I lost my wife to cancer. Now my son is a patient
Martin McLagan, 55, father of testicular cancer patient Cameron, 20
When a loved one is diagnosed with cancer, an overwhelming feeling of guilt really sets in. Everything I said appeared futile when my late wife Jackie, then 33, was told she had advanced breast cancer. Our only child, Cameron, was just one year old at the time.
Jackie passed away when Cameron was 12. Seven years later, those feelings of guilt and futility came flooding back when he was diagnosed with testicular cancer in exactly the same consulting room at The Royal Marsden where Jackie had been diagnosed all those years before.
In September 2017, Cameron had just started his second year at university when he called me to say he was in hospital with fluid on his lung. It brought back memories of his mum’s illness, as she had suffered greatly from this in her last five years. Days later, we were sitting in the outpatient clinic room at The Royal Marsden to see Professor Robert Huddart and my emotions were in turmoil.
Cameron, now 20, has displayed his mum’s qualities from the start. We have always had a ‘let’s get on with it’ attitude – it was the only way we could come to terms with the cards life was dealing us.
A ‘let’s get on with it’ attitude was the only way to come to terms with the cards life was dealing us
I had managed to shelter Cameron from the 11 years of treatment his mum went through, so coming to The Royal Marsden was not a dreaded experience for him. For me, coming back here was surprisingly OK, despite the fact that it was where Jackie passed away. I was just glad that Cameron could be treated in the Oak Centre for Children and Young People, as it’s a world away from what I’d expect in a hospital facility.
My biggest worry was that Cameron would be scared by my experience of cancer. But one of The Royal Marsden’s psychologists helped me manage that worry by explaining that I had to keep him floating at the right level, like a balloon.
Cancer obviously creates many negatives in everyone’s lives, but it has also made Cameron and I very close. I know that Jackie would be very proud of how he has developed as a young man.