Beauty therapist Laura Kearney lost her precious dad to cancer last year after melanoma spread to other organs in his body. Here’s her heartbreaking story…
My dad (Philip) was the best dad anyone would ask for. He owned his own business and did everything for his family. We had a real daddy/daughter relationship and he was everything to me.
About seven years ago a birthmark behind my dad’s ear changed shape and colour. He asked me to have a look at it and as I’m a beauty therapist I knew straightaway it didn’t look good. It had gone darker and felt like a scab. I told him to get to the doctor ASAP to have it looked at. The results came back that it was melanoma. It was only in that area thankfully and he just had it removed and had a skin graft. He didn’t need any further treatment, just had to be vigilant and look after himself. I never really thought anymore about it.
Then in December 2015 my dad found a lump under his arm and never said anything or thought anything of it until another one appeared a few weeks later. He had a biopsy done in March, which came back positive with melanoma. I still just thought it’s my dad he’ll be grand and sure melanoma isn’t that bad! I went to every meeting with him and was shocked at what the doctors were telling us. After a CAT scan they told us the cancer was actually in a few places so we now had to go to an oncologist. The day we went to see him was the worst day of my life. He told us the cancer was in all my dad’s vital organs and that he had 20 tumours on his brain. He would have to stay in hospital that night and start radiation first thing in the morning and then after 10 rounds of radiation it would be onto chemo.
My dad still went to work every single day, even the days he had treatment. He was no longer allowed to drive so everyone pulled together and got him around. It’s amazing how kind people are when you truly need them.
We had a family holiday planned for July but unfortunately my dad had to have an emergency operation to have part of his bowel removed. I still couldn’t get my head around how sick he actually was.
After that operation he seemed ok again, kind of like my dad again. Then in September a couple of the lumps came back and were a funny colour so when he was in at one of his weekly appointments he said it to the nurse. She said I don’t really like the look of that so we’re going to keep you in and do some tests.
A few days later they came back to say the form of chemo my dad was on had stopped working and that they were going to try a new chemo after another few sessions of the radiation.
I still had no idea that my dad was actually dying at this stage. I went up to see him one of the days and seen him in a wheelchair and that’s when it hit me. Another few days later on a Thursday we were all called in to have a talk!! They told us my dad only had a couple of weeks at the most. I can’t even explain how I felt, I actually have no words.
We just tried to spend as much time with him as we could, I still thought they had it wrong.
My dad’s oncologist came to see him on the Monday and to explain to my dad that he was now too sick to try a new form of chemo. My dad asked him how long he had left and the doctor explained that it was only going to be days and this was my dad’s response word for word: “OK Dr Gallagher, can I just say thanks so much for looking after me the past few months and thanks to all the nurses they’ve all been great.”
That was my dad, always happy and thankful and just a genuinely lovely person.
My dad passed away the next morning. October 11th. He was only 54. He was the best dad to me and the best grandad to my little boy Jake. We all miss him so much and I wish melanoma was taken more seriously. I hope this story helps people realise how serious skin cancer is. Even if it helps just one person, it’s worth telling his story.