Journey’s End

Find me

Journey’s End

This post is written by a heartbroken mum, Diane, as we have lost our beloved Julian.

 

It seems only right to document his last days in the same spirit as his blog has been written, ie very frankly, although there were some events almost too painful to recall, like having to go to Dorset County Hospital two days after the terminal diagnosis, where a Dr asked Julian if he had signed an end of life consent form (it was the first we had heard of it) ”you don’t want to be resuscitated do you, they break your ribs and everything doing that”. Charming.  Fortunately such insensitivity was far from typical.
Looking back at Julians blog and photos, one relives the horror of the past two years, but there was never a shred of self-pity and he was always more concerned at the effect it was having on his loved ones. If he could have written this himself, no doubt he would have found a way to include some humour too.

 

I do wish I could offer some message of hope in the fight against Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare and aggressive cancer which usually affects children and young adults, especially males, and often sports people who, like Julian, assume the discomfort to be a sports injury, delaying the early diagnosis that could prevent the spread of the disease.
Due to the relatively low number of people affected, there are limited resources devoted to research into the disease. There are no treatments specifically for Ewing’s, any treatments used have been designed for other cancers. There are glimmers of hope coming from the USA where there are phase 1 trials into at least two treatments specifically designed to treat Ewing’s as well as research into gene therapy and immunotherapy, but there is a long way to go and sadly, treatments which show promise in the lab or on mice, often do not work well when eventually tried on humans.

 

When Julian was diagnosed in January 2015 we knew it was very serious but in December that year, after successive rounds of extremely toxic chemotherapy, radiotherapy and radical surgery, we were full of optimism as it appeared the battle was won, at least for the present, and the Fightback to Fitness could begin.
A terrible characteristic of Ewings is that it often metastasises (spreads to other parts of the body) even more readily than most cancers, but we were shocked to learn that it had done so, or that suspected mets already existing had not responded to treatment, as soon as January 2016.

 

We knew from Dr. Google that the prognosis for patients with metastases was “grim” and survival rates for a year from diagnosis were just 5%.
It is typical of Julian that not only did he succeed in being among the 5% but he did it with such grace. More gruelling rounds of chemo followed, in Southampton and later at University College London Hospital, and he never gave up trying to help himself by staying physically and mentally as strong as possible with diet, meditation, yoga, complementary medicine and by just trying to get on with life. Despite feeling pretty rough, he embarked on projects around the home, completely redesigning the garden then building some garden furniture and an outside gym. He refused to be inconvenienced by only having one good arm, further surgery was required on the bad arm but that would have required a break from chemo which was not possible.

 

He became involved in Trekstock, an organisation which brings together young people suffering from cancer for mutual support and events.
Axa healthcare approached him to get involved with a media campaign to help people talk about cancer, which he did.
He also made a video for a digital tv channel about dealing with cancer, which can be seen on Youtube. He looked so handsome being interviewed on the beach at Canford Cliffs but the afternoon was long and it started to get quite cool. He had skipped lunch and there was nowhere handy to get some food, anything let alone his usual healthy grub. By the time we got back to the car he was so poorly he could not drive and I had to drive us home. Its a great video and might help some people, I am so proud he did it, and on the day he just wouldn’t let the cancer stop him.

 

 

What turned out to be Julian’s final appointment at University College London Hospital was on Friday 13th January, to discuss the results of his latest scan, but hey we’re not superstitious. The oncologist brought the appointment forward to the 11th. “That can’t mean good news” said Julian. Ever the optimist, I said perhaps a place had come available on the trial he had hoped to get on but which had been fully subscribed, or maybe the doctor was rescheduling due to the threatened train strike on the Friday.
When we sat down with Dr Strauss we soon realised the gravity of the situation. She showed us the scans and Julian’s liver looked bad, no wonder he was finding walking or even standing up so painful. The chemo clearly wasn’t working and she said he was too ill to have the final drug combination that he had not yet tried.
Julian asked how long he had… “Weeks or short months” she said sadly. I wouldn’t want her job.
There were no tears or histrionics, Julian, dad Des and I were more concerned about collecting the car and getting out of London before the rush hour. Looking back, that seems strange after receiving such news but two years of fighting cancer alters what is “normal” plus I think we were all in shock.
I assumed Julian would have at least 6-8 weeks and we would talk about it in due course, but sadly his condition deteriorated quite rapidly.
The next day, Thursday 12th January, a Weldmar Hospice community nurse came to the house to meet Julian and draw up a care plan but by the end of the following week, after yet another night of agonising pain, despite morphine, she suggested it might be best to be admitted to the Hospice to get the pain under control. Even then we thought he might yet return home to end his days there, but it was not to be.

 

Julian’s passing was made bearable for him and us, by the wonderful people at the Hospice in Dorchester. It is a beautiful place but walking in there with Julian, for the first time since the whole nightmare began I had an overwhelming rush of emotion. I controlled it of course, things were bad enough without a hysterical mum.
From then on, the wonderful team were constantly on hand to administer medication as and when required, as well as tea and sympathy. They provide a service nobody else can. There are no treatments offered, palliative care is their thing and they are so expert at it, along with the most fantastic holistic support not just for the patient but for friends and family, who were all welcome to visit any time of the night or day, including Archie, Julian’s adorable French Bulldog.
Julian’s sister Amelia has set up a collection for Weldmar Hospicecare Trust in Julian’s memory on justgiving.com

 

One of the characteristics of Ewing’s Sarcoma is that it often causes the worst pain at night, and nobody knows why. Increasing medication was administered around the clock but after another really bad night, on Monday 30th January Doctor Paul came in the morning whilst Julian was sleeping, and gently told us the only way to make him comfortable would be to give him doses of painkiller and sedative that would render him unconscious. He was too sleepy to be party to that discussion, partly because of the medication and partly because of the effects of toxins coming from his liver but we knew it had to be done.

 

That morning, a package arrived at the Hospice. Des and I were taken to an office and told that knowing he was a big rugby fan, some of the nurses had been in touch with the England Rugby Squad who were busy preparing for the forthcoming Six Nations Tournament, to ask if they could do something special for Julian. In fact he had tickets for the England v Italy match on 26th Feb at Twickenham and had been hoping to be well enough to go.
Having established he was a bona fide rugby player and ex-Captain of Weymouth Rugby Club, they sent him a card, a shirt and a ball, all signed by the whole England squad. When Julian opened his eyes briefly, Des showed him the gifts and he smiled and said “that’s amazing” before falling back to sleep. I believe those were his last words, it was certainly the last time we saw that beautiful smile. The medications were increased that day inducing a deep sleep and he passed away in the early hours of the morning 6 days later on Sunday 5th February.

 

We are so grateful for the great kindness and sympathy, as well as the overwhelming love, affection and respect that has been expressed by so many people who knew Julian from various aspects of his life. The family feel so proud and fortunate to have had had such a brave, funny, inspirational son and brother.

 

Thank you for reading this post and Julian’s blog, which he enjoyed writing (a talent we had not known he had) and he much appreciated the feedback. I am monitoring his mailbox and social media accounts so if anyone wants to get in touch please do.

 

Finally, having made us laugh and cry with his eulogy, Will, Julian’s brother summed up our feelings with the following words….

“Since he departed from us the World seems a much darker place, but I can guarantee that it’s still far lighter than if he never arrived”

 

 

 

You Might Also Like

21 Comments

  • Jennifer McCallion

    Dear Diane,

    This was so touching. Beautifully written, Diane. I think about you often and send you best wishes.

    March 28, 2017 at 2:56 pm Reply
    • Julian

      Thank you Jennifer, I look forward to meeting you x

      March 30, 2017 at 7:52 am Reply
  • Jane skerritt

    I’ve followed Julian’s blog through is fight and it’s so sad this courageous kind loving young man has passed away , I hope one day there is a cure for this terrible disease that takes so many good people

    March 28, 2017 at 5:07 pm Reply
    • Julian

      I am sure it will come, Jane, eventually. Thank you for your kind message.

      March 30, 2017 at 7:51 am Reply
  • Sally Chittick

    Thank you Diane for those beautiful words, which must have been so very difficult for you to write. I was fortunate enough to know Julian for several years through the rugby club, he made a friend of all who knew him, and inspired everyone with his courageous attitude to his illness. Thinking of you, Des, and all the family with love…Sally Chittick.

    March 28, 2017 at 5:48 pm Reply
    • Julian

      Hello Sally, yes it was hard but these thoughts are constantly in my mind at the moment anyway, and it seemed only right to write the concluding chapter. Thank you for your good wishes x

      March 30, 2017 at 7:50 am Reply
  • Michael Andrews

    Some might consider it odd or even inconsiderate that I am expressing my sincere condolences and my thoughts after Julian’s death, when we never stayed in contact after leaving All Saints in 2004. My apologies, offence is not intended at such a sensitive and difficult time. Julian was in my tutor group at All Saints and I first met him during my final year of primary school at Holy Trinity, when I moved down from Essex. I suppose at the time, I just saw him as a regular guy and though we were friendly, we were not exactly friends as such, neither enemies. Just neutral. I don’t mind admitting that I certainly did not appreciate the person he was after reading this blog and watching the video. I am not going to be insulting as to pretend that I knew Julian well. I write this because I am certainly touched by his efforts to try and continue in a positive frame of mind despite the difficulties he faced. It is unfair that somebody so positive and brave with a whole life ahead of them and roughly the same age as myself had it cut short so cruelly. For me, that’s what hits me most, because I never took the opportunity to get to know Julian and now I never will. News of his death and his struggle has certainly made me realise how much I take for granted in my own life. We may not have stayed in contact and we may not have hung out at school. But I am sorry to learn of his death and the struggle he faced in the end. I am also more aware of the type of cancer he had, something I knew nothing about. I may not have taken the time to know Julian well. But I will take the time to say that if I have nothing else to remember about him, I will remember writing this in his memory. I just hope that in doing so, I have not come across insensitive or caused offence in any way.

    March 28, 2017 at 5:54 pm Reply
    • Julian

      Hello Michael I think we all realise through our lives, that people we were at school with had qualities we had not recognised as children. Thank you for your message and although you never new Julian well, you have connected in this way, which is very thoughtful of you and he would have appreciated that.

      March 30, 2017 at 7:47 am Reply
  • Claire

    I followed Julian’s fightback2fitness with admiration and amazement, his outlook on life and the way he handled his diagnosis and treatment was a true inspiration. He meant a great deal to my brother Gary, Kerri and their boys, i was always moved by the way they spoke about him. Thank you for this post x

    March 28, 2017 at 7:00 pm Reply
    • Julian

      Thank you Claire, they were so supportive of Julian and I believe those lovely little boys helped lift his spirits during difficult times x

      March 30, 2017 at 7:39 am Reply
  • Janice Douthwaite

    Beautifully written Diane, like many others I read Julian’s updates and really hoped that he would make a recovery. He really was inspirational and what an amazing young man! Thank you for taking time to write your thoughts…I am sure Julian would be very proud of you too. Our thoughts are with you and all Julian’s family and friends. X

    March 29, 2017 at 5:22 pm Reply
    • Julian

      Thank you for your kind words Janice, I think we were all focussed on a recovery but it was a formidable enemy. Julian’s friends are being so kind and supportive and it is a great comfort xx

      March 30, 2017 at 7:35 am Reply
  • Sheila Vickers

    My heart goes out to you . My son Andrew passed away in 2010 , he was at Exeter university with Julian and I am so sorry that you are also now a grieving mum .
    Julian’s blog was inspirational , I am sure that he touched many people with his words .
    Much love x

    March 29, 2017 at 7:45 pm Reply
    • Julian

      Thank you for your message Sheila. I am so sorry to hear of the loss of Andrew. Those St Luke’s boys had such energy and zest for life, its too sad xx

      March 30, 2017 at 7:33 am Reply
  • Deb Anderson

    We lived next door to you all at Netherton and Jessie stayed friends with Julian on FB so had told me about his blog. Having read your final entry I can see where he got his dignity and courage from. Those of us who have not been through the unbearable tragedy of losing a child can only imagine the pain. My heart goes out to you all. I am sure that the words you have both written will help others.

    March 30, 2017 at 11:47 am Reply
    • Julian

      Many thanks for your kind words.

      Diane

      July 10, 2017 at 11:14 pm Reply
  • Mary scholz

    You have such treasured memories of Julian & to share them with us on a Final blog was very emotional & heartbreaking for you ,
    I followed Julian’s blog & I was convinced he would beat it after all his efforts ..I never met Julian only knew of him through phoebe .
    Stay strong Diane .X

    April 26, 2017 at 8:24 am Reply
    • Julian

      Thank you Mary, we all thought if anyone could beat this, Julian could, but Ewings is a beast…

      Thank you for getting in touch, your support is much appreciated.

      Diane x

      July 10, 2017 at 11:18 pm Reply
  • Karen Hayter

    Dear Diane,
    I had the pleasure of working with Julian at H&R Healthcare. He was charming, courteous, well mannered, good fun and I often joked with him that he was my ‘grown-up adopted son’ as if my Henry grows up to be like him, I will have done a fantastic job.
    We often worked together, mainly at exhibitions as I live in West Sussex and our work sometimes overlapped. I loved spending those days with him as we often talked about my son and his swimming and life. I remember him telling me about the house he was buying with his friends and all the trials and tribulations that go along with it.
    All of us at H&R have been affected by Julian. He was a man lighting up the room and a lot of us women’s hearts too, the friendly and able colleague who would go out of his way to help and support you, the superb athlete who often gave me advice when my son was swimming at county competitions. He was a wonderful man.

    I kept in contact with him during his illness and his optimism and hope shone through even towards the end of his life. Seeing him at conference last September was so heartwarming and I remember the hug he gave me. A big bear hug from a beautiful big man.
    I miss him and there is a space in my heart for him always.

    Much love
    Karen Hayter

    May 30, 2017 at 10:07 am Reply
    • Julian

      Thank you so much Karen, what a beautiful message, you have summed Julian up so well. The family were very touched by the kindness shown to him by colleagues. He was delighted to be invited to join you all last September and I know it made him happy.
      Sending our kindest regards to all at H&R Healthcare.

      Love
      Diane

      July 10, 2017 at 11:10 pm Reply
  • Anon

    Such a sad loss, such a cruel disease. So sorry for your loss. I never knew Julian but attended the same school and did see him around. He was a good 4/5 years younger than myself but remember his presence at school and his love and talent for sport.

    July 2, 2017 at 5:20 pm Reply
  • Leave a Reply

    December Update

    Blog by Julian Quick