Thursday 21 September 2017

'I'll have to be Mammy and Daddy now' - Dad on losing his wife to breast cancer after welcoming miracle babies

Conor pictured with his late wife Lisa, who sadly lost a battle with breast cancer
Conor pictured with his late wife Lisa, who sadly lost a battle with breast cancer

Laura Lynott

They were the "miracle babies" she never thought possible after suffering ovarian cancer - and Lisa Dalton loved them right up until the moment breast cancer tragically claimed her.

The bright young scientist, from Lucan, who had already fought ovarian cancer once - aged just 21 - died on September 18 last year, leaving an irreplaceable void at the heart of her family.

Lisa was only 35 years old and her children, Adam (4) and Sophie (8), adored her. Even with her gone they kiss photos of their mother every night before bed.

During her life, Lisa juggled a top job in microbiology and pharmacology at UCD, while being a devoted mother. Her loving husband, Conor Dalton (42), has given up work to be there for the children as they face life without her.

"It would be different if I didn't have kids," Conor said. "But they are the reason I get out of bed everyday. Sophie is great. Her Communion was on Saturday and it's very sad Lisa couldn't be there.

"I had to get advice on dresses and I know there'll be a lot of that through our lives now.

Lisa Dalton pictured with her children Sophie and Adam
Lisa Dalton pictured with her children Sophie and Adam

"I know I'll have to be mammy and daddy in one."

Lisa, who took part in several Dublin VHI Women's Mini Marathons, and the Irish Cancer Society's Colour Dash, had been battling breast cancer for 10 months.

Devastatingly, she died just 10 days after hearing the aggressive cancer had spread - but not before telling Conor he was "an amazing dad", and him vowing to make her "proud".

"Lisa struggled to have the two kids and she went through enough battles," Conor said.

"She had to have an ovary and a tube removed and thought she might not have kids, so Sophie was her miracle baby. She was born naturally.

"For Lisa, the world had fallen into place then.

Lisa Dalton lost her battle with breast cancer, leaving behind her two young children Adam and Sophie
Lisa Dalton lost her battle with breast cancer, leaving behind her two young children Adam and Sophie

"Adam was delivered in a high dependency unit in Holles Street Hospital and he was very unwell. He was also a miracle.

"The kids are perfect, gorgeous and amazing and Lisa said the minute she saw both children she forgot the stress to conceive them.

"She was an amazing mum, one in a million. She loved the two children and I keep telling them that every day and night.

"She was super mammy and the kids never wanted for anything."

Conor pictured with his late wife Lisa, who sadly lost a battle with breast cancer
Conor pictured with his late wife Lisa, who sadly lost a battle with breast cancer

Lisa had seemed to be progressing well and the family even discussed the possibility of a holiday, sadly something Conor cannot see himself doing alone with the children.

"We only had 10 days to say goodbye," he said.

"I used to sit up with Lisa at night in hospital and I'd tell her I was worried about being on my own with the kids.

"She'd tell me I was an amazing dad and I'd do great. I told her I'd make her proud."

Conor talked to a counsellor at St Vincent's Hospital, who had helped Lisa toward the end of her life, to help the children.

"I learned not to tell them that their mammy went to sleep because they would possibly fear sleep. I was taught it was about using the right wording, communication, and what to say to the children," he said.

"We spoke about mammy together and there were tears. Once we stopped crying, we would chat again.

"I placed photos of mammy at the kids' bedsides, so they can kiss her good night.

"I have left all things to associate her being close to them in their rooms, making them feel she is with them.

"They'd say 'we miss mammy' and I'd tell them funny stories of what me and Lisa did over the years. It worked, it helped put the kids in a happier mood before bed."

Conor is in the midst of his own fight - to be the best father he can while still grieving the woman he'd loved for 16 years and been married to for six.

"I'll never get used to not having Lisa around," he said.

"If I'm honest, I still haven't accepted she's gone.

"If I didn't have the kids there would be no reason to get out of bed - I'd keep the curtains closed and hide myself from the world."

Conor gave up work as an executive in Dublin's bar sector in December, to be there for his children full-time.

They are managing financially but for now the most important thing is being around.

"I do the school run and I'm here for cuddles and chats in the evening. I let the kids know it's fine if they have any questions," he said.

The father keeps a memory box upstairs - another part of Lisa for the children, filled with badges from the many charity events she took part in.

The plan is the kids will also raise money for charity the way Lisa had, as the ultimate tribute.

Sophie had already taken part in the colour run with her mother last year.

This year, the family will take part in the event, along with relatives and Lisa's friends and colleagues from UCD, to raise money for the Marie Keating Foundation, Lisa's chosen charity.

Conor, who also lost his mum, Phil, to cancer eight years ago, said he was particularly proud UCD has introduced an award named after Lisa. It will be presented each year to the highest achieving second year pharmacology student.

Conor is organising the Lisa Dalton Golf Classic on Friday, June 16 at Castleknock Golf Club at 1.30pm. All proceeds will got to the Marie Keating Foundation.

The event hopes to raise €2,500.

To donate, go to: give.everydayhero.com/ie/ lisa-dalton-golf-classic

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