Location: King’s Lynn
Condition: Malignant Melanoma
In November 1997, eight year old Ainlee’s life was to change forever. Her Mother was diagnosed as terminally ill with malignant melanoma. She had been diagnosed late on in her illness, so sadly her tumours had spread beyond the point of being treatable. Devastatingly, Ainlee’s Mother died within just two months.
Ainlee remembers well the moment she was told her Mother had passed away. “I was at school and thought that something bad had happened when I saw my dad, brothers and sisters waiting in the school office. I remember vividly feeling very frightened and I ran away into the playground.”
Ainlee and her family carried on, struggling through the days without their Mum around. Ainlee is one of four siblings by her mum, and she also has two older siblings by her Dad. They supported each other through and her Dad took care of the four children by himself. The youngest sister was only 6 when she lost her Mum.
Devastatingly, this was not to be Ainlee’s last experience of cancer. When Ainlee was only 17, her Dad was also diagnosed with cancer. In September 2006, he was told he had malignant melanoma that had caused secondary cancers. Because the children had already lost their Mum to cancer, he felt he couldn’t tell them until he was absolutely certain he couldn’t get better. He told his children on the 16th October. His youngest daughter’s 15th birthday was the day before and he felt he couldn’t ruin it for her so waited until afterwards.
Ainlee says, “Nothing could have prepared me for hearing that my dad had cancer. It was the worst news anyone could have given me. After losing my Mum I was so scared and the thought of losing my dad was unbearable. At 17 years old I didn’t feel able to cope with it and stayed round friend’s houses so I could try and forget what was happening. I was so frightened of seeing my dad looking so poorly.”
After only 6 weeks, Ainlee’s Dad lost his battle with cancer. He died on his eldest daughter’s birthday and only 2 months before she was due to marry. Tonia, who now manages the Big C Centre in King’s Lynn, had to organise a wedding and her Father’s funeral at the same time.
The children all felt very alone with their grief. At the time there was no support, no counselling, no one to help them through. They struggled to cope with losing both of their parents at such young ages. Ainlee feels she and her siblings could have had their lives changed had there been a Big C Centre in King’s Lynn at that time. The four younger children all went to live in different places. Her brothers went to live with friends, her younger sister went to live with some friends of the family and Ainlee went to live with her boyfriend. Without professional support or her siblings around, Ainlee struggled through the next few years. She became depressed and found herself in debt. She eventually moved to Wales to live with her Aunt who found some counselling for her and helped her through those dark days. When she felt better, Ainlee returned to Norfolk.
Ainlee feels she and her siblings will use the Big C Centre in King’s Lynn and it will help them even now, 7 years on. All four of them will benefit from counselling and Ainlee hopes it will help bring the family back together. They don’t know what to do with themselves at the moment; they feel lost. She hopes support from people at the Big C Centre will give them all the confidence to move on with their lives and help them cope with what they’ve had to live through.