What’s it like to lose your husband before he turns 40? A Woodford Green woman shares her story
PUBLISHED: 17:30 03 August 2017 | UPDATED: 12:08 04 August 2017
Brain Tumour Research
When Shaz Hetherington was 31 weeks pregnant with her first child in 2010, her husband David was diagnosed with a brain tumour.
Initial testing showed the tumour was stable and not cancerous but doctors warned the couple to expect that to change.
Four years later, just eight weeks after the birth of his second child, David began to suffer agonising headaches and there were occasions when he couldn’t stand up straight or move.
A biopsy confirmed that his tumour had changed and was now a grade four glioblastoma – the most aggressive form of brain cancer.
The caring father and loving husband lost his battle with the disease on November 24 2016, leaving behind his wife Shaz, daughter Layla and son Daniel.
David was just 39 years old.
Determined not to let anyone else go through what she has, Shaz, of Woodford Green, has spoken out about brain tumours, and told the Recorder she hopes to raise awareness about the disease.
She said: “It is shocking to learn that brain tumours kill more children and adults who, like him, are under the age of 40, than any other cancer.
“Yet just one percent of the national spend on cancer research has been allocated to this devastating disease.”
The couple met at work in Canary Wharf and supported each other through thick and thin after striking up a romance, said Shaz.
She said: “We were on different teams but sat fairly close to each other and our friendship grew from there.
“He was just a really, really funny guy, the type of person who could make anyone laugh.
“David was so inclusive, no matter what walk of life you were from, and he had this rare and wonderful ability to bring people together.”
When the couple married in 2010, David’s father John, an accomplished pianist, played The Carpenters’ Close to You as Shaz walked down the aisle.
But within months of their wedding, David was forced to attend the doctors after he started struggling to speak
Shaz said: “It was happening at work and there would be 30 seconds or a minute during which he just couldn’t find the words to speak.
“Our GP put it down to stress but my gut told me it was more than that, David was a fit and healthy guy, he played football every week, and things didn’t seem right.
“Fortunately, we had private health care through work and he was able to have an MRI scan. Two days later we discovered he had a mass on his brain.”
The shock of the diagnosis immediately after their wedding was devastating news for the couple - especially as Shaz was 31 weeks pregnant with Layla.
She said: “Our perspective and priorities changed; we tried to live every day to the fullest even if we were just hanging around the house.
“I took tens of thousands of photos wanting to capture David with Layla and then with Daniel.”
In 2014, David started radiotherapy and chemotherapy and started making provisions for the future - including a digital time capsule for the children.
The couple set up two email accounts where David could write to the children so that there will be messages for them in the future.
By September 2016, David’s health had severely deteriorated.
As Shaz drove the children to school one day, he succumbed to a seizure whilst waving goodbye outside the family home, and she was forced to abandon the car and run to him.
Following his death in November, the family are set to lead nearly 100 friends, relatives, and colleagues of David on a charity walk this weekend.
The Walk4David40 event will take place on Sunday 6th August, on what would have been his 40th birthday, and will start from the HSBC tower in Canary Wharf where the couple met.
The event is raising money for the charity Brain Tumour Research which funds scientists who are focused on finding a cure and improving outcomes for patients.
The charity is campaigning to see the national spend on brain tumour research increased to £30 - £35 million a year, in line with breast cancer and leukaemia.
David’s friends and family will be joining in the event across the globe, including the Greek island of Kos where his brother John is on holiday.
His parents John and Judith will be walking in Carlisle and there will also be Walk4David40 events in Bulgaria, Whitstable, and in Brisbane and Sydney, Australia, where former team members from the bank now live.
The family will be releasing 40 balloons in London and Carlisle with birthday wishes for David.
Shaz added: “I know that the walk will be a very emotional occasion but it is so important to us that we mark what would have been David’s 40th birthday and to celebrate his life.”
To make a donation to Brain Tumour Research in memory of David go to www.justgiving.com/fundraising/walk4david40.
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