Bereaved Story

“We feel robbed of the years that we have missed with her”

Anne-Marie Higgins shares the story of her mum, ex-nurse Mary, and her experiences.

Anne-Marie Higgins

My mum was a retired nurse who had worked for 25-years in A&E and still did occasional shifts to help out. She was healthy, full of energy and ‘always on the go’.

Her first symptoms were similar to post-viral; she’d recently had flu. But she had fatigue and an itching sensation. She had just returned from a holiday in America visiting relatives and wondered if she had picked up an infection from cats (her sister-in-law had numerous pet cats).

She visited her GP and had some blood tests to rule out hepatitis. Within a couple of weeks, she had continued to deteriorate and started experiencing pain after eating and developed jaundice. She wondered if she had developed gallstones. A visit to her GP on Hogmanay 2007 resulted in an urgent referral to hospital for investigation, and she was seen by a specialist within a few days. She was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer on the 10th of January 2008. As a nurse, she knew that the prognosis was poor. A stent in her bile duct provided little relief and it was quickly clear that her treatment would be palliative.

She spent the new few precious weeks sharing time with her family and friends. She managed to go on a short trip to Rome with me and my two sisters, one of those ‘let’s do it now moments’. We all realised that our time with mum was limited and concentrated on looking after her and cherishing every moment. My brother travelled from England with his children and we gathered together for a unique family ‘party’. It was an evening of laughter, making memories with her four children and nine grandchildren together. There was no time for tears.

She invited friends and family to visit, dancing to Rod Stewart and filling the house with laughter every night.

On the 27th of February, we celebrated my sister’s 40th birthday. Our darling mum was slowly fading and struggling with pain and medication. We had an unusually quiet day, just mum and her four ‘children’ and a simple lunch of sandwiches and cake. A simple, quiet, precious day with laughter and hugs. Instinctively, we all seemed to know that day was special.

She passed away the following morning, peacefully and without fuss. Seven weeks after diagnosis. She was 67-years-old.

Mum was a vibrant, glamorous, caring, full of life person. She packed so much into her life, training to be a nurse whilst raising four children aged four to 14 years. Suddenly, she was gone. We miss her energy and love, her humour, her unfailing work ethic and ambition. She taught us so much, and we feel robbed of the years that we have missed with her.

The first photograph of my beautiful mum was taken in the Vatican three weeks after diagnosis and exactly four weeks before she died. I look at it with disbelief, even though 13-years have passed now. She died within three to four months of her symptoms of pancreatic cancer.