‘It’s been tough, Christmas has been especially hard’ – Jonathan Harris opens up about how much he’s missing wife Tina
“It’s been tough, Christmas has been especially hard, I have been meaning to put up the Christmas tree for weeks but I couldn’t face it, the thought of it was gut-wrenching because it was something we would always do together, myself and the boys have it done now but it was tough.”
Those are the heartbreaking words of Jonathan Harris who lost his wife Tina Potts from Ballyguile in Wicklow Town to cancer in August 2019.
The mother-of-two died from ovarian cancer and now her husband is urging others to be aware of the symptoms so that others do not have to suffer like Tina.
“This year myself and the boys will head to Tina’s friend’s house to have dinner with her family,” Jonathan added.
“I’ll miss Tina in moments like when we’re giving our presents, having dinner or when we were decorating the tree, mostly though you just miss us all having a laugh together, we will try to enjoy it though.”
“We were taught to focus on happiness and to learn to grieve as a family and see where each other is coming from, rather than to get bogged down in the small stuff.
“People shouldn’t be afraid to talk, there’s still a stigma but there’s nothing wrong with being sad or grieving, you can’t bottle it up.
“Tina was the kind of person who could connect with people, even speaking about her in a past tense seems so strange.
“She was amazing and I think that’s why I fell in love with her.”
Tina (40) was told by doctors she has only months to live and was given a 30% chance of living until Christmas as she bravely fought the killer disease.
She made national headlines when she used her final months to raise awareness of ovarian cancer, which can be hard to identify as symptoms such as abdominal bloating, indigestion, changes to bowel movements and tiredness can often be dismissed as other ailments.
Before she died, Tina, managed to see her favourite band Take That perform and meet singer Mark Owen.
On March 22, she married her partner of 13 years, Jonathan (37), surrounded by her two sons Philip (20) – who has autism, ADHD and dyspraxia – and Elliott (11).
“The wedding was amazing, her friends Patrice and Melissa took all the pressure off by asking what we needed organised, they set everything up and people were so generous, said Jonathan.
“It was very emotional, I always knew I wanted to marry her but doing it under the circumstances was bittersweet.
“We enjoyed the day and had great fun and the memories are priceless but it was hard of course to know that we weren’t going to get the next 40 years of memories without some kind of a miracle, what it did teach me though is to live in the moment.”
Jonathan revealed that many of Tina’s symptoms were common ailments like back pain, tiredness, irregular bowel movements and severe abdominal bloating.
“She had six litres of fluid drained from her abdomen in late 2017 and it was then she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
“Tina began chemotherapy and had surgery in January 2018, which was when they discovered the cancer had spread to her entire abdomen and the lining of her bowels.
“Ask for a CA125 blood test, an ultrasound or a pelvic exam, go further and remember that you don’t go to the doctor to get something seen to but fixed.
“The earlier these things are caught the better chance you have of surviving, I’m raging we just didn’t get sorted sooner, she could still be here and it’s so important to know the warning signs.”
Jonathan praised many of the medical professionals who cared for Tina but he said the health service is at crisis point.
“The health system in Ireland is a mess, they’re clinging on by their fingernails.
“The last thing she had was her dignity and I felt at times that even that was taken from her,” Jonathan said.
“The boys knew she was sick and once it got to the point that Tina had agreed to a DNR (do not resuscitate) we were advised to tell Philip and Elliot what was happening” he added.
“A psycho-oncologist advised me on what to say, I remember telling them that mammy was very sick and might not come home.”