A dying dad wrote birthday cards for his twin daughters – for the next 30 years.
Nick Keenan penned the cards for Rose and Sophia when they were just 17 months old.
Tragic Nick was dying of a brain tumor – but wanted his girls to have a birthday message from him every year.
Nick was diagnosed with a tennis ball-size astrocytoma in 2015 after weeks of suffering from shooting pins and needles down his right arm.
He underwent two debulking surgeries, radiotherapy, infusion and oral chemotherapy, prescription cannabinoids and a number of natural remedies.
Nick, of Lindfield, West Sussex, died aged 34 in November 2020, nine months after being told his tumor had developed into a glioblastoma (GBM).
The girls recently open their fourth birthday card from him – where he told them they’d start school soon and to look after each other.
“Nick was everyone’s rock, and very much mine,” said Victoria, Nick’s wife.
”He was incredibly strong and went to work every day of his radiotherapy and chemotherapy, which I was inspired by.
“He also managed to support me going through IVF like any good husband would, even though he was going through much bigger things. It was never about him.
“He was consoling others as he was dying, and he wrote our girls, Rose and Sophia, birthday cards for the first 30 years of their lives.
”He wanted to be with them in spirit as they celebrated their birthdays without him.
“Hopefully, it will give them a better idea of where he was at that stage in his life.”
Victoria, who owns and runs Stanton Miller Recruitment, was at the gym when Nick returned from a business trip early and said he was going to the hospital.
“When I walked in the room and saw Nick had been crying. I knew that something was wrong,” said the 35-year-old.
”They sat me down and told me they’d found a lesion the size of a tennis ball on the left side of his brain, in the middle of his frontal lobe.
”They said it was slow-growing and had probably been there since he was born.”
Nick’s surgery and subsequent radiotherapy and chemotherapy treatment went so well that he and Victoria decided to move forward with their plans to start a family.
Victoria said: “We just carried on with life as normal and thought we were winning, which is when we decided to go ahead with IVF.
”Then, in December 2019, when our girls were just six months old, Nick noticed his speech had become slurred.
“We contacted the doctor and ended up going back in after Christmas.
”I’d had a really weird gut feeling that it was going to be our last Christmas, and so I organized the biggest celebration by inviting everybody to come and stay with us.
“In March 2020 we found out his tumor had developed into a glioblastoma (GBM) and were told he probably had less than a year to live.
”In fact, Nick lasted nine months from that GBM diagnosis.”
Nick underwent further treatment and was being considered for a clinical trial when he was told nothing more that could be done.
After becoming unconscious at home one night in November 2020, Nick was taken to a local hospice, where he died the following morning.
Victoria said: “My parents dropped everything to look after the girls, who were sleeping, and I slept in a bed in the same room as Nick at the hospice, head to toe with his mom.
“I believe the last thing he remembered was being at home with his family. He never really knew he went into the hospice and died at 4 am the next morning.
“I came home at 6 am, washed and carried on being mommy to our 17-month-old daughters, knowing that daddy wasn’t with us anymore.”
Victoria bought Nick a miniature dachshund puppy following his diagnosis. That pup, named Poppy, died six months after Nick did, also to a brain tumor.
“I just couldn’t believe it; they were inseparable, and I think she was sent to look after him so went with him,” said Victoria, who is now urging people to sign a charity petition.
She is campaigning alongside Brain Tumour Research to help its petition to increase research funding reach 100,000 signatures, in the hope of prompting a parliamentary debate.
The charity is calling on the Government to ring-fence £110 million of current and new funding to kick-start an increase in the national investment in brain tumor research to £35 million a year by 2028.
It wants the Government to recognize brain tumor research as a critical priority and says the increase in research investment would put brain tumors in line with the spending on cancers of the breast, bowel and lung, as well as leukemia.
Victoria said: “Brain tumors are the biggest cancer killer of children and young people under the age of 40, yet they have received just 1% of the national spend on cancer research since records began in 2002.
”This is tragic and has to change. Brain cancer is such a complex and difficult cancer to treat and the only way to improve treatment options, or to find a cure, is through research.
”We, therefore, owe it to our loved ones to sign this petition.”
Charlie Allsebrook, community development manager for Brain Tumour Research, said: “Nick’s shockingly sad story is a stark reminder of the indiscriminate nature of brain tumors and the fact more has to be done to stop this disease wreaking havoc on families.”
Produced in association with SWNS Talker
Edited by Judy J. Rotich and Newsdesk Manager