When I started this podcast last year, it was an exploration of my own grief, I had lost my mum, my best friend, and I couldn't imagine my life without her. I certainly had all these feelings of sadness, anger, confusion and guilt.
I needed to understand them. So I turned to my friends and people I knew who had been through a similar experience. It was eye opening.
We cried, we laughed. We processed that podcast helped more people than I could have imagined. I've been inundated with messages and connected with hundreds of people who have lost loved ones and realised their experiences needed to be shared.
There are still stories that need to be told this season on Death Becomes Them. I meet people who have lost siblings, spouses, parents and children, though the experiences differ. One thing remains consistent. Talking about it is therapy. This week I chat to Alan McGovern. Alan and his wife Jenny were a match made in heaven. They worked together, had a family together and enjoyed life together. They were truly the dream team.
By the time Jenny was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in August 2018, multiple tumours had already formed. Still, the couple believed Jenny could beat the disease, and she did once sobbing after a long battle. The cancer returned in 2019 and Jenny sadly passed today.
Alan talks about mourning the person that was so integral to every part of his life and how he finds the strength to continue building the dream life Jenny worked so hard for.
How are you? I'm good. I met you and Janet through my friendship with Brian Pipper and I was trying to work out when we went out.
I think you were on a night out.
That was when you got me. I got crushed. Was that when I get crushed, you and pipper and you start making me drink pornstar martinis?
Yes, that's right. That's the influence.
We have a lot of people. Do you like points? A martini? No, no. They're more my things are more your thing. Yeah. Pépin. I used to drink appletini so I think you were on your appletini. Oh that was back in the day. Oh the appletini boss.
I kind of I missed that was so we had some good nights together, really good nights. And I think the thing that I always know about you as well as your so established and successful in, you know, your career and stuff, you and Jenny have worked very hard, you know, to get to where you are. You also like to kind of let your hair down and have a laugh.
We do what we did. I still do. You still do, Jenny. Like to enjoy yourself as well, didn't she?
Yes. She had a great balance between kind of the serious side of life and the fun side of life. So she always work was she was so passionate about work.
And it was really a means to an end for happiness and contentment, really. So work was even though we both worked so hard throughout those years working together, and thus it really it was all for a means to an end, to, you know, to be able to buy a nice house or go on holidays, you know, raise the kids in a certain way and have enough money to send them to private schools.
So, of course, that was the motivation was. Yes, she was definitely fond of of a good night.
Yeah. Because I remember I worked on the National Burger, take her first time working with Jenny because Pippa's always spoken so highly. I was really nervous because I was like, don't fuck this up.
Well, like, imagine what it's like living with her, go to work with her every day. I was like, OK, I'll be nice.
And then we ended up going out for lunch afterwards and then she organized. I got tickets to go and see.
Ronnie says Jenny was supposed to come to Britney Spears that night and that's someone who'd worked on the campaign with us, had said to me, oh, Jenny was feeling unwell.
Caylee Marie. Caylee Marie. That's correct. And I thought I was feeling unwell.
And then I happened to kind of say to and at that time, I don't think anyone kind of knew how serious it was.
So I'll probably we should probably start there and ask you.
Well, first of all, how long were you married? We were together for 19 years and married for four. Thirty four. Yeah.
So I sometimes got that wrong. I off the married. Yeah. Do you still say that you're married. Yeah. I don't think that might not be marriage. Yeah. Like she'd still be my wife and she'll never stop in my life. Totally.
Two beautiful boys, James and Rory. What age. James is one eight. James is nine and Rory seven. OK, they're super young, they are very young.
And in some ways maybe that's good in some ways. Is that a good thing, do you think? I think for the actual process of grieving, I think it's definitely a good thing for the process. For from a memory point of view, it's not a good thing.
Yeah, because you're fearful then that Rory might forget his mom.
Well, that was and that was Jenny actually said that to me at one point in the hospital. She said, and my biggest fear is that Rory won't remember that James will.
But I think the way with that, it all materialized and happened and that the things that we do at home right now and, you know, we've the picture books and we speak about her all the time, that it's it's going to be impossible for her to to for him not to remember. Do you like talking about Jenny? Yeah. Yeah, yeah. And I think that's part of my own grieving process as well. And that's why I wanted to do things like this today, because I wanted you to do it.
And I put it up on Instagram. Yeah, because and then it was Pippa that said, OK, she'd love to I'd love for Alan to sit down and talk to you.
And then I replied going I'd love to sit down to and that you were like and you were like, yeah. And then you come back, Malcolm, my God, I'd love you. And I remember I messaged you and I was like, Really? Because it's Jenny past.
It was it's a year. And what's the year on Friday.
We know. So we're not even close to year. Even a year. Yeah. Yeah. And I think that the reason I like talking about it is that for me there was a lot of unknowns going into to Jenny's final few months. And I think it's important for me to tell the story about what it is like to lose a young, you know, person who are in the prime of their life. Yeah, thriving with young kids.
Jenny, I'm 42. Jenny is younger than me. She was 41 on 41.
So for me, I think, you know, losing a parent is one thing because my mum was 21 years older than me. And, you know, you question your mortality, you know, but I knew Jenny, you know, I know you. We hung out. We socialise together, OK? And for someone of my own age group, yeah, I was like, Jesus Christ, that's. I know.
And Jenny was going out up until before she went back into hospital. Yeah. We all stayed at the. Yeah, oh, yeah, that's right. We all went down an amazing night. Yeah, when was it that Jenny start to feel so well?
That's like if I look back on that, like, really what it was like, she was seriously ill probably for eight months, but it was March 2017. I was actually working over in Doha at the time just for a week, and she ended up in hospital with a gall bladder problem. And that, I guess, was the start of her feeling. Not herself, not 100 percent. So it was three and a though it was sorry, March 2016, so was three and a half years right before she actually died.
And it just there was problems from then on, kind of little there was a problem with her. Obviously her gall bladder was her appendix. Then there was a problem with pain and they couldn't find us. And she ended up collapsing the pain several times, going in through agony and scans galore and still couldn't find it. And that's the problem of pancreatic cancer. It's just it's it's so difficult to.
So at any point when all of that was happening, did you think this is really serious or were you thinking we get it sorted?
It's not a big deal. So up until the point. So June so 13, 14 months before she died, we sat in front of her surgeon who was who happened to be the surgeon that later operated on her. And I said to him, Are you sure you can really cancer her? And he tapped on the table and said, she doesn't have cancer. She has pancreatitis, which is a hardening of the surface of the pancreas. And that was June 28th.
And then so when they ruled it out, it was that just for peace of mind for yourself? No, it was it was them really. It was peace of mind for us, but it was them ruling it out. But then pancreatitis is a chronic, you know, lifelong illness. So there was going to be a massive change to our lives anyway. So it was it was bad news, but it was good news.
And the fact that she didn't have cancer, because I think when you get cancer, you think the worst.
And then fast forward, I guess, about six weeks. And we actually you know, Laura from the office. Yes, we were sitting in a meeting and I was Laura's first day and we were doing an induction meeting. And I looked over at Jenny and I could see her eyes are gone quite yellow. So and I was that was alarm bells during that meeting. And that was the last time she was ever working that day. So she went in to A&E after that meeting and she had jaundice.
And that was when we knew and she got really badly jaundiced then that there was a bigger issue at play. Right.
So they and they they were eventually the next day they went in and biopsy the pancreas, which is a massive invasive procedure because it's really hidden away the pancreas.
So and they found tumours in the top, the body and the tail. So there was three big tumours. And really it was it was that day, I'll never forget it. I was parking up in and around Lisson Street to go meet a guy about a concept that he wants to talk to me later said about a dog guy lexicalized.
I met a man about a dog.
And so he and she rang me as I was walking over Maintenant House, I was walking to police and she said, you need to come in the car or the professor wants you to come in and he wants to talk to us. And I knew then that it was going to be good news. And I went in and she was in floods of tears. And I said, what's happening is because I don't think I'd get inside here. And I just broke down and we had a good cry together.
And for the next hour, it was just horrific news. And he came in and he said, look, it's inoperable pancreatic cancer. And I had never Googled pancreatic cancer. And that's one thing we never did throughout the whole journey. But I knew instinctively that it wasn't it wasn't good news. And so she was stage four pancreatic cancer at that point.
And it was all. And then straight after that, her her oncologist was introduced to us, a guy called David Fennelly, who's just was an amazing man. And and he came in with a plan and Jenny's to refer to him as the man with the plan. And as soon as she got that plan being the type of person that she is and she she said to ratio's. Now, you've told me what you want to do. I want to make a deal with you.
And she said, I want you to get me to Christmas. And this was August 15th and I want you to get me to Christmas. And because I have a holiday plan to the states and he shook her hand, he goes, I'll do my best to try and get you to Christmas.
And then she just really transformed into from this and I guess the shet the shock of the diagnosis. Within three hours, we were like, um, my brother came in and he spoke about him at the funeral. He was just amazing to me all the way along. And we put a plan in place and we you know, obviously the chemo was going to happen. And then we went and met an alternative guy and he put a plan in place.
And it, you know, fast forward to Christmas time and the. Any twenty of December when I was sitting at home and Jenny was in between chemo cycles and her consult, she had been scanned that day and my phone rang and it was the consultant on his mobile ringing me. And he goes, I try Jenny. But I couldn't get through to her, but I couldn't bring this information to bear with me. Iskhandar Today I looked at the scans and I can't see any cancer.
No. And like, it was just a miracle. A miracle. Like the chemo had worked. All the alternative stuff would work, like those pictures on her Instagram over and an oxygen tank and tank.
And so she used to go in every second day internationally and she'd messaged me. Yeah, yeah.
And asking if it would make me look at a young girl, I was thinking we are and I would be joking about it.
So when you when you had got that news and, you know, Christmas was she wanted to get to Christmas.
Yeah. Well, you thinking. We're going to be OK, there was times like and I probably kept a lot of it to myself, no, because I would have private conversations with the oncologist and the and the surgeon that I knew it was going to be still a really, you know, a battle battle. And, you know, there was times when I'd let myself go and thank God this, you know, we could go for five years here or we could go for seven years or but at that point, we was really just trying to get through month by month.
And so, absolutely, I turned into the most positive person. And I hope I can maintain that in my life going forward is that every every word that Jenny and I spoke of was positive throughout that whole thing. That has to be difficult.
It doesn't mean you turn on our results. I mean, now just your frame of mind is always so positive. Well, I know.
So my frame of mind would have been probably similar to yours. I was more what if the worst happens or what if. And that's just my that was my nature. But when your back is against the wall and you have nowhere else to go and the worst is actually happening, then you've not nothing bought and you're driven by the person who's sick. Like, I couldn't let her down by, you know, going on what happens if you pass away or you die or, you know, I just loved every minute of our marriage, you know, obviously had our little ups and downs, but never anything, you know, challenging or bad.
And I was just everything that I have achieved in my life and everything she's achieved in her life, they were all intertwined. And I was just an amazing relationship and it was right up until the end.
How do you explain all of this with the boys, with James and Rory are going through this with you? Do you tell them the truth all the time? Did you hide something from them? How do you keep them informed about what's worrying them and scaring them?
So we we were very honest with them from from the get go that mommy had cancer because her body was going to change her. She was going to lose her hair. But really, cancer was only a word to them. So they really they couldn't relate to us. Now they can probably relate to it a hell of a lot better than they did back then. So every time we got good news, we would we would share the good news with them.
Every time we got we never really got bad news only at the very end. Like so from that diagnosis, really, it was a it was a brilliant journey from a news point of view because the tumors were just shrinking all the time. And so we were always sharing good news with them. And probably maybe that's one little bit of regret that that I have, is that we built up their hopes too much. And then it was just while up come the summer.
So you're being so positive that maybe you were also being quite hopeful that you had such good news and we were letting ourselves go as well as you were so happy, they were so happy.
And then post Christmas, she went she she got shot. She had a black bile duct after Christmas and that was minor, but they couldn't sort it out. And eventually she was a candidate for surgery and which she never was. And she went for surgery on the 13th of March, 2019. And it was like an eight or nine hour surgery. I remember like walking around Bald Bridge and all my friends came in and my brother came in.
They all took shifts at my looking after babysitters. And then about eight o'clock that night, I got a call from the surgeon and he said, I got all the cancer. She's cancer free. Like like what?
The from watching it you go, this is amazing. Know, like you said in December, you know, there's no cancer. You do it.
And then to have the operation, then I'm told again, it's completely gone. So your frame of mind, you must be thinking we can do it.
We won. We won. It was like winning the lotto this time in March. And I went into an ICU. I was late enough to and she was just woke up with a massive smile on her face course.
And she was it was and really from from then on, for a period of five, six weeks, she was on the up and she was putting them back on weight. Her hair had grown again and she was going to get it styled again and all those nice things that she she liked to do. And and then we went on we were due to go on this massive family holiday. What would her mom and dad and her two brothers and the four of us to Portugal and she kind of started to get a bit of swelling in her tummy and she wasn't processing food because you become instantly diabetic when they remove your pancreas.
I remember she was telling me the average operation really salvage operation, and she had her spleen removed, part of her stomach removed. So and so she went for a scan about two weeks before we were due to go.
And the and that's when it kind of all kicked off behind the scenes.
She didn't particularly know exactly how bad it was at that point because we all went. Together, well, I knew little bits, but probably not as bad either. And we wanted to get around the holiday, go to Portugal. The goal and we did go in there and they made a great time and we had to cut it short by a few days at the end. And when she came home, when we got home, she was into Vincent's the same day and she never came out.
Unfortunately, it's it's almost like something you you see in a movie or even a book.
I know, because, you know, stage four pancreatic cancer is. Yeah. Dreadful diagnosis, you know, just kind of no. Coming back to that.
But then to have that in December and then you know, again and in March, you must have been on an emotional rollercoaster because you're kind of given everything back and then it's taken away now and you're given a back and it's taken away.
That's such a good point.
And I was only talking to somebody about that recently, like it was just the highs and the lows of the last's when like particularly up to the day she died, they were just savage, like.
And how do you how do you process it? Because my grief mom was very, very different because it was all of a sudden, you know, ups and downs for all those times, but just a phone call.
And it was kind of gone when Nadya was there and she was talking about the difference between certain and not having time and. Yeah, and like I, I certainly have. And I know lots of people, including you and people who lost their mom suddenly. Yeah. And I wouldn't I don't think I could have coped with that. So it's just strange, isn't it, that I think that happens to you.
I think mentally that's the path or that's that's how you're supposed to cope. Yeah. And I think I was supposed to lose my mom that way, and that's how I was going to be for me. And I think that this was going to be your path. Yeah. You know, but how do you like every day?
How did you get out of the bed when you know it's good news, then it's bad news. She's back in hospital.
What how do you keep on fighting? Jenny's thing was hashtag.
It was always forward. So how did how did that all start?
That just started from from I don't know where she saw the actual hashtag, but she it was hard.
She said, yes, she invents this, but she latched on to it and maybe she did. And I never actually asked her if she did. But yes, she latched on to that. And every I can honestly say from the time that, you know, she was sick three years ago to the day she died, she never complained once. And I that is hand on heart. She was just all about positivity. And there was actually a game changing phone call between myself and our business partner who lives in in Qatar or lives in London from Qatar.
And we had done a deal with him to sell a portion of our business, you know, five or six months before she actually got a diagnosis. And that was always an ambition was to to sell a piece of the business, to give ourselves some financial security. So we achieved that. But then and we became quite close to him and he was in L.A. He lives in Malibu a little bit at the time as well. And so when she got diagnosed, I rang him straight away because I didn't want him to hear from anybody else.
And and he gave me the mother and father of lectures about hope and how much hope plays a part in any diagnosis. And he just has a good way with words. And I remember going back into the room and talking to Jenny about hope and seeing what I would hope we've not. And we always have hope. And she kept that mantra right up until the end.
Even two or three days before she died, we were still hopeful, you know, that we'll meet again. You know, even though she knew she was dying, I knew she was dying. There was hope up till the very last day. And so she took her last breath. There really wasn't there. She was an amazing person and. You know, even when we had went out with her and I think Pipper had worked with David Cashman, the hairdresser, and he was saying, well, I was going to do it our hair.
And it was I remember like on the night me, I was very, very nervous because I had not seen her since she had been hospitalized and given the diagnosis. And I was very nervous because I was just nervous. I'm going to say the wrong thing. I'm going to ask the wrong question. But Jenny just made us all feel so comfortable. And how are you? I'm fine. I mean, she would talk about you and then you we actually on the night out, we forgot she was sick because she made us all feel at ease, made us all feel comfortable.
But we were drinking and we had such a good night. And the next day we were having a conversation and we were saying, she's very sick. But you you wouldn't know from her spirit or experience yet.
You'd know from her body and how much weight loss and stuff like nothing really prepares you for that when you're in a relationship. You never think on the day, you know, you get married and you know, you know, you're going to be doing this and doing it so young. Were you at any point ever really angry?
No, no, no, no. I don't know. I haven't been angry and I've been upset and I'm upset still, you know, lots of times. But anger never came into it. And I don't know if that's I'm quite a placid person anyway, and I'm quite laid back. And I'm very much that this is the hand that was dealt. I was I was so thankful that I was able to care for her. I know that there's people in similar situations who just because of the emotional trauma that just can't cope with us.
I'm so grateful that I was able to cope. And I became so in tune with her illness and so in tune nearly with how she was feeling that, you know, I got to a point then towards the end where I just wouldn't leave her side because I was the one who was able to pinpoint exactly, you know, of the pain meds weren't working well and I was wrong.
What was wrong or if she had something in her mouth and I could sort that out because she was semi-conscious for the last week and unconscious for the last two days.
So did you know this is a personal question to answer, but I'm just curious, did you have that talk about about her saying goodbye to you? And, you know, because we didn't have time, do you have enough time to say everything you want to say because of the her the way she was around positivity and hope?
We had a conversation shortly after she got diagnosed and we went to Paris court for a night and we discussed where she'd like to be buried and what she'd like people to wear at the funeral, what music she wants at the funeral, what schools she'd like the kids to go to, and lots of things like that.
I just couldn't I can't imagine. Well, it's easier to have it when you're when she was feeling well at that time and she wasn't on her deathbed yet.
And then the three, four days before she died and her consultant came into her and she knew and he got very upset, they'd become really, really close. And she knew then and she just smiled and she just goes, just make me comfortable. All right? And then I said to her, I actually left them on their own for then while then because I just felt they needed a little bit time together because they got a moment together. Yeah, exactly.
That was nice.
And suppose but you're like, I want to take it out.
And then but there was some really she was like withI right up until the end. There's some really funny moments around then. And I went back into and I said, Jenny, is there anything you want to go through. Let me know or anything you want to talk to me about what's going to happen next or anything you want to tell me. And she goes, no, just keep reminding me. And that was this.
And but then the that evening, she she she she wanted she kind of half woke up and she goes, I know some some Pelligrino lemon and her voice has gone husky. So I said, oh shit, where am I going. I was like eleven o'clock on Sunday night or something.
Yeah. So I went downstairs to the hospital vending machines. There's no and I went, you're not going to get any in there. No, no.
I went across to the Circle K there was no one ends up getting in my car and I found one Inspiron and Donnybrook. So I drove back in. I was happy as a pig and shit. I thought of what you wanted. And I walked in and I said, Jenny, Jenny, I got the some Pelligrino.
And she goes, I might be dying, but I'm not fucking deaf.
But it's it's so weird and funny.
And anyone that I've had on, you know, for the last series of apps are this series of apps during those moments of pure do you call them despair of sadness? I've been so distraught come the funniest. I know relationships are people in the funniest.
Things are sad.
And I think even now when you were talking there, your face is lighting up and you were there was another there was another moment when she sat up and that was the last time she actually spoke to me. She sat up on the bed and I like it was a sweater.
And I thought maybe I like that. Well, I think there was another one on this one. She sat up on the bed and she genuinely didn't swear normally and she put her head on my shoulders and kissed my neck. And I think that looking back, that was probably the goodbye kind of kiss from her.
And she said to me, I said, Are you OK? And she goes, What are you going to do when I'm gone? And there's nobody asked you, are you OK? Because I had spent the last year asking her what she OK.
I'd say it was driving her crazy. And look, I was lucky to be able to do it, and I was lucky to be able to take a step back from work and and be there for her when she needed me. And of course, she would have done the same for me. And it was the best privilege of my life to be able to do.
Certainly know, of course. How did James and Rory take it towards the end?
Were they because you had the conversation, you know, saying that, you know, mom was sick? How do you then tell them so mom's not going to be around?
So I had an amazing child psychologist called Joanna Fortune helping me through, guiding me in the background through the process of keeping the kids involved.
And the psychologist was your own idea?
Yeah, she did, because she had worked with her son James for quite a while. So she was kind of known to Jenny and I. And, yeah, it was just about keeping them involved and being honest with them all the time. And even up until and the end they came they still came in the day. They came in the day before she died and she was asleep at that time. She wasn't she wasn't conscious. And Rory climbed up in the bed and he gave her a hug and he said, oh, mommy has sleeping well.
And so it was very honest with them all the way through. And and, you know, it was really tough. And telling them was really tough when she died. I and just it was actually just to talk about when she died, because I think that's important. And like, I'd never been through grief before my granny died when she was 98, when she was in a nursing home. And that was the closest person that, you know, both my parents are alive, Jenny's folks are alive.
And the death was actually what was actually really peaceful after all this pain and all this hurt. And I don't think people talk enough about the acts because it's going to happen, all of us. And nobody talks about it enough. You know, we always hear she passed away peacefully or my worry was that she was really going to suffer, she being right at the pain, you know, and she didn't. I held her hand and I was her brother.
Richie was holding our other hand on the other side, and the two of us were in the room together and we just encouraged her to let go. And then she'd literally just slow down her breathing and died. And it was as peaceful as I can get. But that's one point that I want to get across, is that people need to know that, you know what they are learning from me anyway.
Yeah, see, I always I always find that it is your cry before me, right?
I like when I just got just the whole idea of it, you know, just you're holding her hand and you were almost like telling her to let go. I don't think it's a really sad thing that, you know, you just had to tell her to let go.
It's just like she was still almost she was fighting. She was fighting to the very end. Yeah, there's no question. And she needed reassurance that it was it was OK to go.
And I always think when I'm asking people out, I always find that it's such it's such a can be such a very personal private moment. Yeah. That I always want the person to almost describe it themselves. Yeah. Then I know you're comfortable talking. Yeah, I absolutely it is.
But it even just to visualize that that is such a that is such a sad thing. Yeah. It's just so sad.
It is so and it's unbelievably sad and it's such deep sadness and at the same time like it was, it was a relief.
It was a relief for her without a doubt, because her body was just completely broken. Yeah. And it was a relief for me that I was going to watch her suffering anymore, like those last that last week in hospital when she really deteriorated. It was it was unpleasant for her.
You know, she we couldn't get on top of the pain, you know, the lots of little things. And the body was just breaking down and it was time. But having said that, obviously that's deep, deep sadness and sorrow.
But also, I think means what you're doing is you're very practical, realizing that comes back to myself, you know, and Pippa and I think Nikki Barton was the same as that sudden thing. There is no pain. There is no trauma. There is no drama in a sense of what you would have lived with before that. Yeah. Was probably hell for. Yeah. In a sense of.
So when she was there and she was peaceful, you were you didn't want to be there was there was a deep breath afterwards going thank God that she's released, but not in a bad way because her, her suffering is over.
And it was she suffered beyond and never complained, which is just incredible.
Why do you think that was? Why do you think she she didn't complain or didn't just have a bad day and just be like, why is this happening to me?
I don't know. It's just in an. It was just an inherent piece of our of our makeup that she decided that this journey for her was going to be exceptionally positive and that she wasn't going to last, you know, be a woe is me character. And regardless of the outcome, that's, you know, the way she was going to approach it.
And Jenny was both successful. And I remember I was so thrilled when she won the Image Awards. Yeah.
Which was brilliant. Yeah. Tell us what that award was for. It was for a digital businesswoman of the year 2018.
Yeah. So I remember that night, full standing ovation. I think what she I think what Jenny Dunn, unbeknownst to herself, was I think she got a lot of people holp. Yeah. And she gave people the encouragement to fight. Yeah. Life can be shitty, but you know what, you get up and you give it 100 percent and you give it all you have in such a good way.
But she always did that, like even when we like we struggled having kids. And she was relentless in the adoption process. And we went through the adoption process for James and the same type of relentlessness applied in business applied with me and the kids and our relationship. It was it was she was a go getter for everything she wanted.
I was in she has with the spare room at home and that which actually turned into her wardrobe over the years and her and taken a whole lot out of us since I took all the medication out and stuff like that, but nothing else.
And she still has all her vision boards up on the wall in there. And like it's the house that she'd like to live in, the business that she'd like to own. You know, she was a businesswoman through and through. She was just a high achiever in life. And I think that makes it easier for me right now is that she achieved more than most people achieve in a lifetime. She she she adopted a beautiful little boy. She had then had her own little boy.
She married a beautiful man.
So when are we going to see when's he arriving? I think it's turning on Dunning's.
We'd you know, we'd achieved a lot, you know, from a business point of view and met lots of nice friends and gone and lots of nice holidays.
And you the world, you're still you're still very appreciative and very thankful.
I lost my mom. You know, you lost your soulmate, your best friend, your wife. But like, I'm two years and some days I'm I'm angry.
But sometimes I feel that I'm also two years into it as well. Of course. But the diagnosis. Absolutely. It's probably very similar in certain ways. And I have to now live my life in a positive way, because after looking at Jenny for those two years or that year, particularly when she was really bad, then like, hey, you know, how could I go back to in any way anything both positive and particularly for the kids?
I know I'm a single dad now and I have to step up to the mark and I have to be the father and the mother. Yeah. And make sure that that that they have a good life and that they remember, but also that they thrive and it doesn't define their lives either, because that's the thing.
You don't want them just to be the boys who lost their mom to cancer. Yeah.
How did or has covered the whole coronavirus pandemic, you know, globally world affected.
But how has that affected your grief at all with the children, you know, not being able to go to school at work?
And so, yeah, I think it probably has had a bigger effect than I even realize right now. I think that the lockdown was was pretty tough. So because I lost all my support networks, you know, be a work bee as friends, be had my mom and dad, Jenny's mom and dad, we didn't see any of as my childminder couldn't come for nine weeks. So it was it was me and the boys. And on the flipside, it was quite stark.
It was you know, it was really tough. And then on the flip side of that, we probably hadn't had a huge amount of time, just the three of us continuously since Jenny died or even for the year before Jenny, because Jenny spent fifty percent of the time probably in hospital. And so it was good from that point of view. You know, we got back down to basics and we started doing our photo and, you know, addressing, you know, looking back on videos of mommy.
And that makes it so much easier for them as well. And I just think communication with them is key. And we have there's a book called The Magic String, which is for bereaved kids. And so every most nights we'd sit on the bed and they pull their magic string and mommy comes down and they have a chat to her and it's.
Yeah, so it's it's very open communication regarding and there are two words there you said, I think that are vital open and I think communication is like you. You've never lied to the kids or you've never told them nothing. That wasn't the truth. Exactly. You were so truthful, but I think in a positive way, and they've no issue not to trust that there wasn't and that's what Joanna was saying.
The psychologist throughout that journey was if you tell them the truth, it's going to be much easier long term because and I had a big fear about the funeral, about bringing the kids to the funeral. And really we had a lot of time to plan a funeral in in comparison to you guys, for example, your mom, because we knew from the middle of July that she wasn't going to make us.
Well, me and my brother knew, but it's so we had time to plan a funeral. And we were where I was really worried about the boys seeing her, her.
Bin Laden out and then being and then coming to the actual funeral, but in actual fact, we were pushed into it by the psychologist and it was the best thing we ever did because the funeral is a big reference point for them now.
Yeah, they're kind of you remember we met her at the funeral or we saw her at the funeral. We saw him at the funeral. And it's really good. And again, I have to tell the story. Jenny James has a nice voice. Singing voice So he sang for me. Yeah, he wants to. So at the that the removal at the funeral, the priest was saying a couple of prayers and his good friend, the same priest that married Jenny and I, really good friends, and James.
So he called James up to sing a few words. And James stood at the top of the on the plinth overlooking Jenny's open coffin. And he said, I just like to tell you all that my mommy's boobies are gone. Oh, no.
If they told me the story, Pippa told me the story. Yeah, I'm sure you did.
Right. They were all crying. And then suddenly Edward didn't know whether to laugh or cry. And so everyone just burst out laugh and then it was just a child. Did he sing as well? Oh, he then he sang Twinkle Twinkle or something like that.
Oh well, yeah.
It was a you know, with kids, you know, it's as if you never quite know. Have you been worried since then?
Have you seen anything in them or like you over spoil them now or do you overindulge them.
Are you stricter now. Has your as your parenting at all scales changed since.
Just not around. Yeah. Well I guess it has to be more kind of routine based now so. And that was fine up to the start of kolkhoz that went out the window and so routine was was a key to us getting through those nine months up to eight or eight months up to the start of Kovar. So we were really routine based. We'd go to bed at the same time. We get up at the same time, try and eat as much as was possible together.
And if I wasn't didn't have to work late, I'd be certainly home cooking, all of those things, just the regular things, dropping them to school, collecting them, you know, unscrutinised. Yeah. So they'd nowadays I collect them. Nowadays Deborah will collect them on my mom and that's what they thrive on. And since then it's been tougher. And I am looking forward to getting back into its routine, but no big behavioral changes.
They bokha counselling. I got counselling and then we do our own lots of family things that, you know, I would consider counselling between the three of us, you know, where we talk about her openly and something better and something I didn't I didn't counselling.
I've said this to other guests that have joined us to to chat because I was living in L.A. It would have been the perfect time.
Everyone has been therapists over there, you know, but something that I didn't.
What was it for you that thought you that this is the party you should go down with counselling?
I felt, oh, I. I don't know what it was. I felt as if I probably should. Well, I don't think there was any I wasn't bad at vocalizing my emotions through Angel. You know, if I was upset, I talk to my brother. I talk to what Jenny's friends were fantastic support throughout the whole journey.
So I always had their ear if I needed it. But I felt then that I was facing into such a big unknown challenge, being a single dad, having gone through what I've gone went through, and that I needed an independent, you know, er to talk to.
And I can safely say that I, I don't think I would be, you know, as positive as I am now, I've got through as well as I have the past year without the help of my counsellor.
So it's she's been amazing. She's more like she's a grief counselor, but she's turned much more into a life coach and kind of helping me with decisions around, you know, be at work or be at the kids or be anything like in general.
Yeah, just life in general. And she's brilliant.
Do you think? As you know, I think I've said that. I think we've said this to Bishop last year. Maybe keep on with this conversation.
I always feel that as a gay man, I'm kind of allowed to be emotional and to express how I'm feeling, you know, whether it's on social media, whether my friends and family as a heterosexual man, did you feel at all that you couldn't express?
No, you're not. I'm lucky like that. That I am a I'm a I'm an easy crier. So, like, I do cry at things and, you know, I've cried lots of things. And I said before, you've done stuff.
You've always said to everyone, I know that I'm going to cry. Would you come in here? You've got you got your tissues ready because you know that it's going to happen.
Yeah. So it was. Yeah. So, like, I'm I'm I find it very easy to cry. And I like I dropped the kids off as they were going down to stay with a friend. And Rosler lasts two weeks ago for two nights, one of Jenny's best friends actually, and I just left them. And for some reason this wave of emotion came over me in the car and I cried for, you know, twenty minutes on the way home.
And that was fine, I was I wasn't worried that I was falling apart or anything was yet to change. Exactly, yeah.
It was just that, yeah, I had a cry and I lie at home some nights and, you know, think back to certain things and I might have a little cry and or talk to somebody on the phone who I haven't spoke to in a while. And, you know, so I'm quite comfortable crying and I think that definitely helps me. So I definitely do not bottle up no emotions.
I always think if you're feeling an emotion like it's simplest, if you see something funny, you laugh. Yeah. And I think if I'm sad. Yeah.
You know, I'll cry. I didn't know if I'm grieving the right way.
Should I be angry today? Should I be sad? Should I be looking at Emmerdale and crying. Yeah you did. You question what, what you were doing and was.
So I know I'm not only my counselor used to really get cross cross me after a while as I go, I'm worried that like I'm like in a year's time I'm going to collapse and, you know, not be able to function at all.
And like, that's just not an option for me. So what what if that happens?
And, you know, I think that now I don't think like that. I think that I am going through the grieving process very typically, similarly to you or similarly to to anybody else. But differently, we're all different because it's so unique experience.
And I it's it's completely unique.
And what's to say I won't go through, you know, a really bad week or two in a year's time, but I certainly don't think that I'm going to be one of those people that can't cope, which I'm so grateful for as well, because I know that grief strikes people in completely different ways to the point where people can function.
Sometimes it's like I've been talking to different people and some people are in at different stages and some people are in ten years only feeling what I'm feeling now, but I'm feeling it two years in. I know.
Yeah, it's it's. How do you feel now? Is that. Yeah.
I mean I suppose I like talking about moment then. Like when I talk about it I smile because with seven the seven kids and all the grandkids, we have such great memories.
But I think being at home and when I came back last year for work and still now living in Ireland full time, I think it's probably it's probably made me realize that I was hurting a lot more than I realized I was, I think living in a different country and getting on a plane when that plane door closes like you're parking all that. Yeah. And you're living in a different country that has an eight hour time difference. Yeah. You know, the way.
So I feel like I was getting older.
I relate to it as much, not as much, because I'm not seeing it now when I'm back home and we're obviously still living at home because we're house hunting and I'm seeing, you know, mom's pictures every day. And I'm going through stuff because you've got some stuff that, you know, we've got them in storage of the stuff we have with us.
So I feel a bit like I'm probably living it now, but living it the proper way. Yeah, I'm not hiding away from any emotion or any truth. And I'm with my sisters a lot more. And they remind me of mom. And, you know, it was something that married Ronan had said and she had said sometimes we can put the person that we've lost on a pedestal, something I'd never realized before, and then me and my sisters in my marriage that I kind of thought about my sisters.
I was like, remember that? Hum. I'm really annoyed me.
I like and I was on my own. And they were like, oh, my God, yes.
That was quite good because I think we were all afraid to say something bad are not to say she really annoyed me. She said she would lock the door and she locked you door to get through the window.
I was so just not see those things there that, like, Jenny would kick my ass if she saw me do this. Right. But then she's not here yet.
So my next question, where are you religious? So they just. Are the boys religious? Yeah, no, I guess we would have had faith. Did we go to Mass every Sunday? No. No. Did we believe that? Well, do I believe that there's kind of an all singing, all dancing heaven? Probably not. OK, do I believe that there's a spiritual afterlife or something happens our spirits or does a relatability to our spirits once we move on?
Yeah, I would like to think that that's what happens. But religion did play a part in spite of that through our journey, you know, why did you turn to it more?
You know, I might have said the odd few prayers and Mary's few our memories. Yeah. And boss. Probably right at the end, may have turned to more just when I was wishing her that. God or somebody would take her and take her out of her pain, but I sincerely hope I'd be devastated to think that I'll never cross paths with her again, that will kill me. So where do you think she is?
I think she's right now, she's probably floating around, just keeping an eye on me, laughing and and having probably lots of fun with, you know, other spirits or like minded people or you ever.
I've not done this. My sisters have and some friends have. You know, they went to see a medium. So my sister is a psychic or they went, you know, for someone to read or something along those lines, it's something I've resisted.
And I was in New York actually before the whole country went into lockdown.
And after that semester, as my friend the other and I went to New York and were on the street and I went, I'm going to go in now, because no one I think because living in Ireland and, you know, being known in England, I thought, well, maybe people would know and then just tell me what I want to hear.
And it has been just turned two years. And then I was like, OK, let's just go in. And I'm at the door.
And I thought, no, I don't I don't want to know. I'm still not ready to know what she's thinking.
In the last two years are what I've done or if I've had no idea and I got too drunk to fight what I thought, I should have never told my sister to fuck off. You know, I almost like, oh, if I were just out the door and I'm like, no, I can't. And I couldn't. I wanted nobody go in that. No, I was like, no, let me come to you. And then you have to know.
So like, but my sisters have all gone and my sisters swear by this really they do. And they've told them stuff.
And I'm going to just go, oh, Brian, Google to you. Google to you. It's all about you.
So then the table slightly tired. So I'd be very like I'd be quite skeptical because I am analytical and figures based person.
Yeah. So you wouldn't find that at all.
But then at the same time, if, you know, if a Robin came up here and sat right beside you, right beside us, why we're doing this, I mean, they're there. That's a bit freaky, right. You know, but yeah. Look, I have I definitely have faith. I'd love to have much more faith than I do, but I do have faith. And I think Jenny probably had more faith than me, to be fair.
But what, you have to go to the grave to have a conversation?
No, because I sometimes I look at the pictures and I find talking to a picture of mum. Yeah. Or if I wake up in the morning or even if I'm in the shower. Yeah. I would just say something. And I went through a phase of always saying good night to her, of walking up to the picture and just kissing my finger and putting it, putting it.
And then because we'd mum at home in the sitting room for like four days because I was come back from America and I was afraid, I was afraid at night I'd open our kitchen door.
I would be the Gonzalez up the hall into my room going, I want to see her. I don't want to see her. My, my.
I was afraid of my own mother in the sitting room. I wouldn't stand on my own. And then something happened. And I was in watching my television programs on my own and sitting home.
And I would say, if you're here, you're not going to scare me. Yeah, yeah.
But it's such fear. But it's so weird. I was 40 of being afraid to see my mum. I think that's pretty normal.
It's a completely surreal experience to anybody. I didn't like that part. I thought like that's the only part which I really feel comfortable about.
I just didn't feel as if it represented her the way that I wanted that she liked. I know, because I don't think it does anybody.
I said that I didn't think that the atmosphere, the person, the coffin, that sounds dreadful, but, you know, obviously was my mum. But maybe I was resisting it. But I was looking and they were like, no. And I said, that's that's that's not the picture behind. Now, that's my wonderful mum. Yeah. Yeah, I was so, you know, I even painted Mum's nails, and I, I never thought that I would be able to paint her nails and like, we this white silk on the inside, my sisters, my sisters are full.
And they were like, if you spilled. But I was like, you all need to walk away. Give me some peace. It was stop that. You know, you laugh because you don't think you're going to have yourself in that situation. Yeah.
You know, I gave the undertaker's fluffy stuff because she wore that Rixon dress that she loved Reisa sparkly ones. Yeah. I gave them fluffy socks to put on under the dress because her feet were always cold.
That day I came back from a tree and I sat on a stool and I just seen the end of the coffin.
I was just it was just hit with this thing of the last Tommasino. She was sitting on the sofa watching for Cissy. Yeah. And now I'm doing this.
And then I went, where are her legs?
Because the coffin was closed. Oh, my heart was oh, she was covered up. She would be like just below the waist hip. But I was like, why did they take over her legs? And they were like, they are taking off her legs. They're just close. I went to see her legs and they were like, OK, we can see her legs. It's fine. But I just think they cut off my mom's let's put her in the coffin.
But that's still practical. But that's what I was thinking. There is the grace and my sisters now think we are Lancs and they laugh and I. Well, you just I just didn't know it's so it's so it's it's just not logical.
Is there anything for anyone that's out there listening, you know, and hopefully their advice is the wrong thing.
And the things that you've done about how we've discussed talking about the person helps both of us. And I talk. She does. Yeah. I think we're done with grief because I think we're grief so hard.
I think what I've done for the last year is I and particularly in the early days and I've started to do it again recently, is I've started to log. So keep a little journal. And I started to write down the memories of particularly the last two years of what we went through and everything we tried.
And because I think that's everything got muddled up for me a little bit, you know, towards where when did that scan happen or when did that good news happen with dates and not that I want to chronological kind of diary of it. I just want to be able for the boys to remember back and go, look, actually, we left nothing on the field area collectively, you know, particularly Jenny. Obviously, there was nothing we didn't try. And, you know, she had a massive operation which was 50/50, whether it would work and all of those the people that were involved, the nurses that were involved who are just became such good friends and the doctors involved all those memories of Fage.
So I've written them down a lot and then I start. So I'm still in the process of getting over how many looked in that last year and trying to get my memory back to how she looked prior to that, because that's because she changed into if you put the two people step aside, you wouldn't recognize them.
And I want to remember the person prior to that, you know, it was because she was just so beautiful and so gorgeous and and she was in the prime of her life.
So then I'm writing down little nice memories of of what I remember us doing together or with the kids so that the kids would always say to me or talk to me about when I was a baby, what mommy and I need to have those things documented because I don't want to forget them. Yeah.
I don't want you know, I want to be able to to remember those things for the kids so that she's part of their life. So journaling or writing things down and even writing them into my phone when I think of them is something that I do a lot of. And for me, that's been very cathartic. It's just a dream about her.
Yeah, occasionally not as probably as much as you might think, but occasionally I would get kind of go through. She's always on my mind, but I would get kind of days where she's more prominence than others, but dreaming not so much. And like even work was dangerous there last week.
And I was walking over to the beach with a friend of mine and and his kids and and then suddenly just an image of her popped into me, into my brain in of her lying in the bed and the consultants that I had coming in, you know, to say his goodbyes and just thinking how hard that must have been for her to know that that journey was kind, that her time and in this life was over and that it was coming to an end and how brave she was not to be like she smiles and she she didn't even.
Fry, she was just know there was probably medications that were helping as well, but certainly it must have been a horrific experience for given that she loved life so much and she loves the kids so much and she plans to have a long, wonderful life that was cut short.
And that's what she was so brave to the end. So those memories, I just want to I think they. Tell an amazing story about her and what type of person she was, so I want to remember them so that the kids can have those memories when they grow older. And we're so lucky, aren't we, that we have phones and videos, voice notes, texts.
I actually found her phone, obviously, and I found a whole load of voice notes with kind of her documenting her journey. So they're lovely to have. I found a note in her phone that had her final wishes about what clothes she wants to give to people and stuff like that. Yeah.
So did you and Jen talk about it, about you having not moving on is the wrong word, but. Having another relationship? Yeah, we did back at that time and in September, probably before she died the following August when we went to Paris at that time, she said, if I ever die, you better not hang around, find yourself somebody super good looking and get married again.
She did not. She just. She did. It's yeah.
It's it's soul because and I think it was kind of a little bit of an insult to me when you like.
She didn't and you don't think I can survive on my own. You know you out.
Yeah. She you need a carer.
And when you when you heard that were you as much as you know, you smile and stuff, were you thinking, I can't even go there because.
Yeah, it's at that time. Yeah it is. That right now a year in could I see myself being on my own forever. No, no. You know, like I am probably a relationship type of person. Yeah. And I thrive in relationships but all in good time of course. So it's. Yeah but it definitely what form. Part of my future. I mean sad not to. Yeah. Have a relationship. I can actually confirm if anything ever ever happens to me.
I will not give Arthur my support or thumbs up. He sat here beside me and I think it was idea for and I keep saying that forces is Hurricane Ike were like a podcast will haunt her husband.
The one thing that I always say is that it's just it's just sad. And there are some days I have really sad days and people around me will know it.
And there are other days, I may think, well, I've actually had a really good date. I know, but I think it's about taking each day all or like I could break that down into hours or minutes, you know, and go like I've had a really bad couple of hours, but actually and maybe looking. But you don't even realize at the time. And then looking back on the day you go. Yeah, well, I pulled it back a little bit or I find if I'm having a really bad day, I just draw on up to the grave and I just go up there and she's in a really nice graveyard and I bring a coffee and I sit on the bench just to, you know, be what my thoughts and and generally that works for me.
And I'm happy that they're grateful that it does. It's one of the poshest graveyards I've ever been.
And of course it is, because that's where she told me I had no choice. Right. It's fabulous.
It really is. And it's only, you know, a year since Jenny's passing. Will you be doing anything special? Are you planning on doing. And so self is something.
No. Well, I was going to like in normal times, you'd probably have a mass and get together. But given, you know, what's causing climate, you know, we're just Jenny was big to see swimming.
So we're going to go down. And I still do that with the boys probably two or three times a week. And there's a group of us we have a a group called All Sea, which is then and what's up? And it just is all our friends and our family and my family and whoever's available goes down for a swim on certain days. And so we're going to do that on our anniversary. But I have to see point and let off some balloons and have a swim.
It's so good that you can do that. And also with the boys, but also with friends and family. Yes, it's quite nice to tell.
Like and one thing I know that we're going to finish up soon.
But one thing about grief is that I cos I'm at the I guess the top of the tree from a grieving point of view as regards Jenny, you know, alongside her mum and dad and her two brothers, I probably completely underestimated the grief that other people went through and continue to do around Jenny.
So it's really nice that, you know, that her close friends got a chance to get together and to, you know, grieve as well, because that's like obviously I can't take on anyone. That's something I learnt really early on. You can't take on other people's grief. You have to deal with your own. And I'm dealing with mine and to a certain extent, the two boys.
But that's a lot for one person. It's a lot for one person. So also, I know that her death has had a profound effect on lots of people in her close circle of friends and family. And it's I think it's important. That's something I have to work on.
Paula, her mom Will had really messaged me on Instagram. And she will always when I think of Harvey up and I think Paula's profile pic is Jenny on Instagram.
Yeah. Yeah. And she'll always chat and she will always Jenny's mom will always say something really encouraging and really positive. And it always makes me think of what I've gone through, you know, going through what you're going through. Then I think for her to have lost her daughter and to still be sending me a lovely positive message about my family or about something me.
And often I go, wow, it's like mother, like daughter.
She's exceptionally positive. Yeah. And she's exceptionally calming. And she's a gorgeous lady. Yeah. And I'm lucky to her.
And the last time I seen Paula was at the Blossom Tree Ball. Yeah. And they raised how much money.
So we're actually handing over the cheque I think next week or the week after. The week after. For two hundred and three thousand years while there and tell us what chargee that's going to go into to establish the genuine McGovern pancreatic clinical database, how amazing.
Every other main major cancer has or has a national database in Ireland. So pancreas cancer is the only one that doesn't. So this is going to fund clinical nurses to start developing a database which will hopefully help all of us and our kids into the future.
But a huge amount of money into improving what people thought of Danny and the people that donated on the night I sang the song.
Yeah, I had no idea when I got two standing ovations on the night I did you guys so but asked me to dance them. I know you can sit down. I remember you gave a wonderful speech on the night.
And one thing when you come down to I said we after you come down, I just said to you, you are so brave. I think it's so brave to get up there and to speak just so highly. And just to just you name checked so many people that other people may not have.
And you're also so appreciative of how people have treated you were here.
But I was like, how were you doing this?
This was in February. I'm thinking, how do you do that?
Timing was of the essence for that, because in hindsight, when we lucky to do because a few weeks later. Exactly.
But like, if you want to raise money have been completely crude about it, you have to raise it when emotions are high. And if the other option was to leave it, you know, November, December this year are coming up upcoming and you probably wouldn't have raised as much money.
And we need to hire we need it over 200000 to, you know, for instance, to actually do it.
So we did us and and hopefully now it'll make a big difference to to just to put it in context, Jenny's professor, who's her surgeon, he's the head of the European Pancreatic Adeno Association, and he's probably the foremost pancreas surgeon in Europe. And he wants this to be his lasting legacy because he's heading it up. Right, that if we can get this right, that Ireland will then become like we're getting refused for clinical trials because we have no data.
We're getting like simple things. And this will help. This will open up that whole world that and we'll be able to piggyback on it and not be, you know, lagging behind and care for pancreas cancer. Yeah.
So what a great way to end on a high note, really, which sounds weird. Sometimes I almost feel like the words you use. You think I can see on a high note, but so we're good at it.
It's because it is a it's a lasting memory, something that's going to come out of this, which is hopefully going to long term transform how the care of people with pancreatic cancer. So and that's down to Jenny. Yes. You know how well she was thought of and how generous people were. Totally.
Thank you so much for being so nice. No, and so open because I. I always think it's tricky when you have two young children, you know, who could listen. And then you're also, you know, aware of Jenny's family and friends and loved one, you know, but I almost feel like you are kind of living your truth, aren't you?
And you're speaking openly and honestly. I think that the way that I've commended on us and it's the way that I continue to do it, you know. Yeah. The honesty is the best policy. Alan, thank you so much. Thank you, Brian. I really appreciate Alan sharing his experiences today, it's clear that despite his grief, Alan continues to be a pillar of strength for those around him. And I know Jenny would be incredibly proud. Next week, I sit down with Jennifer Rock, Jennifer is better known to the nation as the Belove Skin Nerd, a brand she built with support and advice of our father.
She talks to me and reflects on that time and how she remains connected to her father. The phone rang, I thought I remember thinking, that's for me, it was was really bizarre and I like that phone call is for me. And then the gentleman came in and said it to the leader and she went out of the.
Maybe it's for her. And I think it's definitely for me. So when she came back and she looked me straight in the face that the phone call for you. And I said, OK, so I went outside and I met an amazing neighbor, like she's literally an angel sent from heaven. So she was on the phone. I don't know how she got the number because it was a landline. Nobody really knew who I was. And the lady imroth, her name, she said, Jen, your dad's.
And I said, is he dead? And she said, I'm sorry.
And I said, like, is is he has he died? And so some sort of my buddy. And then she said, I know he's collapsed. They're working on him now.