The Telford family sadly lost beloved mum Lorna (49) to cancer in September 2014. David and Lorna had just celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary months earlier in July.
“I’ll never forget the balmy summer day in early June 2010 when my wife Lorna sat our daughters Emma and Evie down, lovingly put her arms around them and broke the devastating news that she had cancer,” said husband David, 54.
“Having been misdiagnosed for five months and then not told the whole truth about the terrifying spread of the disease throughout her body, Lorna displayed such bravery and composure when she told the children she had cancer. We were eventually to learn that she had lung cancer and that it had spread.
“Our world imploded. Cancer had arrived in our lives and we were devastated. Lorna explained to Emma and Evie, who were 14 and eight respectively at the time, that she had ‘bad cells’ in her body.
“‘Mum,’ said Emma. ‘You mean you have cancer, bad cells means cancer doesn’t it?’ Lorna, who was an assistant director with the South Eastern Trust, looked at me and nodded at the girls, explaining she had to undergo chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
“Evie was oblivious to the fact her mum would not survive and while her innocence at the time and sense of humour was a blessing for the family, she realised in the final few months of her mum’s life that Christmas would not be the same this year. She was right. Lorna passed away at the Marie Curie Hospice on September 19. Her brave, long battle had come to an end, peaceful though it was in her final few days.’’
David added: “Following her diagnosis, Lorna courageously battled for over four more years and came across Rachel Smith, family service co-ordinator with Cancer Focus NI, by the cruellest twist of fate. The husband of Lorna’s best friend, the late Neil McCance, had been diagnosed with cancer and, along with his wife Tanya, the couple were acutely aware of every emotion we were experiencing. Our two families who shared so much, laughed and cried together were now in the same boat. The cancer monster had invaded both families’ lives.
“Tanya suggested to Lorna that Rachel should not only work with her but Emma and Evie as well – she was already working with Neil and Tanya’s children, Mark and Melissa. Neil was also keen that Emma, who regarded him as an uncle, would spend time with Rachel.
“As a teenager living with a mother who had cancer, Emma was not the most open, nor did she ever entertain the thought of speaking about how she felt. To her, not talking about it made everything ‘okay’. Thankfully she was to change her mind.”
Daughter Emma admits she was completely against talking to anyone until Neil told her she was a ‘super girl’ but he worried about how she’d cope when her mother died. Emma said the man she regarded as an uncle left one wish for her — to talk to Rachel about how she felt.
“I was reluctant, but the push came from my mum and Neil and Tanya to speak with Rachel, and I was glad I did. The decision to talk to Rachel was the best decision I’ve ever made. It took me a long time to come to terms with the fact that I had to talk about death because it was in my face and there was no escape. Over the course of almost a year, I embraced crying and learned that it’s okay not be yourself or to have a bad day.”
Emma said the fact she had the ability to face her mum’s approaching death was down to Rachel – she could talk to Rachel about death, cope with it and, to a certain degree, accept it. Now 21, the final year student at Queen’s University Belfast said Rachel helped her to prepare a plan of how to cope with her mum’s death.
Evie met Rachel at Neil’s funeral last January and was formally introduced to the Cancer Focus NI family service co-ordinator by her mum. Lorna told Evie: “Rachel is going to be working with us over the next few months and will be calling at the house for a chat.” Recalling that day, Evie is glad she met Rachel and worked with her over the following months and in the days before her mum’s brave fight came to an end.
“Rachel helped me understand mum’s situation,” said Evie, now a Year 1 student at Down High School. “She talked things through with me and helped me realise Mum was very ill and would die. I was shocked to hear that, even though I always knew this was a possibility as mum was in a lot of pain over many years, which was very hard to watch.
‘‘We miss Mum so much but Rachel, who understands our pain, is helping us cope.”
*Anyone who needs support or advice about cancer can call the Cancer Focus NI NurseLine on 0800 783 3339.