McClean family recall last Christmas before dad David's cancer death
The family of a man who bravely fought against an aggressive form of brain cancer have told of how grateful they were to spend their last Christmas together as they hailed him as a "true gentleman" who never lost his positive outlook.
Ballymena father-of-two David McClean (53) passed away in January. His family were left heartbroken when he was diagnosed with a grade 4 glioblastoma in October 2016.
He was told by doctors in Belfast that his brain tumours were inoperable and he was given 12 months to live, but he refused to accept the bleak prognosis.
He travelled to University College London Hospital, where he underwent a seven-and-a-half hour operation. But the building contractor was then told that the tumours would start growing back immediately.
He knew his only chance was to receive immunotherapy treatment, which costs more than £200,000.
After a crowd-funding campaign he began treatment last February and it ended in May.
The family were told in August that the tumours had returned and on October 4 he was given three months to live.
He left behind his wife Dawn (50) and children Charlotte (24) and Christopher (22).
Dawn and David were childhood sweethearts and were married for 26 years. She told the Belfast Telegraph she misses his mischievous personality.
She said: "He was always laughing and he used to make us laugh with his laugh. He always saw the best in people."
Dawn recalled how David would always joke that she loved their three dogs more than him.
She said: "I'd say, 'Tell me you love them', and he'd say, "I like them, they are only dogs'.
"He always said, 'You love those dogs more than me'.
"One of the times near the end, I said, 'Do you know how much I love you David? More than Holly' - she's the wee one - and he said, 'That must be a wile lot'."
Daughter Charlotte said: "He had such a positive outlook on life, even when he was ill.
"He was always trying to help others, he had a really caring nature and was always telling us how much he loved us. He would do anything for anyone."
Dawn recalled how she never heard him complain once during his treatment and that all he wanted was to spend time with his family.
"That was all he wanted in the end - to spend time with me, Charlotte and Christopher," Dawn said.
Charlotte explained: "That's what happened when he did pass, it was just us there holding his hand. When it came to the end he only wanted the three of us with him, and the night he died there only was the three of us with him."
David wanted to have Christmas with his family and that was the last day he was out of bed before passing away.
Charlotte said: "We had him at the top of the table where he always was. He said he wanted to see Christmas and he did. So at least we were able to have him at home and have dinner with the family and just be together."
Asked what it was that helped David keep such a positive outlook, Charlotte said it was his family.
"It was us. He didn't want to leave us. He's a big family man, everything he's done, he did it for us.
"He was such a gentleman, that's what everybody said about him, he was one of life's true gentlemen," she said.
The family have been inundated with support and cards, with many sending heartfelt messages. Dawn added: "We really want to send our heartfelt thank you to everyone who donated to make David's treatment possible because it gave him extra time. And to all the medical staff connected with his care."