Cancer In Young Adults ... Through Parents’ Eyes

Narratives & Stories

Jason's story

Jason was a young farmer who was passionate about the countryside and rural affairs. His hobby was “Lawn Mower Racing”, and according to his mum this ‘strange sport’ was the accomplishment he was proudest of. He was the world champion for his class of lawn mower in 2003. He was diagnosed with cancer of the tongue, just before his 28th birthday in June 2004, and he died just after his 30th birthday in July 2006.

Jason’s mother has agreed that the following extracts from an email she sent to the George Easton Cancer Trust can be included on this site.

In the course of writing the page (for the AVERT charity website) I read Anne’s book which I found really interesting. I also read a couple of other books about young people dying of cancer, “On his own 2 feet”, and “Staring at the ceiling”. I don’t know why it is that it always seems to be mothers writing about their sons, there seem to be rather few instances of people writing about their daughters or indeed fathers writing. With regard to Jason there seem to be both similarities and differences between his experiences and indeed ours, and those of the other “young adults”. The most notable similarities were, as I have mentioned before, the question of sex and relationships and his attempts to protect his parents. Like most young people Jason wanted a long term relationship, and wanted to have children. Once he had cancer, certainly terminal cancer, any new long term relationship was unlikely, and although some sex with girlfriends survived, some sex was also paid for. Jason also specifically didn’t want to have a child once he knew how ill he was. With regard to protecting us, I think that he knew how ill he was for quite some time before the doctors said that they couldn’t operate. But he hoped that we didn’t know. He also tried to protect us from knowing how tired he had been. But there were also differences with Jason, and I think that they were particularly about his age and independence, including financial independence, and also about how he died. His finances meant that he could pay without too much difficulty the travel costs of all his visits to the hospital, and they were quite accommodating, for example, in arranging radiotherapy times so that Jason could get the cheap train to London. I also read in one account (I can’t remember whose) about the pleasure that a dying young man obtained from buying things on the internet. Well Jason also got through a lot of money in the last few months of his life, and much of the purchasing was done online.

Our costs were also significant not only with travel costs, but also the effect on our farm business. I don’t think that we really realised until after Jason’s death, quite how much we had put many aspects of life, and indeed the business, on “hold” during the two years he was ill. But nothing happened, or rather didn’t happen, that can’t be done now, and we are not, for example, having to cope with a lot of debt, or a financial deterioration in our life because of Jason’s cancer. Another difference was that although we saw Jason almost every day he had completely separate accommodation next door, and was able to come and go as he pleased and without us knowing. There never was any question of him moving back into our house, as it wasn’t something he would have ever wanted. Pete and I had already discussed the fact, that if Jason got to a stage that he needed someone there at night, that if we couldn’t arrange things any other way, then Pete would go and sleep over at Jason’s in his second bedroom whenever it was needed. The reason that it was going to be Pete, is that firstly he was closer to Jason in some ways, partly because he worked with him on a daily basis. But also, if someone had to do very personal things for him, it seemed that it was going to be less of an invasion of his privacy for Pete to do it, than if I was to do it. Jason was also adamant that I should go on working full time (not that I was actually doing that, or at least not in the office).

With regard to how he died, although I would of course have loved to have him around for another six months or longer, I am actually now pleased that neither he nor us, had to go through a long period of slow decline and much more suffering. I don’t know whether I told you, but Jason got told he was terminally ill one afternoon, and he died the following morning. And when he died, it was in our house, with his younger brother and Pete and myself there, and it was quick and he didn’t suffer. But he did have the previous evening to plan, and both he and us made good use of that time. He did the things which were really important to him, such as arranging for his brother to look after his dog, and arranging with us that he wouldn’t ever go into a home. He also told his best friend that he might need to tell me …….his email password. The friend did tell me, and as a result I was able to read Jason’s email and contact some of his friends that way. Jason wanted to stay in control, which he did, and in some ways his death had similarities with what happens when a young adult dies in a car crash. I think that this is probably all I am going to be able to send you about what happened to Jason. As the months go by the sadness is still there, and will of course be for a long time. But life does go on, and although I am taking forward some of what happened in the professional work I do, I don’t find it particularly helpful to look back at the detail of what happened.