Dying dad used final days to write daughters 30 years' worth of birthday cards
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A dying dad used his final days to write birthday cards for his twin daughters for the next 30 years, having wanted to make sure he was there ‘in spirit’ even after he was gone.
Nick Keenan, from Lindfield, West Sussex, was diagnosed with a tennis ball-sized astrocytoma – a type of brain tumour - in 2015 after weeks of suffering with shooting pins and needles down his right arm.
He underwent two debulking surgeries, radiotherapy, infusion and oral chemotherapy, prescription cannabinoids and a number of natural remedies.
However, nine months after being told his tumour had developed into a glioblastoma (GBM), Nick died in November 2020, aged just 34.
Before he passed away, he wrote birthday cards for daughters Rose and Sophia, who were just 17 months old at the time.
Nick’s wife Victoria, who owns and runs Stanton Miller Recruitment, said: “Nick was everyone’s rock, and very much mine.
''He was incredibly strong and went to work every day of his radiotherapy and chemotherapy, which I was inspired by.
“He also managed to support me going through IVF like any good husband would, even though he was going through much bigger things. It was never about him.
“He was consoling others as he was dying and he wrote our girls, Rose and Sophia, birthday cards for the first 30 years of their lives.
''He wanted to be with them in spirit as they celebrated their birthdays without him.
“Hopefully, it will give them a better idea of where he was at that stage in his life.”
Victoria, 35, said Nick returned from a business trip early and said he was going to hospital.
“When I walked in the room and saw Nick had been crying, I knew that something was wrong,” she recalled.
''They sat me down and told me they’d found a lesion the size of a tennis ball on the left side of his brain, in the middle of his frontal lobe.
''They said it was slow-growing and had probably been there since he was born.”
His surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy treatment went so well that he and Victoria decided to move forward with their plans to start a family.
Victoria continued: “We just carried on with life as normal and thought we were winning, which is when we decided to go ahead with IVF.
''Then, in December 2019, when our girls were just six months old, Nick noticed his speech had become slurred.
“We contacted the doctor and ended up going back in after Christmas.”
Victoria said she had a ‘really weird gut feeling’ that would be their last Christmas together, so organised the ‘biggest celebration’.
By March the following year, they learned his tumour had developed into a glioblastoma and were told he probably had less than a year to live.
After falling unconscious one night in November 2020, Nick was taken into a local hospice, where he died the following morning.
Victoria is now campaigning alongside Brain Tumour Research to help its petition to increase research funding reach 100,000 signatures, in the hope of prompting a parliamentary debate.
The charity is calling on the government to ring-fence £100 million of current and new funding to trigger an increase in the national investment in brain tumour research, bringing it up to £35 million a year by 2028.
Victoria said: “Brain tumours are the biggest cancer killer of children and young people under the age of 40, yet they have received just 1% of the national spend on cancer research since records began in 2002.
''This is tragic and has to change. Brain cancer is such a complex and difficult cancer to treat and the only way to improve treatment options, or to find a cure, is through research.
''We, therefore, owe it to our loved ones to sign this petition.”
Charlie Allsebrook, community development manager for Brain Tumour Research, said: “Nick’s shockingly sad story is a stark reminder of the indiscriminate nature of brain tumours and the fact more has to be done to stop this disease wreaking havoc on families.''
To sign and share the petition before it closes at the end of October 2023, go to www.braintumourresearch.org/petition