Cancer has a life of its own. It is all around us. The World of cancer is a parallel universe.
It is 2008. Most of us have lost relatives & friends to the dreaded C. There is so much fear surrounding cancer that the perception seems to be that inevitably cancer will get you in the end. There are lots of diseases around. Some of them new diseases, some of them, old, have come back.
Myself I lost a friend just before Christmas. Both my parents died from cancer. My mother 3 years ago my father in the year 1999. He just missed the year 2000 & my sister’s 50th birthday & missing out on England winning the Rugby World Cup9 he was rugby mad)
My father had prostate cancer. I didn’t know about this until after he was hospitalised after having a stroke. He was a doctor. He knew he was dying. I can’t say he accepted the situation with equanimity. In his final days & nights, weeks & months, he railed against the dying of the night. But he had no illusions about his position – as the cancer specialist said to him, “your position is very serious.” By which he meant he was doomed. Another doctor told him he might live for a few more years.
Seeing my father die was painful for everyone.
My father had a brain tumour. At first with him in the ward, he was actually quite lucid.
I thought, well, we can overcome this thing. Before that, cancer & dying didn’t really affect me. My father’s attitude was that he was doomed. He actually said, I am dying.
He died some months later.
We had him at home. He really made an effort to live a normal life, even though he was & he knew it, dying.
He begged us not to put him anywhere, in a home or a hospice. But in the end we did.
I did feel guilty. I always try to do the right thing. In fact, it wasn’t my decision to put him in a hospice. I do sort of feel guilty about it, but there wasn’t much I could do about it because after all it wasn’t as though I was there all the time. A hospice is ok. The staff are all very caring but when it is someone you care about who is dying it is a very strange & awful feeling. My father wanted me to get him something to end it all. But me, being me, I couldn’t do that. I always thought – you know – you never know – he might recover. Death is so inevitable. At least it becomes inevitable in the end. He recognised it more than myself. The main point of it was that he wanted to die. He had reached that state. He asked me many times to get him something to end it all. Apart from the fact that I wouldn’t know how to do it & anyway I didn’t believe in euthanasia.
In the hospice he became increasingly angry & frustrated. He wanted to finally die & have done with his life & when he talked, because of the disease, what he said made no sense, it was like a made up language.
Lots of his colleagues & friends & his brother visited him there. He was certainly pleased to see them.
My mother visited him every day with either myself or my sister. But when he actually died on the 5th of August 1999
This is the obituary in the Royal College of Psychiatrists written by his friend Sassi
Geoffrey Garfit Wallis, formerly Surgeon Captain, the Royal Navy and Consultant Psychiatrist at High Royds Hospital, Menston and St James’ University Hospital, Leeds.
Dr Wallis was born in Southsea, Hampshire and came from a Naval family. His father was a doctor in the Royal Navy and his paternal grandfather had been a Naval Paymaster Captain. His father died when he was only 4 years old and he grew up with his mother. Early schooling was in Hampshire and in Malta and later at Epsom College where he was keen on rugby and cricket. He maintained his interest in these sports all his life.
Geoffrey qualified in medicine at University College Hospital, London in 1941 and did his house jobs with Sir Thomas Lewis and Dr Andrew Morland. He then joined the Royal Navy as Medical Officer in 1942, specialising in psychiatry, particularly in electroencephalography. He was up-graded as a specialist in 1949 and appointed as a Consultant Psychiatrist to the Royal Navy in 1956. He was Advisor in Psychiatry to the Medical Director-General (Navy) and was the Chairman of the Military Section of the World Psychiatric Association. He received the Gilbert Blane Gold Medal in recognition of his contribution to psychiatry in its application to Naval service. He studied stress as a predictor in schizophrenia, the subject of his MD from London University in 1966. He became a Foundation Fellow at the inception of the Royal College of Psychiatrists in 1971.
After a successful career in psychiatry in the Royal Navy he decided to retire early in order to start a career in psychiatry in the NHS. After retiring from the Royal Navy in 1972 he was appointed as a consultant psychiatrist in High Royds Hospital, Menston and St James’ University Hospital, Leeds where he served until 1983. Geoffrey served as a Clinical Tutor (he had previously done the same job in the Royal Navy and Royal Army Medical Corps) and he took a keen interest in the activities of the Royal College of Psychiatrists. He was a member of the Clinical Tutor Sub-Committee and Executive Committee of the North East Division and had represented the Division as Fellow on the Council of the Royal College of Psychiatrists. He had also served on the Public Policy, Programmes and Meetings committee, Library Committee and also in the Liaison Committee between the Royal College of Psychiatry and the College of Occupational Therapists. Although he was heavily committed in day-to-day clinical work, he gave a considerable amount of time to administrative duties, serving as the Chairman of the Division of Psychiatry of Leeds Western District and fulfilling his academic role as a Clinical Lecturer at Leeds University. He was Chairman of Leeds Regional Psychiatric Association and was an active member from 1990 and President, 1995-1997 of the Leeds and West Riding Medico-Legal Society. He was well known by the local solicitors who respected him for his forthright, down-to-earth medico-legal opinion.
Geoffrey met his wife, Molly, when he was a medical student and Molly was working as nurse at Great Ormond Street Hospital. They married in 1943 while he was on two days sick leave which in effect became their honeymoon. Geoffrey and Molly were inseparable. They were keen on classical music and were ardent members of Opera North. They were competent water skiers. Together they attended meetings organised under the auspices of the Royal College of Psychiatrists and conferences organised by the World Psychiatric Association and were probably one of the most well travelled couples in any group.
Geoffrey retained considerable interest in clinical research and had publications on alcohol related disorders, stress as a predictor in schizophrenia, comparative assessment of depot neuroleptics and the study of Capgras Syndrome. He was a sound clinician and his opinion was always based upon careful observation and clinical evidence. He was not given to emotional excesses and his manner towards everybody, including his patients was immaculate. It is rightly said that he never retired from his work: just two days before he was admitted to hospital he had travelled a long distance to examine a patient at Rampton Hospital. After he retired from the NHS he continued to work privately and also in locum capacity at a number of psychiatric units in Yorkshire. Work was his life and he was never tired of psychiatry or psychiatric patients.
Geoffrey endured the pain and discomfort of his terminal illness with serene dignity. He died aged 81, on 5 August 1999 and is survived by his wife, Molly and their two children, Andrew and Tricia.
Lots of people came to the funeral, mainly people we had seen before.
Life goes on but we all still miss him.