St Vincent's Hospice helped us talk about life

A MUM living with the devastating effects of a brain tumour is backing a drive to raise funds for the hospice which has supported her through her illness.

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Fiona and Gordon with daughters Lucy, 17, and Emily, 13
Fiona and Gordon with daughters Lucy, 17, and Emily, 13

Nurse Fiona Cook's life changed completely four years ago, from a busy health professional and mum to learning to cope with the debilitating effects of her tumour and several operations.

Fiona, 43, who was a senior nurse at Glasgow's Sandyford Clinic, and her husband Gordon, also 43, have had vital support from St Vincent's Hospice in Howwood.

But the process of adapting to life as it is now — and a condition which Fiona believes will one day kill her – has been a battle for the couple and their two teenage daughters.

She said: "Before I was just doing the normal things that a normal working mum does. As we both worked full-time, Gordon and I were very much a team.

"I was a lead nurse and had been working the week between Christmas and Hogmanay with what I thought was a migraine. I'd lost some vision, the headache was getting worse and I couldn't stand any light.

"I went to the chemist with my elder daughter Lucy because I needed her to help me get down there. The pharmacist just took a couple of looks at me and said 'you need to go to hospital now.'

"We went to the Royal Alexandra Hospital. As a nurse, you're tuned into medical language and suddenly it was becoming serious.

"Then they brought the family around to explain that I was going to be kept in. I had a scan that night, then somebody sat on the bed, pulled the curtains round and said to me and Gordy 'you've had a massive brain haemorrhage'."

After that, Fiona entered into a spiral of multiple operations and dwindling health. She has said goodbye to her family several times before an operation, not knowing if she would make it through. Every time, she says, "you come out better mentally, but worse physically".

She's now unable to do simple things such as cook a meal because of the effects of her illness which include chronic pain, co-ordination problems and memory loss.

Fiona, of Bridge of Weir in Renfrewshire, says giving up her job was one of the hardest things.

She said: "It broke my heart. As a nurse, it's not just a job. It's in you, part of your personality. It's part of who you are. I loved my job. I was good at it. I loved coming home thinking I'd made a difference.

"At Sandyford you'd meet people who'd gone through awful things, terrible crises in their lives, and to have the ability to make that easier for them was an amazing thing.

"And for someone to tell you to switch that off was really hard. It broke my heart and took me a long time to find myself again, to realise who I was, because I wasn't Fiona the nurse any more."

St Vincent's Hospice has cared for Fiona through periods of illness and recovery from surgery, and provided support to Gordon and daughters Lucy, 17, and Emily, 13.

Gordon said: "That very first time when we were all sitting in the room at the hospice, they said 'you can come any time you want'.

"It's not like visiting in a hospital when you have a visiting time, which is tense. You know you've got this window and you're under pressure to make a conversation. Within reason, at the hospice you can come and go.

Emily said: "The hospice helped us understand that it isn't a place to go to die. It's a place for rest, support and all the things hospitals can't offer."

Lucy added: "It made a huge difference. It helped me understand that it wasn't a big scary thing, just a minor scary thing."

Fiona added: "We wouldn't be here, laughing and joking about the future, dealing with it as well as we are, without the support from the hospice. We wouldn't be able to talk about it."

ewan.fergus@ evening times.co.uk

This year, St Vincent's Hospice is celebrating 25 years of caring for people from across the west of Scotland.

The charity is hoping to raise £1 million to help it care for future patients and families living with life-limiting illnesses.

The aim is that this 25th year brings celebration and financial stability to St Vincent's, and reaching the target of £1m would ensure it is able to continue to operate in a difficult economic climate, and also set up the hospice for further growth and development.

To donate or find out more log on to www.stvincentshospice.co.uk

Nurse Fiona Cook's life changed completely four years ago, from a busy health professional and mum to learning to cope with the debilitating effects of her tumour and several operations.

Fiona, 43, who was a senior nurse at Glasgow's Sandyford Clinic, and her husband Gordon, also 43, have had vital support from St Vincent's Hospice in Howwood.

But the process of adapting to life as it is now — and a condition which Fiona believes will one day kill her – has been a battle for the couple and their two teenage daughters.

She said: "Before I was just doing the normal things that a normal working mum does. As we both worked full-time, Gordon and I were very much a team.

"I was a lead nurse and had been working the week between Christmas and Hogmanay with what I thought was a migraine. I'd lost some vision, the headache was getting worse and I couldn't stand any light.

"I went to the chemist with my elder daughter Lucy because I needed her to help me get down there. The pharmacist just took a couple of looks at me and said 'you need to go to hospital now.'

"We went to the Royal Alexandra Hospital. As a nurse, you're tuned into medical language and suddenly it was becoming serious.

"Then they brought the family around to explain that I was going to be kept in. I had a scan that night, then somebody sat on the bed, pulled the curtains round and said to me and Gordy 'you've had a massive brain haemorrhage'."

After that, Fiona entered into a spiral of multiple operations and dwindling health. She has said goodbye to her family several times before an operation, not knowing if she would make it through. Every time, she says, "you come out better mentally, but worse physically".

She's now unable to do simple things such as cook a meal because of the effects of her illness which include chronic pain, co-ordination problems and memory loss.

Fiona, of Bridge of Weir in Renfrewshire, says giving up her job was one of the hardest things.

She said: "It broke my heart. As a nurse, it's not just a job. It's in you, part of your personality. It's part of who you are. I loved my job. I was good at it. I loved coming home thinking I'd made a difference.

"At Sandyford you'd meet people who'd gone through awful things, terrible crises in their lives, and to have the ability to make that easier for them was an amazing thing.

"And for someone to tell you to switch that off was really hard. It broke my heart and took me a long time to find myself again, to realise who I was, because I wasn't Fiona the nurse any more."

St Vincent's Hospice has cared for Fiona through periods of illness and recovery from surgery, and provided support to Gordon and daughters Lucy, 17, and Emily, 13.

Gordon said: "That very first time when we were all sitting in the room at the hospice, they said 'you can come any time you want'.

"It's not like visiting in a hospital when you have a visiting time, which is tense. You know you've got this window and you're under pressure to make a conversation. Within reason, at the hospice you can come and go.

Emily said: "The hospice helped us understand that it isn't a place to go to die. It's a place for rest, support and all the things hospitals can't offer."

Lucy added: "It made a huge difference. It helped me understand that it wasn't a big scary thing, just a minor scary thing."

Fiona added: "We wouldn't be here, laughing and joking about the future, dealing with it as well as we are, without the support from the hospice. We wouldn't be able to talk about it."

ewan.fergus@ evening times.co.uk

This year, St Vincent's Hospice is celebrating 25 years of caring for people from across the west of Scotland.

The charity is hoping to raise £1 million to help it care for future patients and families living with life-limiting illnesses.

The aim is that this 25th year brings celebration and financial stability to St Vincent's, and reaching the target of £1m would ensure it is able to continue to operate in a difficult economic climate, and also set up the hospice for further growth and development.

To donate or find out more log on to www.stvincentshospice.co.uk

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