The Unexpected: Coping with Unexpected Tragedy

Have you ever been subjected to a random act of kindness? A friendly smile on the train? A gift from a friend? A warm hug from a loved one?

Nothing quite strums our heartstrings like a spontaneous gesture of benevolence.

For the past six months, despite receiving a devastating diagnosis, thousands of people have been displaying their endless goodwill towards my partner and her family. Let me explain.

An Unexpected Turn of Events

Just last year, the end of Christmas time brought with it a series of entirely unexpected events for my fianceé.

She started studying to become a nurse during the latter half of 2017. Her long hours and busy schedule brought with them tremendous amounts of stress, causing her to suffer from terrible headaches.

After starting placement at a local hospital, her head had been pounding for days. No amount of aspirin could shift the awful pain that sat just above her left ear. We took her to see her doctor and were reassured that her symptoms were most likely due to stress. Nothing serious.

Another week passed and still no improvement. The medication she’d been given wasn’t helping. And now, she wasn’t just suffering from headaches. Her ability to read was quickly diminishing and her vision deteriorating.

She was hurried to see her optician for a second opinion. It was there the vessels behind her eyes were found to be swollen due to pressure - most likely coming from inside her head.

After being rushed into hospital, spending the night in A&E and being subjected to scan after scan after scan, we received the diagnosis the following morning.

It wasn’t stress. It was brain cancer.

Bad Times, Good People

A malignant brain tumor wasn’t quite what any of us had expected to be the culprit behind her symptoms.

But this isn’t a story about brain cancer. It isn’t even about my partner. It’s about the wonderful acts of kindness that have been performed on our behalf to support her.

Emma’s diagnosis was a tough one to swallow. Her cancer was incurable, and her oncologists were tasked with the mission of trying to control that monster inside her head, but never able to fully banish it.

As her carer’s, Emma’s family and I were quick to explore any alternative treatments that might have been available elsewhere. We searched everywhere, from Germany to Austria, and were met with some promising offers.

A German clinic boasted having had excellent results with brain cancer patients in the past. We were interested, but there was one problem. In the UK, oncological treatment is free. In Heidelberg, it’s extortionate. It would cost us over €100,000. Per week.

There wasn’t a chance any of us could afford that kind of treatment - even if we put all of our money together. The only option we had was fundraising.

Without us even having to ask, friends of Emma’s family immediately set up crowdfunding pages to start generating funds for her as quickly as possible.

Within four minutes, £1,000 had been donated by friends of Emma’s.

Within days, £20,000.

Within weeks, it was £30,000.

We were blown away by the incredible amount of money being donate to her cause. Without hesitation, friends, family and total strangers were sending hundreds of pounds at a time our way to help Emma.

Since then, we’ve been subjected to the most incredible amounts of generosity. To list but a few of the measured that have been taken to raise money for Emma:

  • The Co-operative in-store fundraising
  • Thousands of individual donations
  • A sponsored black-tie dinner event
  • A sponsored coffee morning
  • A fundraising music concert
  • A sponsored horse racing event
  • A sponsored crossfit competition and BBQ
  • Several sponsored non-school uniform days (funds donated from three different local schools)

Even now, after all of the fundraising that’s already taken place, many more people are offering both their financial and emotional support to her cause. We’ve been blown away by the unlimited kindness that’s been displayed by those around us.

How is She Now?

Emma has not yet travelled overseas to receive treatment. Before spending money on any particular treatment path, we’d like to first investigate all possible options and evaluate each one.

That aside, Emma is doing fantastically well.

Every day since her diagnosis has seen her improving. Her tumor has shrunk considerably in size and, at the moment, she is responding fantastically well to treatment. Better than any of us had anticipated.

What began as the most devastating news I could ever have dreaded to receive has transformed into a beautiful reflection of the good of humanity.

For everybody that has supported us, every penny donated, and the tremendous outcome of Emma’s treatment so far, I am eternally grateful.

We humans are pretty fantastic. Never lose faith in humanity.