23-year-old Lara Rodwell from Brighton has launched her first book, ‘From Prognosis to Peace’, after losing her dad to Bowel Cancer in 2020.
In March 2020, Lara’s Dad, David, was given a terminal prognosis after being diagnosed with an aggressive form of Bowel Cancer. This was around the same time as the first Covid-induced British lockdown, which Lara says blessed her family with two silver linings: ‘time and togetherness’.
A few weeks after David’s prognosis, the family were referred to St Barnabas House. “We really wanted Dad to stay at home to be cared for and St Barnabas made that possible. Nurses were coming round at least twice a day for care and medication. When it got to the stage where Dad couldn’t make it up the stairs, they even brought a bed round. He stayed in our living room for a few weeks.” says Lara.
“Dad started to deteriorate, and we decided it was best for him to go to the hospice and be cared for there. It was a difficult decision to make, but this allowed us to spend some precious time with him and be his family, not his carers. The hospice was such a special place to be, the team were lovely, and the care was so genuine and individual. They got to know us, and my dad wasn’t just another patient, he was a person with a family, and they really understood that. They allowed my Mum to stay by his side for the whole three weeks, and his children to visit every day.”
On the morning of 5 September 2020, at St Barnabas House, David sadly passed away. “From the moment we got that prognosis, I accepted my grief and spent those six months being present with Dad. There’s a lot of shame and guilt when someone you love receives that prognosis – like you can’t ask for what you want or need to feel more at peace with the situation. However, in a way, this is your time to be selfish. You are in this together.”
“I remember Dad saying to me that we shouldn’t feel sorry for him as we’re the ones who are going to be living on earth without a Dad. He’s not going to see me get married one day or meet his grandchildren – that it’s us that are going to struggle. These words meant so much to me. He gave me permission to ask for what I needed to grieve.”
In the months leading up to her dad’s death, Lara didn't want there to be a single question she didn't ask him, a meaningful memory they didn't reminisce over, or anything about his life she didn't know. The pair worked on a journal, a physical keepsake, where they wrote about the relationship they shared, from poems to anecdotes and special memories. And she took every chance she had to tell him how grateful she felt for everything he had given to her.
Now, Lara is passionate about using her delicate foresight and compassion to shape a more authentic and honest conversation around death, loss and grief.
Published in October 2021, “From Prognosis to Peace: Navigating Grief Through Discovery, Gratitude and Healing” is a guided journal and heartfelt memoir that Lara hopes will impact many people's lives as they navigate the same path. It grants people permission to gently start their grieving process with their loved one, before fate takes its toll.
“I know from first-hand experience that this is not easy. In fact, accepting that my dad was going to die was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done or will ever do. However, the peace I felt once I could talk to him was an invaluable part of my healing journey. By the end of the book, I hope people will feel stronger, lighter, and more connected to themselves, their loved ones and the world around them.”