Belfast Telegraph

'I'm walking for 354 hours... the time my husband had left after cancer diagnosis'

By Claire Williamson

Gillian Beattie has a poignant reason for setting herself a goal of walking for 354 hours to raise funds for charity.

For that marks the tragically short period of time she had to spend with her husband Davy after his cancer diagnosis.

The 52-year-old Ballymena woman is raising money for Macmillan Cancer Support and Cancer Research in his memory.

Davy was 63 when he passed away from an aggressive form of stomach cancer at the Macmillan Unit in Antrim in late 2017. He had received his diagnosis just over a fortnight before that.

Gillian said that prior to his diagnosis Davy had been complaining of symptoms including a swollen stomach, was not able to eat, and was taking nearly a bottle of indigestion medicine a week.

On October 15 last year he had an endoscopy and the hospital red-flagged him for a scan at the end of the month. On October 22 they had to call the emergency GP service Dalriada Urgent Care because he was so unwell.

Gillian said: "The doctor looked at Davy and he felt around his tummy and said: 'I don't want to alarm the both of you, but I'd be 99% sure you have a tumour'."

On November 9 Davy had a second endoscopy when the hospital confirmed that he had stomach cancer and that it had spread to his liver.

Three days later Gillian had to call an ambulance as Davy became unwell and he remained in hospital until he sadly passed away. She said she was in complete shock as after the initial diagnosis Davy had been told to come back and the medical staff would discuss treatment.

She said: "The hospital didn't think he would have gone as quick and he died on November 24 at 3am."

Gillian believes that throughout the illness Davy was comforted by the prospect of treatment. "He probably thought he was always going to get treatment," she said.

"But then his kidneys had failed and things like that, and it just went so, so quickly. It was unbelievable." He deteriorated and a week before he died he was moved to the Macmillan Unit.

Gillian said: "He accepted that was his new home and that his second home would be Heaven. That's all he said."

She was able to stay with him in the Macmillan Unit and was with him when he passed away.

"I got into bed at about 11pm and I said: 'Night, night, darling'. And then I kept waking up during the night," she said.

"Then at 2.50am I woke and his breathing was different. I got the nurse and she came in and she said: 'He's taking his last breath'. He died at 3am on the button." It was the 354 hours from his diagnosis to his death that inspired his wife to take up her walking challenge.

The couple, who were together for 30 years and would have been married 22 years this July, had created a bucket list of places to walk across Ireland and enjoyed exploring new places together.

"That's where I got the 354 hours from - Davy being diagnosed at 9am on November 9 and dying at 3am on November 24," said Gillian.

"It includes walks that we always would have done and then new walks which I'm going to go on myself.

"So I try on average to do 10 hours a week."

Gillian started the challenge on Sunday, March 25 and will poignantly finish it at 3am on November 24 when she will walk from her home in Ballymena to the Macmillan Unit to mark the moment when Davy passed away.

If you want to donate visit: www.justgiving.com/teams/gillian beattie354

Belfast Telegraph

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