Cancer victim leaves husband with ‘to do’ list for raising children

September 30, 2010 | by | 0 Comments

A devoted mum killed by breast cancer has left her husband a touching ‘to do’ list of over 100 instructions for raising their two young sons.

Kate Greene died aged 37 after a two-year battle with the disease, leaving husband St John, 44, to care for sons Finn, four, and Reef, six, who has himself survived cancer.

In the last months of her life she drew up a long list of instructions, hopes and ambitions for the boys, which St John has now devoted himself to fulfilling.

They include specific experiences she wants them to enjoy – such as visiting the beach where she holidayed as a child, attending an international rugby match, and going to Switzerland where St John proposed to her.

Others are heartbreakingly simple – such as finding a four leaf clover, learning to play a musical instrument, and growing sunflowers.

Kate also outlined basic principles she wants instilled into the boys, such as always being on time, treating girlfriends with respect, and always making up after a row.

The ‘mum’s manual’ also spells out what she wants avoided – smoking, riding motorbikes and joining the Armed Forces.

Other wishes include buying a dining table so they always eat together and always kissing the boys goodnight twice before bed.

Amazingly, she also urges St John to find another woman so the boys grow up with a female influence in their lives.

St John intends to fulfil everything on the list and has already bought a dining table and set about building a playroom extension on their home in Clevedon, Somerset.

He has also booked flights for him and the boys to go to Egypt and plans to take them to Dublin to watch Ireland play England at rugby in the Six Nations.

St John said: ”Losing Kate was more devastating than words can describe but by carrying out all the wishes on the list we still have an emotional tie.

”I’ve already done as much on the list as possible and we plan to do the lot.”

St John, a former paramedic who now runs an outdoor pursuits company, Training Saints, met Kate in 1984 when she was 16.

They moved in together the following year and St John and they married ten years later after he proposed on holiday in Switzerland.

Kate fell pregnant with Reef in 2003 and 18 months later Reef’s brother Finn was on the way.

But in December 2005 their world collapsed when doctors found a lump in Reef’s abdomen following months of illness and the stress sent Kate into labour the same day.

Finn was born seven weeks premature, with St John delivering the baby, and was rushed straight into a special care baby unit at Southmead Hospital.

In January 2006 Reef’s lump was diagnosed as a rhabdoid sarcoma – one of the rarest, most aggressive tumours.

He was given a six per cent chance of survival and began intensive chemotherapy before surgery to remove the tumour left the nerves controlling his legs damaged.

Doctors warned his parents that he might never walk again but to the amazement of all, Reef recovered and went into remission.

Then in April 2008 their world was again turned upside down when Kate found a lump in her left breast.

And after 18 months of gruelling chemotherapy it was apparent the disease had spread too far and treatment was stopped.

Her condition deteriorated and two months later she needed oxygen tanks at home.

St John said: ”I think towards the end we both knew Kate’s time was up. We’ve known each other since we were children and didn’t need to say the words. We just knew.

”Then one night she became really frightened she wouldn’t make it through the night, we stayed up chatting and at about 4am we drew up the wish list of things I had to do with the boys.

”Kate would carry a pen and paper around with her to note down ideas and we would stay up talking about things we wanted the boys to do.

”Before I knew it, there were over three sides of A4 filled with things on the list. I’ve done some of them already and every time we do one we think of her.”

Over the following weeks the family fulfilled a number of Kate’s final wishes – visiting Santa in Lapland, going to Disney World in Florida and seeing a pantomime.

During her final days – when she became too ill to compose the letters – she would leave answer phone messages which St John dutifully recorded.

Among those listed by Kate included kissing the boys twice before they go to bed every night, banning the pair from joining the army and preventing them from riding motorbikes.

She also ordered him to finish paving the drive way and build an extension so he could install a table which they could eat family meals around.

Kate also told him to take them to Llantwit Major, the beach in South Wales where Kate used to holiday as a child, buy a boat and go to an international rugby match.

And perhaps most touching of all was Kate’s dying wish that St John should settle down with another woman – so the boys would be afforded the ‘stability’ of a female influence in their lives.

St John said each item on the list afforded him the opportunity to remember the ‘soulmate’ who had mothered his two children.

He said: ”It hit me like a thunderbolt when Kate was diagnosed. We thought we’d been to hell and back but there was more.

”The most difficult is, without doubt, finding someone else. I have already found my soulmate and to be back on the market is very difficult to deal with.”

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