Emma Ainsworth and her dad

At 69 years young, my dad was spending his retirement skiing, pottering round the garden and spoiling our pet cats rotten. I’d never even known him to have a headache, let alone anything serious. To me he was invincible, the anchor in my life that would always be there whenever I needed him.

This time last year my view of the world completely changed. After having a cough and a bit of a sore chest for a few weeks, my dad was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer and I radically came to the realisation that he was no longer invincible. The cancer had spread to many of his other organs and left him with only a year to live. We were completely astounded. It simply didn’t make sense to me that he could be poorly, let alone terminally ill.

My response

I put on a brave face and spent endless hours researching treatments. I put all my energy into finding answers, but the only options available were my dad’s idea of hell. He’d lose his independence and be bed-bound, trapped in a room and unable to be around people.
There was no way he’d agree to that and, after more days of frenzied research, my dad made the tough decision to forego chemotherapy. An eternal optimist, he became determined to continue living his life, spending all of his time enjoying his favourite things. Although it was an incredibly difficult decision, the days that followed became eerily calm as we all realised our time together was running out and we needed to make the most of it.

Until then, I’d been focusing mostly on my career. But suddenly work wasn’t my top priority and the life I knew disappeared pretty much before my eyes. The next six months became a frantic balancing act of keeping on top of everything but never getting caught up in the detail. I couldn’t give anything my full attention and my usual high standards disappeared. Things would get done, but I wasn’t going to bully myself if they weren’t perfect. There simply wasn’t time for that.

Meeting PACT

I spent my days constantly reprioritising and asking for support from my friends and colleagues. It was then that I started going to PACT lunches, and they were an amazing anchor for me. Despite everything being completely up in the air in the rest of my life, I’d found a place where people really understood, because they were going through similar things too. We talked about anything and everything, sometimes just ending up laughing at the ridiculousness of it all.

My dad passed away on the 19 January 2019 and reality finally hit. The man who had always been there for me was gone and I had to juggle everything else without him there to support me or tell me what to do when I felt lost.

A helping hand

The following months have been incredibly hard but the amazing people I’ve met through PACT have kept me going, always there to support me, give me advice and share in my pain. It’s never easy when things in your life change, but talking about it really helps. It’s been invaluable having people around me who understand and I couldn’t have gotten through it without them.

If you’re going through something similar, or might have caring responsibilities to come in the future, come and talk to us. We’d love to see you and we’re always here with a biscuit and a brew!

Emma Ainsworth
Lean Operations Manager

 

If you want to get involved, find PACT on Yammer or email pact@coop.co.uk.

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Co-op Aspire Women's Career Network

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