Lins (Lindsey) Prentice died of mesothelioma in May 2017 aged 49, just two weeks after marrying Laura. Laura wanted to share their story so that Lins would not be forgotten and so that people affected by mesothelioma know that they are not alone.
Lins, who worked as a lorry driver, first noticed something was wrong when he began to feel pain in his shoulder in the winter of 2016. As a lorry driver, he put it down to a strain from driving.
When it didn’t get any better, he saw his GP who diagnosed a trapped nerve and gave him some exercises to do. When this didn’t improve things, he booked another appointment in February 2017.
By March, Lins was in too much pain to drive his lorry so went to A&E at the local hospital in Suffolk where they x-rayed his shoulder.
The x-ray showed a mass on his lung and Lins was admitted to the hospital and given morphine for his pain.
The next day they were taken to see a consultant who showed Lins and Laura an image of the x-ray and explained that there was a tumour plus metastasis, confirming a ‘non-curative’ cancer.
The shock for Lins and Laura was immense. It was extremely hard to process, and they had many questions, including was Lins going to die? and when? As it turned out, Lins died just six weeks later.
The type of cancer was still to be confirmed and Lins attended Papworth hospital for biopsies where they met Mesothelioma UK Clinical Nurse Specialist, Kate Slaven, who Laura says was brilliant and always offered something positive.
The biopsies were inconclusive so at this point they didn’t know what type of cancer it was and Lins still had no symptoms other that the pain in his shoulder.
Following his initial diagnosis, and realising the seriousness of the situation, Lins and Laura made plans to get married. Lins also began writing a journal. He wrote down instructions for his funeral and things he wanted Laura to do after he was gone.
He also wrote about his feelings about the cancer and how he was coping with his pain. Laura believes this helped him get through it and it is something she treasures. It also helped her to know what Lins wanted and to be able to carry out his wishes.
Towards the end of April, just three weeks before he died, the doctors confirmed the cancer was mesothelioma. Always one to take a positive view, Lins went to London to find out about a clinical trial. Unfortunately, it was just too late for him.
On 4th May Lins became unwell and had to be taken to A&E where oxygen and admitted overnight. The next day, they were advised to bring the wedding forward and so Laura arranged for a registrar to marry them that same day, at the hospital. The nurses found something blue for Laura and arranged for some flowers.
Doctors advised that Lins go to a hospice but he was adamant that he wanted to spend his last days at home, with his wife and family. Having discovered he was most comfortable in water, Laura bought a hot-tub and Lins spent the next 11 days in the tub, drinking a few beers!
Lins had been sleeping a lot but on the night he died, he came downstairs and cuddled with Laura on the sofa. He died in her arms. Laura says she is grateful they were able to be together like that in his last moments.
At his funeral, Lins was carried in a huge articulated lorry – a vehicle he had gained the licence to drive not long before he became ill, but was never able to drive. Laura feels sure that Lins would have loved it.
One of his final wishes was for Laura to have the wedding party they had planned together. It was to be bee themed, as they kept bees, and fun-filled. In June, Laura managed to host the party where friends and family celebrated Lins and his love of life.
Laura says that Lins amazed her with his positive attitude, always laughing and joking even when he knew he was dying. He was brave and positive to the end.
Laura now writes her own thoughts and feelings down in Lins’ book – almost like writing letters to him – which brings her comfort.
Laura would like to see an improvement in the way cancer diagnoses are given, with more explanation and time for questions. She also feels that, in their case, help and support wasn’t as readily available as it should have been.
Mesothelioma UK has supported research studies into the best way to communicate a mesothelioma diagnosis and the results will hopefully provide guidance for clinicians and help them to place the patient at the centre of the process.