sun came out at 10am and by midday – the time of the funeral - it was a gloriously hot and humid summers day. Friends and Family turned out in force for the funeral and I met many of Janet’s friends from throughout her life – many whom I had not seen for 30 years. This also passed in a blur and soon I found myself sat in my garden drinking red wine in silent reflection.


I simply escaped to our holiday home and spent lots of time on my own in quiet reflection. I couldn't face the world. It was not lost on me the irony that we bought the holiday home with a view to enjoying our retirement there. In the event, Janet only ever got to enjoy one year in our holiday home.


Finally tied up the remainder of Janet’s affairs. Spent a lot more time in my holiday home in quiet reflection, then at the end of August I finally returned to work.


My birth month and this year I turned 60 years old. This was supposed to be when both Janet and I retired together and spent as much time as possible in our holiday home. Without Janet, retirement seemed pointless. So I decided to continue working.


Finally started to come back out of my shell and started re-engaging with the world. Spent my final month of enjoying the holiday home before Winter set in and I closed it up.


Started preparing for Christmas. Everything still felt so surreal


Spent our first Christmas without Janet. Not much celebrating was done on Christmas Day. Quite a few tears were shed. But we went through Christmas Day with exactly the same routines as we have always done, to give a sense of normality. It wasn’t a normal Christmas, we all recognised that. But we tried anyway.

And so that was my 2023. A year that will live long in the memory as the year that chewed me up and spat the pips out afterwards.

I am very much hoping that 2024 will bring a new beginning. What that looks like, I have no idea. But what has happened, has happened. I cannot turn the clock back and I cannot change anything. Here is to a happier time in 2024.

So, goodbye 2023 and good riddance !!

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