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Joanthan Herron Cont.

Jonathan’s parents, Rod and Jackie, have very bravely put together the rest of Jon’s story. It is truly a moving and fitting tribute to a very special son, brother, grandson, uncle and dear friend. Here is Jackie and Rod’s completion of Jon’s story…….

Sadly Jon never managed to get any more of his story done. We, as his family, would like to attempt to do our best to complete it for him.

We do this as a tribute to Jon’s remarkable courage and bravery in the hope of keeping his memory alive.

It is the very least we can do for him.

Needless to say our efforts will not be as articulate or precise as Jon’s, but we’d like to try.

Jon’s story in his own words finished where he had a core biopsy done with thankfully a negative result.

At the same time I (his mum) had been diagnosed with lymphoma. We thought it best not to tell Jon as he had more than enough to contend with and we didn’t want to distress him.

After my surgery, Jon arrived home on a planned visit for a week. On the Saturday he noticed the scar I’d been trying to hide and was devastated when told the cause of it.

We had known for quite a while that Jon’s relationship with his fiancee was not going well but alas we weren’t aware just how bad it had become.

He had been planning to marry in August but with his surgery and subsequent treatment he realized he wasn’t strong enough for all the preparation and planning for such an event. Therefore the marriage was postponed indefinitely. At the time it should have been taking place Jon and his fiancée took a break to The Lakes to distract them. We learned afterwards that the trip was an unmitigated disaster.

Jon left home in N. Ireland on Monday afternoon to return to Blackpool in time for an appointment on Tuesday morning in Preston. He was upset about leaving, more so than usual because of my diagnosis and when he got back his fiancée walked out. So much for loving support! She came back for a short while but the situation continued to deteriorate and the final split came in October 2006.

He made many trips back home to Larne at this time to recharge his batteries and get a bit of TLC. He was managing very well without his partner.

Christmas came and went with Jon at home with his family and he enjoyed the festivities at his aunt’s home where we all gathered. He loved those occasions when we were all together. He was in good form.

All seemed to go quite smoothly without any major worries or concerns from Christmas. Many visits were made back home and he spent a lot of weekends with his good friends Gill, Mike, Elizabeth and Stephen in Oldham at this time.

In March his sister Catherine announced her engagement and Jon being Jon couldn’t miss being in the middle of another family event. He was so happy for Catherine and Alan that he had to make a trip back to offer his heartfelt congratulations.

Then we get to April. Jon had decided to have a number of little ‘lumps’ and moles removed as a precautionary measure, so as it turned out he spent his 29th birthday undergoing these procedures. He wasn’t particularly well after this as the surgeon had to dig deeper than anticipated, hence not enough anaesthetic had been administered and he suffered quite a lot of nerve pain in his shoulder. Results of the biopsies taken were to follow.

With these came another nightmare scenario. Malignant lymph nodes had apparently been left behind during the surgery the previous March and the melanoma had spread all through his shoulder and would require chemotherapy to tackle the advanced disease there. Despite the distress Jon must have felt, that night he went to the Oldham Athletic FC annual dinner where a friend made a successful bid for a framed Liverpool FC shirt signed by the entire squad. Jon was told the shirt was for him to give to his nephew Matthew; he was so excited about this and sent a photo to Matthew the following morning.

Typical of Jon when he should have been wallowing in self pity he dusted himself off and got on with it. Such was the strength of the man.

By now he had sold the house in Blackpool that he’d shared with his fiancée and had moved in with a work colleague whilst looking for his own place. He found a lovely apartment in Lytham which he would decorate to suit only his taste. He had sent a ‘little’ list of things he’d like for his ‘bachelor pad’. Needless to say that the list grew longer every day and by the time we arrived in Lytham to help him move in and get settled the car was packed to the roof. Every thing had to be ‘of good quality’ – no old rubbish.

We had great fun getting everything sorted and Jon was over the moon. For a few weeks life was good.

Unfortunately this was only too short-lived.

As a precaution before chemo started Jon was to have a specialized eye examination as the drugs could have a detrimental effect on his vision. He was in good form that day going for a ‘routine’ test.

Jon had wanted to settle down and have a family of his own one day, so with the chemo imminent he made provision to enable him to become a father at a later date. He phoned to say that both appointments had gone well and made a few jokes about the latter experience. Anyone who knew him can imagine the sort of things he said.

He had a wicked and sometimes bawdy sense of humour. He would have made a brilliant dad. You only had to see him with his nephew Matthew, whom he adored and who loved him in return to see that.

As a result of the eye examination he was told a CT scan was required. This sent alarm bells ringing quietly at home but we said nothing of our concern to Jon. But then we were always worried when he was having any scan or examination carried out, but Jon took it all in his stride.

On 1st June 2007 – a day came that will live with us forever because of the devastation it brought to Jon and to all of us who loved and continue to love him. He headed off to the Christie for the CT scan accompanied by his friend Elizabeth. Normally after any appointment Jon always phoned to let us know that he was ok and everything was fine but on that terrible day the call didn’t come.

The more time passed the more worried we became. At 5:30 pm the call came but it wasn’t Jon on the line but Elizabeth. She said that he couldn’t speak to me but went on to tell me that brain metastases (secondary tumours) had been detected. How she gathered the courage to break that news I will never know. I’ll never forget her bravery that evening.

Jon went off to Oldham and when I spoke to him later that night I told him that his dad and I would be straight there. His response was that he didn’t want us to come immediately. His actual words were “I’m ok here mum because as soon as I see you looking at me and breaking your heart things will no longer be normal”…….

I understood fully what he was saying. In Oldham with his friends he could have some degree of normality.

The moment he was told of the latest grim discovery he was made aware that under no circumstances could he drive a car or travel by air. This was a massive blow to Jon; on top of everything else he had now lost a large degree of his independence.

As a consequence of these latest developments chemo had to be put on hold in favour of urgent radiotherapy which was hoped would blast these brain tumours.

He stayed in Oldham until this was to begin. At this stage his dad and I arrived to be with him and to get him to the Christie for his radiotherapy sessions – 10 treatments of full brain radiotherapy, 5 days a week for 2 weeks.

He coped well with all this but the high doses of steroids he had to take to keep inflammation to a minimum took their toll. Not least in that his appetite was tremendous which annoyed Jon greatly as he was always so careful about his diet and exercise regime and hated putting on weight, but there was no alternative.

Once all his treatments were complete and we were satisfied that he was ok and able to manage without us for a short while we came home to prepare to fly to Cyprus for Catherine and Alan’s wedding. He was disappointed of course that he couldn’t come but insisted that all went ahead. He assured us he would be ok and Gill promised to keep a careful eye on him.

The trip to Cyprus and the wedding itself went to plan but he was greatly missed and even though we phoned him regularly it wasn’t the same without him. A party had been organised at home when Catherine and Alan returned from honeymoon and as Jon’s travel options were limited his uncle and cousin collected him at his apartment and brought him home by car

Two of his friends flew over to join us and Jon having rested in preparation for the party thoroughly enjoyed himself, having a couple of pints – his first in a long time – and mingling with family and friends, some of whom he hadn’t seen for quite a while. He seemed almost like his old self – oh what a joy that was.

Unfortunately, the next day he resembled a limp rag, his legs barely able to support him, and in quite a lot of pain. Thankfully by the following day he had more or less recovered.

All too soon chemo beckoned. Dr Lorigan decided on Temozolomide taken orally as being Jon’s best option it being one of the few chemo treatments that was able to penetrate the brain to reach the mets. He had to take this 5 days a week and have weekends off for 4 weeks. I stayed during this time and his dad commuted between Lytham and N. Ireland due to work commitments.

Again, to enable Jon to have some space and privacy, as soon as he felt well enough we set off for home safe in the knowledge that if he needed us he’d let us know and we would return immediately.

As far as we were concerned he was doing well or so he said and was staying in Oldham for a bit. However, nothing could have been further from the truth. He wasn’t at all well and couldn’t eat. He texted me and asked me to come to him. I flew over the next day and when Gill and Mike brought him to the apartment I’ll never forget how terribly ill he looked. We were all extremely concerned.

Fortunately he regained his strength and began to improve reasonably quickly much to our relief. Family at home waited anxiously for frequent bulletins.

One dream Jon has had for a long time was to meet Ally McCoist of his beloved Glasgow Rangers. Thanks to a lot of organisation by his friends this ambition was realized when Mike and Stephen drove him to Ibrox in September to meet his hero. What a proud day that was for him!

Jon’s life seemed to revolve around appointments, scans, treatments and soon more scans loomed. His dad joined us again in Lytham to take him back to the Christie. An appointment was made for Monday 19th for results.

We had packed the car in anticipation of heading back to N. Ireland with Jon and his new chemo prescription. This was not to be. The Temozolomide wasn’t working. What a blow that was. We were not despondent for long however. His friend Gill had been constantly in touch with hospitals in America and Europe in the hope of finding some new innovative treatment that might benefit Jon. We were prepared to go anywhere and try anything. Lots of possibilities arose but sadly came to nothing. Still Jon didn’t give up.

However, a glimmer of hope appeared when Dr. Lorigan advised Jon of a procedure that might work. This Stereotactic Radiotherapy was a treatment that could be carried out in Sheffield.

Much to our huge disappointment word came through that Jon was not a suitable candidate for the procedure.

That day was one of only a very few times that I actually witnessed my grown-up child cry. The helplessness I felt as a mother was total.

Again Jon rallied and decided to come out fighting. He was not beaten!

In order to enable him to stay with us at home, his care was transferred to the Cancer Centre at the Belfast City Hospital.

When Sheffield had turned Jon down for his treatment feelers had been put out in the hope that someone somewhere would undertake to do the procedure privately. The feedback was that in order to assess the possibility of this an MRI scan would be needed. The MRI is so much more detailed than the CT and would be crucial in making any decision. The scan was done and details were distributed to interested parties. Unfortunately nothing resulted from this course of action.

Then came his first appointment with his new oncologist Dr. McAleer. That was a tense moment.

But Jon and he seemed to connect. His no-nonsense approach and directness appealed to Jon and they hit it off immediately. He clarified why the Stereotactic road was not an option and proceeded to explain that his preferred line of action was to recommend full brain radiotherapy again.

His treatment was to consist of 10 sessions to his brain and shoulder and a further 10 to his shoulder where his disease was very advanced. This began in December allowing him just Christmas and New Years Day off for good behaviour.

Yet again he took all that came at him in his usual style and coped very well.

He enjoyed Christmas at his sister’s joining in all the fun and we even stayed the night. This year there was a special gift for all of us, Catherine was expecting another child due in July. Jon was going to be an uncle again and he was thrilled. The Jon we knew was there and in good form, cracking jokes and having a good laugh taking a rise out of his poor grandmother as usual. Such a delight to watch …..sorry mum.

The only downside of his treatment was that all the radiotherapy to his shoulder had caused the skin to break down in his underarm. Our friend and community nurse stepped in to visit our home and dress it for him and as if by a miracle it cleared up very quickly. The hospital had been trying to deal with it but Jon said it only improved when Lindy got at it.

With Jon’s ongoing treatment in Belfast he moved back home with us indefinitely, always hoping to return to his apartment and his job at some stage in the not too distant future.

Life went on as usual and he had a lot more good days than bad. Jon looked forward very much to having a latte every day with his grandfather. This became a big part of his routine when they put the world to rights every morning. Pity it wasn’t that easy. They should have had a position in the cabinet, such was their knowledge. At night he loved to lie on the sofa watching television and depending on his mood, have either his head or his feet massaged. He found it very relaxing.

February came and with it a visit over to Lytham by Catherine, Matthew, Jon, his dad and myself. Jon wanted to check his apartment and catch up with his good friends. Twelve of them went out to an Indian restaurant for a meal and he had a great night, coming back in top form.

March was a different story however. He developed a rash diagnosed as shingles. We also noticed at that time that one of his pupils had dilated whilst the other was pinpoint. I immediately contacted his GP who by now had become more than that to Jon. They were friends, so much so that they swapped DVDs and had great chats about films in general. He advised us to keep a close eye on the situation.

Jon really wasn’t very well over the weekend and on Monday morning he displayed the symptoms we had been warned to look out for.

He was admitted to Belfast City Hospital where we were informed that the problem had arisen due to increased pressure on the brain caused by a build-up of fluid surrounding the metastases. After an emergency CT scan he was given high doses of steroids intravenously. After an overnight stay in hospital we brought him home feeling a lot better, so much so in fact that he requested fish and chips for tea.

Jon had ordered a beanbag and when it arrived it was huge! He lay on it in the living room in front of the television, enjoying being part of what was going on in the house. No lying upstairs on his own for Jon, he’d lie there and direct operations. However his grandmother hated to see him lying on it, she thought it made him look ill. Until then she had always questioned that because he looked so well ‘was he really ill at all’? She even asked us to have Jon’s scans reviewed, but sadly we all knew better.

Please click on the link to continue reading Jon’s story.

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