St Francis 30for30: ‘We’re forever grateful for our four extra months with dad’
PUBLISHED: 10:07 08 August 2014 | UPDATED: 10:07 08 August 2014
When 48-year-old Dave Baxter went into Saint Francis Hospice in May 2013, everyone feared he had just days to live.
The former bodybuilder’s health had deteriorated rapidly since he returned from a trip to Borneo with his partner Gaynor a month earlier.
“We had hoped it was a gall bladder problem, due to his lack of appetite,” Gaynor said.
“Dave had a lump on his arm but no other obvious symptoms other than nausea and lack of appetite, but again blood tests at A&E were inconclusive and he was discharged.”
Dave, from Pilgrims Hatch near Brentwood, returned to work as a contractor at Ford in Dunton, Essex – but before long wasn’t eating and started throwing up at work.
Son Jack, 22, recalled an incident at hospital – one that testifies to Dave’s strength.
“We noticed the difference in my dad but to many people he still looked a really strong healthy man,” he said.
“At Queen’s, one of the doctors came into the room where I was waiting with him and asked: ‘Which one of you is ill?’”
An ultrasound identified lesions on Dave’s liver and a CT scan followed. In a couple of weeks, Dave learned he had malignant melanoma, an aggressive form of skin cancer which had spread to his lungs and liver.
It was close to being untreatable – so Dave was referred to Saint Francis Hospice for specialist care.
“When Eleanor (Singh) from the hospice turned up at our house it was the most looked after I had felt since the whole nightmare had started,” said Gaynor.
“She was very kind and patient with Dave, not at all condescending and also gave me a lot of support and advice.”
Just before going into the hospice, Dave was consigned to his sofa, struggling to deal with his pain, nausea and a heightened sense of smell –which made strong odours unbearable.
Gaynor remembered the day Dave was admitted to the hospice.
“I don’t think I have ever experienced such a feeling of relief as when we arrived.
“The patio garden outside the room was beautiful and the level of care was outstanding.
“Just before going in to the inpatient unit we had seen an oncologist at Barts Hospital and everyone thought Dave had just days to live.
“But he went in to the hospice and then the magic started.
“They completely managed his symptoms during his two-week stay and Dave went from being confined to bed, completely sick and incapacitated to someone who could walk and talk.”
Dave passed away on September 19, almost a full four months after moving into Saint Francis. In that time his son, Jack, only saw him cry once (“because everyone at the hospice was so kind and lovely”) and Dave remarried Gaynor.
The couple had separated after 11 years in 2001 before getting back together four years later and tying the knot for a second time last June.
“It was a really lovely day. I think that day was the last happy day the four of us had together.”
He added: “I’m forever grateful to Saint Francis Hospice for the extra time we got to spend with my dad.
“I’ve made two promises as a result of what happened to him. The first is to always be aware of melanoma – and the second is to always support the hospice”.
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