Vanessa’s story

In the second of our interviews for carers week, Vanessa talks about the support she gives her husband Des, a retired carpenter, who was diagnosed with mesothelioma 18 months ago.

Vanessa is keen to stress that she does not consider herself to be her husband’s carer, she is simply doing what anyone else would do in her position.  Whilst this belief has not stopped her from seeking support, it can prevent others from doing so. This is why telling Vanessa and Des’s story is so important. If others relate, then they may be encouraged to find out about the help available to them.

“We did have a joke this week when he said sorry for being a nuisance and I reminded him that I did say “…in sickness and in health.” in my wedding vows!”

Vanessa, an ex-nurse, has found looking after Des practically a full-time job. There’s the day-to-day aspect of caring, including supervising Des’s medications and tending to his pleural drain. Then there’s been the getting to and from appointments to contend with. For the first 14 months this involved a 4 hour round trip to Liverpool every 3 weeks as well as scan visits in between.

Des has also experienced side effects from each type of treatment he’s tried, which has made him very poorly at times. Although her nursing experience leads to a certain stoicism, Vanessa admits it is a huge responsibility and one that can sometimes be very frightening.

“…it’s all been during covid which has made face to face contact impossible, plus we’re in Holyhead, on the edge of the planet it feels like sometimes!”

Prior to mesothelioma Des was very active, and they loved gardening and going on holidays together. Unfortunately, Des’s breathlessness and lack of energy means doing things as a couple has become increasingly difficult.  They still try to go out for an hour each morning for a coffee, but this can wipe him out hours after. Still, Des desperately wants to go back to Skerries in Ireland to see friends from his younger days (his father was Irish) and they hope to be able to visit for a day or two soon.

Vanessa finds solace from the monthly Mesothelioma UK Carer’s Hour; it gives her the opportunity to share her experience with others who know what she is going through. It is also, as she puts it, some time for her, giving her a break from caring responsibilities.


Vanessa’s story mirrors that of many who care for loved ones with mesothelioma. It can be easy to overlook what carers do, as they do it unassumingly. However, if you are caring for someone, don’t neglect your needs. There is practical and emotional support available that can make a difference. Contact our support line team 0800 169 2409 or visit our carers page at