February 2017 – Our Experience

February 2017

A few months ago we were asked about our experience of the end of life by a Carer’s Support group.  I had to say that we’ve discovered just how differently each of us responds to our experience of the end of life.  And each of us has our own way of dealing with loss.  Every loss is different too.  And we couldn’t have prepared for ours, because it took us completely unawares.  The experience of Caring for a Terminally ill patient is life changing.  

Our experience is of cancer, a brain tumour, in our healthy & strong, academically, professionally & sportingly successful daughter.

A positive attitude proved to be so important.  We could be positive because we understood what was happening. We had good information, and we had good relationships with Consultants, GPs, District Nurses, Carers, Macmillan Nurse, the Man Who Brought Aids when they were needed, the Marie Curie Nurses, Maggies Centres. We asked questions and we tapped into all the support services offered.

Our preparation for dealing with end-of-life, began with diagnosis & prognosis.  The telephone call saying that the scan showed a primary brain tumour was completely unexpected.  Fortunately the care we had from all the medical personal we came into contact with was wonderful.  

Everything happened so quickly:  the emergency admission to hospital, the helicopter flight to hospital in Glasgow, the surgery, and the shock at hearing that her prognosis was 5 – 14 months … rocked my world.  

All of a sudden, the focus of our lives changed completely.

What kept us going?  A strong partnership.  Inner strength and instinct.  This was an instinct to care unconditionally.

We drew strength from our daughter’s approach:  her humour, the support from her friends & colleagues, her campaigns, her charitable fund raising, her determination & strength of character and will, her mantra:  Live Love & Laugh, the way she packed her life full, and her timely preparations, eg making sure we knew all her wishes.

For me it was important to keep a sense of normality, to continue working & social contacts going, we drew strength from contact with friends & colleagues, who provided invaluable support.

A point came when caring took over our lives completely, when her functions gradually diminished so we had to back up the nursing.  We never considered any alternative.  It was natural for us to continue to care for her at home, with the support of Marie Curie nurses some nights, District Nurses visiting each day, MacMillan responding to telephone calls & emails, GPs providing all necessary back up.  

This was full-on caring for both of us for the last few weeks.  For me it seemed like conducting a huge orchestra, co-ordinating times & visits from the services, administering medication, doing the laundry, keeping the house looking nice & smelling sweet,  maintaining contact with friends, hosting visits from friends, providing meals for whoever was in the house, etc, etc, etc.  Due to her diminishing brain function, in the middle of the night she’d ring her bell and ask for breakfast or to go outside (in the snow in temperatures well below zero) for a cigarette (she’d never smoked before).

Our world had turned upside down.  This put a strain on our relationship.  But we were both recognised that we were doing the best we possibly could.

The inevitable happened at a serene moment, there was no struggle, she just slipped away peacefully.  This was a relief.

The funeral directors dealt with everything with impeccable respect.   Our wishes were somewhat unconventional, and they were entirely supportive and treated us with the utmost respect.

Father & brother decided to make the coffin together, and this proved to be hugely cathartic.  And I lined it with materials inspired by her.  It was the ultimate statement in making her comfortable and respecting her wishes.  She had provided most of the ideas for the funeral, which involved her most significant friends.

We had two ‘Meetings’ to celebrate her life, as she’d died at our home, far away from her own home.  The first was at the crematorium, which we led, and significant people – friends & colleagues – were asked to contribute.  People drove & flew huge distances for this and we drew strength from the massive support & love.  The second was in her home village, in the village hall, in a Quakerly setting, with chairs set out in a circle, some silence, and people were invited to contribute.  This was followed by food & music.  It was full of merriment, which was just as she requested.

The Aftermath:  Exhaustion.  Getting our home back to normal.  Getting our lives back.  Dealing with her estate and wishes.  Establishing a new ‘normal’.  Recovery from life being turned upside down.  Finding ways to rebuild our life … it takes time.

Ann and Alasdair


In her will, Vicky left legacies to three charities:  The Brain Tumour Charity, Maggies (Glasgow), and Penny Brohn Cancer Care (Bristol).

The Brain Tumour Charity has published this article in their Autumn 2015 magazine, which we’d like to share with you.

Vix Legacy





Sunday 4th May saw Stoneygate Ladies hosting VixBigMatch – a family fun day including a Stoneygate Ladies vs Vix BaaBaas rugby match.

Players and supporters alike traveled to Leicestershire to  take part in this most enjoyable day.

Additional fun included a Men’s fixture, children’s tug-of-war, BBQ and charity auction.

The day raised a grand total of £3784 for TheBrain Tumour Charity.

Additional information and photos can be found here:


Thank you to the sponsors, volunteers, players and spectators who made this such a great day.


VixBigMatch Committee



VixBigMatch – May 4th 2014

Stoneygate Ladies will be hosting a Rugby Family Fun Day on Sunday May 4th in aid of Brain Tumor UK.As part of the day, Vix’s former team mates will be playing in a Stoneygate Vs Vixs Baa Baas match. This will be preceded by a men’s ‘Friends of Vix’ match’

And of course no bank holiday rugby match would be complete without a BBQ and Disco.

Further information can be found here: http://vixbigmatch.wordpress.com/

If you would like to camp at the event (to aid alcohol consumption) please drop an email to vixbigmatch@hotmail.co.uk so we can ensure we can feed and water you.

In addition, there is an ongoing auction (completing on May 4th) for signed International Rugby shirts: http://vixbigmatch.wordpress.com/auction-main/

And a small shop supporting the event: http://vixbigmatch.wordpress.com/shop/


Christmas Loop

Christmas CardDecember 2013

Just a little catch up from Skye to keep us all in the vixcontinuingstuffloop.

Vicky’s always in our thoughts, but never more so than during the past month.  Following the Scotland v Australia Autumn Test match we were privileged to be allowed to scatter Vicky’s ashes at Murrayfield, an honour reserved for Scotland’s International players.  We were impressed by the respect of the ground staff:  everybody stopped work and the stadium was in total silence while we scattered the ashes on the tryline … watch out for the greenest grass and the next Scottish try … it’ll be there, for Vix.

A week later the Glynn Harris award was presented for Vicky’s writing about her experience of cancer.  Glyn Harris was an educationalist, who worked in Cumbria and died from cancer shortly after his retirement.  Vicky submitted some of her writing at the beginning of 2013 and knew that her work had been chosen.  It was even more poignant to be a posthumous award;  we were reminded that for the valiant Vicky this was indeed a battle, something she was determined to defeat.  We have a beautiful trophy to add to add to Vicky’s memorabilia and her cheque has been donated to The Brain Tumour Charity specifically for research.

The piece of Vicky’s writing read out at the presentation was ‘Factor X’ (it’s in Vix Big Musings).  This made everyone smile, laugh and shed tears.  A gentleman in the audience said afterwards that he’s sat through many of these award ceremonies but had never been so touched and moved as he was by Vicky’s approach to writing about her experience.


On Facebook people have been sending birthday messages and for many of us Vicky will always be forty.  Thank you to the people who phoned and sent us messages to wish us a happy Vicky’s birthday.  We did go to a birthday party and have candles on a cake, but these were for Jos to blow out, Vicky’s niece, who shares the same birthday, 11th December.

PieThe next important(!) diary date is Wednesday 18th December, when it’ll be Pie Night. Pie2 Vicky’s friends and colleagues at Welwyn will be getting together for a pie supper in the pub and we’ll be joining in, eating Pie on Skye.  Please join us, wherever you are …

The Brain Tumour Charity has some ground-breaking projects planned, including an investigation into how a protein called DAXX enables glioblastoma cells to grow uncontrollably, paving the way for a drug that could control its effect.  This is something that would excite Vicky and will give others hope in the future.

Cancer UK

Live Love and Laugh this Christmas and best wishes for 2014.

Vix BigStuff – October Update

A huge thank you to all Vicky’s friends who keep in touch with us; our extended family’s grown and we’re massively grateful for all the continuing support. It’s through all this contact that we get a sense of affirmation of the ways in which Vicky’s life impacted on others, of the inspiration people still draw from her and this in some way helps us to make sense of our loss.

A few quotes from Vicky’s friends help to illustrate this:

‘… I imagine your life is filled with little things you come across that make you both sad and happy at the drop of a hat at your sweet daughter’s memory. It’s certainly that way for me. I do miss her so but I also feel a sense of peace knowing she’s still got my back somehow. Just minutes ago I received a text … He’s at a work meeting in Atlanta and in the boardroom he’s in they have a Live, Love, Laugh art installation on the wall. Her impact on us all is so immeasurable.’

‘… I thought you might like to know that I’ve got a meeting with Macmillan on 4th November. Vicky mentioned way back during one of our rugby weekends that she thought cancer patients might like to speak to someone with legal knowledge about Powers of Attorney and Wills. She specifically said that if I had free time, she thought it would be the sort of volunteering work which would be really appreciated. I contacted Macmillan about a month ago and my offer of help seems to have gone round the houses a bit. But, I’m now meeting with one of the managers at the Support Centre at the Western General in Edinburgh. I’m not quite sure how it will all pan out, but I’m quite pleased to be putting Vicky’s suggestion into action at last. She’s definitely left a lasting influence on us all!’

’‘… We also have to plant our tree in memory of Vicky. We decided to go for a plum tree so went to RHS Wisley on Saturday and got a nice one. It was their flower show which was an added bonus. We got an Opal Plum which is also known as an Early Victoria Plum which I thought was very fitting. The kids are very keen and excited to plant it, they really like ‘helping’ in the garden. I was also going to ask if you have come across Vicky’s home-made plum chutney recipe would you be able to send it to me? We love it and it would be nice to keep the memories going. Every time we bite into a cheese and chutney sandwich or have a ploughmans we can have a bite for her too. Am sure she would have approved.’

I take a look at Facebook from time to time and notice that people are still sending Vicky messages(!) and letting her know how about the challenges they take up for her. So we know that the Vix spirit motivates many people.


‘Ok Vix so this weekend is the Glasgow half marathon and I just wanted to say thank you. I decided to sign up hoping that the motivation and drive of turning 40 would push me to dig deep and do something productive for my celebrations. For all the runs I have nearly jibbed and the days I would rather have just slobbed – thank you. You keep my legs pumping and my ass moving!’

‘Hey Vix – the new artwork was launched at work this week with staff asked to submit a photo to represent “why we come to work”. You are pride of place on the second row, far left. You still remain the reason why many of us come to work and remain our inspiration. You are now watching over us again in The Street area and now I see you every day I miss our coffees and catch-ups desperately.’

‘Took you with me to Abingdon 7’s and scored a try!!! Thanks for the well needed slap on my arse to keep me running! LLL x’

‘Ok Vix just to make you LOL from where you watch, it is confirmed that me and Sarah have registered for the Blenheim Triathlon for 2014. It was my agreement I would do it one more time when you could watch and laugh. We are doing the Female Sprint on the Sunday 8th June. Anyone who wants to start with us (I say start rather than finish knowing the rugby girls) can use Vix Tri as the code word to get similar start times.’

‘First run in over a year! 25 mins around the village, didn’t stop! Kept thinking if Vicky can do a triathlon and if Nikki can do an iron man….. I can get around the block without stopping!’

And lastly, Vicky’s keeping the pressure on Prof Chalmers, one of her heros at The Beatson:

‘The Brain Tumour Charity’ News


VixBigStuff – September Update

VixBigStuff Fundraising for The Brain Tumour Charity Continues


You’ll remember the memorial service in Barkway and the celebration of Vicky’s life … the rugby girls’ songs and antics and the fine young men of Red Diesel who saved the evening … well some members of the band Rabscallion, who should have been there, have recently put on a charity gig at the Ort Cafe, Birmingham, raising £320 for The Brain Tumour Charity.

Thank you to the band for giving their time for this very worthy charity.

Robin wrote:

‘The ceilidh we held was a success – lots of people had fun dancing in the gallery space, and we had some stalls, crafts, vegan food, cakes, and raffle. Not quite as many people as we’d hoped as it had tipped it down all evening, but we managed to raise £320.’

Robin also suggested that they’ll do another gig for The Brain Tumour Charity in the ORT space in Birmingham in December. Sounds good? It seems like the band communicates via Facebook, so please keep your eyes skinned for the Christmas event and it would be good to get together for a VixBigHoolie there that evening.

More Good News

Capture2A survey currently being circulated by The Brain Tumour Charity which invites feedback about patients’ and carers’ quality of life following a brain tumour diagnosis is supported by Vicky’s workplace.

The Brain Tumour Charity is passionate about making a difference for people affected by brain tumours. They want to understand more about what matters most to people with brain tumours about the impact that having a tumour has on their quality of life, how people make decisions about treatment and how they feel about the services they receive.

For more information about the survey follow this link.

News from one of Vicky’s colleagues, sent from a trans-Atlantic flight:

We’ve had a busy summer and I’ve kept up the triathlon training – I’ve found a real love for open water swimming, it’s such a shame it’s about to get too cold to swim in the place I’ve been swimming – there is something about being in such an open space, early in the morning with a few other (slightly crazy!) people. I really have grown to love it. I’ve entered us into Blenheim Triathlon next year so two of us with be doing it. We’ve had a great summer out cycling together, but I really need to up my running – I did manage to do a 5K run this morning with my sister before getting on the plane but I need to keep it up. All this training, new-found love for open water swimming comes

down to your daughter and her not giving me any reason to not enter Blenheim this year – it’s something I will always be truly thankful for. It has meant I’ve met some great new friends and I’ve tried out new things in life.

Life is a lot quieter without Vix at work, when I walk round the office I no longer get stopped and asked if I fancy doing a half-marathon at the weekend, or some other event which in my mind requires
significant training … or maybe it’s just will-power, determination that you actually need? Vicky certainly had that 🙂 I do think about Vix a lot, I obviously miss her but these thoughts always me with a smile – great memories.