My husband Nick wasn’t the type to just sit quietly in the corner. He loved to take risks, to give things a go without any fear. He was cheeky, naughty – in a good way, loads of fun. He was a surfer, rugby player, footballer, always outdoors (one of our twins, Rose, is the same as her dad – always throwing herself off things whenever she can!). Nick was one of the most selfless people I’ve ever known.
When he was diagnosed with brain cancer – at only 29 years of age – he was more worried about everyone else. I remember him asking, ‘Are you sure you want to stay with me?’ ‘Of course,’ I said. I wouldn’t want to be with anyone else and cancer didn’t change that.
After his first brain surgery, he wasn’t allowed to be very active, so I got him a miniature dachshund puppy, Poppy, perfect for ‘small’ walks. Nick absolutely loved her – and it was the first glimpse I had into what he’d be like as a father. He was so strong.
Even going through chemotherapy and radiation therapy he never took a day off work. His test results seemed really positive and he went from monthly to six-monthly scans. It felt like we were ‘beating’ the cancer.
In 2019, Rose and Sophia were born and that summer we moved from London back to Sussex, where I grew up, to give the girls more space as they grew. It was around Christmas, though, that Nick asked if I noticed him slurring his words. I had; fearing the worst, I realised that this could be both our first and only Christmas together as a family. And, if that was true, I was determined that it would be amazing.
A few months later, further tests confirmed that Nick had a glioblastoma, a fast-growing and aggressive brain tumour. Nick was given less than a year to live – at just 33. By then the pandemic had arrived; I couldn’t even be with him when he was given the news. It was then that we first met the nurses at St Peter & St James. A lovely lady came to see us and talked through all the ways that they could help. Nick wasn’t angry about his diagnosis; but he wanted to talk about what he could and couldn’t do, to find out what would happen in his final days. And she was fantastic – she just got him; she allowed him to talk about things that were too difficult for the rest of us.
That summer, things started to deteriorate quite rapidly. Nick couldn’t hold things in his hands or get down the stairs on his own (it didn’t stop him from trying though!) Up until then, he’d had his voice, but soon that started to go too. That’s when he decided to start writing letters – to me, his friends – every single person that meant something to him in his life. He also wrote birthday cards; a different one for each of our girls, for me to keep safe and give to them on every birthday until they reach the age of 30.
We’d hoped against hope that he might ‘make’ one more Christmas. But then, one morning in November 2020, I noticed he didn’t have his usual appetite – which had never left Nick throughout his illness. Then he had a sudden, awful epileptic fit and I knew that I needed to do everything I could to get him to the hospice. We didn’t want to go to hospital, it was the middle of the pandemic and we simply wouldn’t have been allowed in with him.
He was admitted to St Peter & St James and that night, his mum and I slept in his room beside him. At around 4am, Nick died. One of the nurses stayed with us and helped me get through those final hours. I’d never met her before, but it was one of the most special things one human could do for another.
At 6am I went home and the girls woke up. I carried on being ‘mum’ – and we’ve been like that ever since. Rose and Sophia are four years old now. Each year, they’ve opened the birthday card that Nick wrote for them. I’ve read his words out loud to them so far; I can hear his voice in my head. In time, of course, they’ll get to read the cards themselves.
In 2020, Nick got a spot in the London Marathon – but of course, he couldn’t take part. So, the hospice kindly (or not so kindly!) offered it to me for the next year. I wore his cap backwards, all 26 miles! I managed to raise an amazing amount of money, thanks to support from all our friends and family – and that will go straight towards paying for nursing care for someone else like Nick this Christmas.
“This Christmas, please help St Peter and St James Hospice ensure more families like ours, get the chance to spend this special time together, making memories to cherish in the future, just like I do today, and every day.”
Being with Nick, having the chance to make sure he was comfortable and had a peaceful ending – I’ll be forever grateful. We’ll always support the hospice – to make sure everyone can have the care we did and the chance to be with the person they love at the end of their life. If you can do the same this Christmas, it’ll mean more families like ours get the chance to spend that special time together – making memories they can cherish in the future, just like we do today and every day.