The post I never wanted to write

Sadly it’s not Ellie writing this post but Tom. Many people will already have heard the news that Ellie passed away in the early hours of May 18th after a 9-day stay at James Cook hospital in Middlesbrough.

The last few weeks were tough; before Ellie started her final course of chemo we had high hopes that the GemCarbo would have a significant impact, but it was soon evident from little lumps and bumps popping up on Ellie’s chest that it wasn’t having the required effect. The first two doses had already taken their toll on Ellie’s body, reducing her platelet count and leaving her with little energy even to move from the bedroom to the living room.

Despite this, Ellie’s indefatigable spirit and relentless optimism meant that she refused to allow the debilitating physical effects to deny her a possible lifesaving dose of the drug, but the third cycle would prove too much.  Walking any kind of distance was becoming harder every day and even travelling to the train station was too great a challenge, so I drove her to North Yorkshire where she wanted to continue making wedding preparations with her mum.

It was soon clear to her family that Ellie needed proper medical care, but even after she went into hospital we all hoped it would be a question of an energy-boosting blood transfusion giving her the strength to carry on; we were still talking about moving house and rearranging a holiday to Crete we had postponed because of the hospital stay.

The nurses at James Cook were – and still are – a remarkable bunch. Ellie was a reluctant guest at several hospitals over the past year and while we’ve almost always found the nursing staff friendly and efficient, the team on Ward 14 really went that extra mile for her, myself and the rest of Ellie’s family. It probably didn’t do them any harm in Ellie’s eyes that they all admired her engagement ring too.

After a few days in the hospital we were given the devastating news that all they could offer was palliative care, that Ellie’s liver was too damaged to be able to save her and that it was simply a matter of managing the pain. She’d already had a lung drained of fluid to help her laboured breathing, and it was traumatic to see her suffer so every shot of morphine that eased her pain was just as much a relief for those of us by her side.

Everything happened so much more quickly than we had anticipated. When the doctors told us just a few days before Ellie died that she wouldn’t last until the wedding date I debated trying to arrange a wedding in the hospital. However, being on so much pain medication had caused Ellie to drift in and out of lucidity, making it hard to gauge her true feelings on the matter; occasionally she would acknowledge the lack of time remaining and the next she would be arranging plans for the wedding guests to go for a walk on the beach the day after the ceremony.

During one of her periods of clarity I asked her if she wanted to get married on the ward; she instinctively said no – she didn’t want to be wheeled up the aisle. I’m not sure if she realized that we wouldn’t get the chance to have the wedding she had so beautifully planned, but either way I knew that I didn’t want to put something last minute together that would bear no resemblance to the wonderful occasion she wanted. While we desperately wanted to marry each other, we didn’t need any old ceremony to validate our love. Our lives were utterly entwined, and whatever happens from now on I’ll always regard Ellie as my life partner.

Ellie’s close family and I have all received so many touching messages from friends and extended relatives. She was one of those remarkable people who have the ability to make others feel special just by talking to them. In social situations people would gravitate towards her and she had a truly unique ability to disarm anyone; she was a kind of personality Jedi – anyone who interacted with her was utterly charmed.

The clichéd numbness that accompanies bereavement is mixed in with regular waves of sorrow, but despite this I am determined to continue Ellie’s legacy. I know from everyone who has commented on the positive effects of reading her blog that Ellie has touched the lives of many people who weren’t lucky enough to know her in person as well as those of us who were.

On Ellie’s behalf I would like to thank everyone who has read the blog, and those who have left comments of encouragement. I hope that despite Ellie’s untimely death people can continue to derive benefit from reading it and I plan to look into the possibility of publishing it as a reading aid for those living with cancer, their loved ones and of course the medical professionals treating cancer patients.

We also have many people to thank for their kindness and help in the course of Ellie’s own treatment. We will be making a collection at Ellie’s funeral for Ward 14 of James Cook University Hospital and we would also like to invite anyone who feels they can afford it to make a donation to either of the following two organisations that helped Ellie: Maggie’s and Action Against Cancer.

I’m not going to close the blog immediately as I’d also like to post a handful of photos of Ellie and possibly a video (should I work out how to!) but for now I’d like to finish this post by sharing with you all a draft of my wedding speech which I wrote in the hospital when we still hoped things would work out. I read it to Ellie on the last day of her amazing life and although she was drifting in and out of consciousness I’d desperately like to think that she heard and enjoyed it.

In the time we were together she was everything to me and although right now things seem incredibly bleak I know that my life is much richer for having known and loved her.


Wedding Speech

Ladies, gentlemen and of course my amazing wife Ellie Thostrup, I’d like to start by thanking you all for taking the time and effort to come to be here today. People have come from Denmark, Spain, France, Italy, Slovakia, Holland, Germany, Australia and even Scotland so we’re very grateful to everyone for travelling to a place you probably never imagined yourselves visiting. Please feel free to avail yourselves of the local Whitby Dog ale but if you find yourselves getting peckish in town later tonight and someone offers you a parmo it’s probably best to just say no.

Ellie and I would like to thank her beautiful bridesmaids: Sarah, Miffy and Jess and her little flower girl Izzy. We’ve got a little thank you for you (give gifts)

We’d also like to thank the best men Kamron and Mike (give gifts) and our ushers Terry, James and Ali. Nothing for you guys, I’m afraid – you have to draw the line somewhere.

I’d like to thank my mum and Ellie’s parents for their contributions to the wedding and personally I’d also like to thank Ellie’s mum Chris and dad Keith for raising such a remarkable human being. Ellie is everything I have ever wanted in a girl; she’s beautiful, funny, loving, inspiring and challenging. She supports and encourages me, she indulges my follies but also reins me in when necessary – sometimes more often than necessary as far as I’m concerned!

She’s a source of inspiration – the company Michael and I have started bears her name and without her we wouldn’t have got our first commission (catch it on E4 this October!). She advises me what to wear to look less like an unemployed teenager (admittedly, I frequently ignore that advice), and in exchange I correct her spelling and grammar. We’re a perfect match.

Everyone who meets Ellie is charmed by her. People love spending time with Ellie and I’m so grateful that she’s chosen me to be her husband, the one who gets the lion’s share of her time. I think you all know that it’s not been the easiest time of late, but whatever the circumstances and wherever we find ourselves you know I love you and I promise that I will always do everything in my power to make our married life as happy as you make me.

(Toast) To Ellie Thostrup

Finally, I’d also like to toast absent friends. There are many people I’d like to have had the opportunity to introduce Ellie to; my grandparents, my godfather  and most importantly my dad. I know he would have loved Ellie and they would have gotten on famously.

(Toast) To absent friends

Now I’ll hand over to Ellie’s brother John who I should warn you has lived in Australia for several years and has developed a very Australian sense of humour.