A Tsunami of Dates

By Emma Pearson

May 25, 2024

31 March 2019

I am in my “Tsunami of Dates”. “The” Dates. The numbers in the calendar that are no longer meaningless, no longer innocent, no longer equal to all the others, but that instead are hard. Damned hard. Layered, weighed down with meaning and heavy sighs.

There are Mike’s dates, and there are my dates. Mike’s dates are the medical ones, the scans, the chemo, the biopsies and the emergencies.

My dates are special events, ones usually celebrated with joy and gusto, but that now feel bittersweet and laboured. Somewhat hollow.

Mike’s dates start on 28th October 2016, when his niggling sensation of a tugging feeling on his side led him to the doctor and then a scan at a local imaging place. He thought he’d pulled something while working on the exhaust pipe under my car and perhaps he had a small hernia?

4th November 2016 was a more rigorous scan, an MRI at the local hospital. We didn’t get “the” diagnosis that day but we did get terribly bad news. Cancer visible in four places. Stage 4 cancer of the something or other. From there it was finding a specialist in a bigger hospital, biopsy, and starting chemo on 25th November and official diagnosis of Pancreatic cancer somewhere in the mix.

December came and went with more chemo, a last trip to the UK to see Megan in a show, and a terribly hard Christmas. I can’t recall anything about January 2017 but my diary shows that quite a lot was going on both for me and for Mike. There was one very scary emergency trip to hospital through driving snow. Late January we found out from a scan that the chemo was working “a little”, but that another type might be more effective. That started on 8th Feb after yet another scan.

But the dangling carrot was Immunotherapy which was due to start mid-February. Delays, requests for more blood tests and another biopsy on 2nd March. Another emergency trip on 6th March after our local firemen had trampled through the house at 7h00, just as the kids had left for school.

Then hearing the devastating news that Mike’s haemoglobin levels were now too high for him to be eligible for the Immunotherapy. His liver suffering too much with the cancer there.

A crippling blow, and I suspect for Mike, the biggest and hardest news he had to digest during the short course of his illness. The emotional processing of that for both him and the specialist is another story I will have to write about one day. Suffice to say that the oncologist couldn’t bear to call Mike with the news but delegated it to her boss and had him pretend she was on holiday. 

From there it was fast and furious. Another trip back to the original oncologist of the first chemo rounds who said, “We can try the initial chemo again”. To which Mike said, “No thank you – I prefer quality of life over quantity”. Another doctor whose emotional bond with Mike was very strong and who sat speechless with us for minutes after Mike spoke.

Rapidly, a decision for Mike to enter hospice. We didn’t want to risk him having another emergency and dying in hospital. He wanted to be at Maison de Tara – the home from home – as a generous gift to all of us, to prevent us having to do the really hard work of caring 24/7, because of not wanting to “medicalise” the house, because of not wanting the kids, two of whom were in crucial school/exam years from having imminent death under their noses.

19 March 2019 – Mike wrote his final love letter to family and friends, and friends and family spent the day with us

20 March 2017 – leaving home for the last time and moving into hospice at Maison de Tara

27 March 2017 – my 50th birthday, spent at Tara

30th March 2017 – Julia’s 13th birthday

8th April 2017 – Mike died

13th April 2017 – Our 21st Wedding Anniversary and Mike’s Funeral

17th April 2017 – Megan’s 16th birthday

2nd May 2017 – Ben’s 18th birthday

Fast and furious dates.

A hailstorm of dates.

A veritable tsunami of dates.

I imagine juicy fat medjool dates, hammering the bicycle spokes of my life. Causing me to judder and shudder as they come around each year. Throwing me off course.



I am in them now. Right in the middle. It’s hard.

Julia’s 15th birthday was yesterday. No dad. I missed our habitual cake and champagne in the garden.

Megan’s 18th is coming up. I so wish she had her dad for it. She should have her dad. We will do our best to celebrate, but so much of what helps make a birthday joyful and memorable is gone.

I love spring.

And it’s hard.

And I hate its connotations.

I hate the tsunami of dates that goes with it.

About Emma Pearson

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