The Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance would like to thank Francesca Govier for sharing her story with our community as December’s Advocate of the Month. Francesca’s dad passed away after battling mesothelioma and taught Francesca about appreciating her family and being a strong woman at a young age. Share Francesca’s story and spread her message of love and support to the cancer community.
MCA: Tell us a little about your experience with mesothelioma.
Francesca: Before the start of 2011, I had never even heard of mesothelioma. I probably couldn’t have even guessed what the word meant back then. But now I know it well. It was the reason my dad passed away. It is now a word I will never forget.
It was a word I had to learn quickly. My dad had been feeling a bit under the weather but didn’t think much of it, putting it down to a normal cold or virus. When his back started giving him serious pain, he went to the doctors where they assured him he was okay. The problem with mesothelioma is that early symptoms usually don’t appear for years. So, at this stage, we had no idea about his cancer. When things got worse, the doctors found that my dad’s lungs had been filling with fluid and needed to be drained. After going in and out of hospital and being drained many times, things were getting worse. The first hospital visit was on March 16, 2011 and by the end of April 2011 we found out it was cancer, mesothelioma cancer. Doctors were trying to do all they could, but mesothelioma is so aggressive that on May 18, 2011 my father passed away. Suddenly gone.
M: Has cancer affected you in some way? If so, in what way? Tell us about your experience.
F: Unfortunately my family knows cancer well. My granddad and Auntie have both passed away due to a form of cancer, as well as it taking my Dad. I will always support cancer research and awareness programs and send my love to all those fighting this harsh battle. I would love to become more involved with the support out there for sufferers and family/friends of sufferers because it really does affect everyone in some way. Cancer is never a word that leaves you. It remains tough to talk about and something that you will always be scared of. It is now something that I worry will affect me, and that more than terrifies me. I don’t want to be living with that fear but it’s so hard to shift.
M: What are the two biggest things you learned through this experience?
F: Firstly, I have learnt about my own strength to make sure I was happy for my dad and to stay positive. I never wanted him to see me sad, but at the same time I wanted him to know I was feeling for him. It’s such a hard time to know what emotions to express. After he passed away, even though I was only 21, I did everything in the way of sorting through my dad’s belongings, arranging the finances, planning the funeral, etc, I had to do it all for my dad. It made me feel better to know I was doing something for him, and that made me stronger. Going through that whole experience at such a young age left me with that feeling of ‘standing tall.’ In every action I considered my father and felt confident about what I was doing. Through the hospital appointments I felt useless, so it felt good to be doing something for him, even though the circumstances were devastating. I felt like I handled everything well considering, so I feel strong for the future knowing that if I can get through the loss of my dad, then I can get through anything. He must be by my side giving me comfort and the will to go on because I don’t know how I could have done it otherwise.
Secondly, it has made me a better parent. This may be a strange thing to learn from losing someone to cancer but it really has. I know how much my dad loved me, and I worry he didn’t know how much I loved him. I know he would have done anything for me and his life was all about me. I felt secure and had a happy childhood. In 2012, I gave birth to my daughter and I want her to have the same feelings as I had growing up. I was never very open before my run-in with mesothelioma, but this experience has taught me to show my emotions before it is too late. I will make sure I truly show myself to my daughter and strive to be the best parent I can be. Family is what life is all about. Tell people you love them, because you never know when it is your last chance to.
M: If you could say one thing to the world about cancer or mesothelioma specifically, what would it be?
F: Cancer may have taken the lives of our loved ones, but their spirit lives on in us. They are always by our side and in our thoughts. For the ones we love, it’s never goodbye, just ‘see you later.’ To cancer, one day, it will be goodbye for good!