Fiona lost her husband Nick in May. Loved by so many, restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic meant a lot of his family and friends would be unable to attend his funeral and say goodbye, so Fiona created a tribute page for Nick, sharing her memories of him and encouraging others to do the same.
“We were one of the ‘luckier’ ones; the City of London crematorium is quite big, so we were able to have 20 people attend Nick’s funeral. It meant our daughter, Isabel, myself and both of Nick’s siblings and their partners, other close family and even four of his closest friends could attend.
Still, this was the tip of the iceberg of people who wanted to come, share their memories and say goodbye to Nick. Because we all have so many incredible memories of him.
It was Nick’s Macmillan nurses who told me about Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation. They were so incredible throughout Nick’s diagnosis and treatment, so I asked them what I could do to support them, and they recommended Roy Castle.
I went on the MuchLoved website and saw others setting up tribute pages. I was hesitant at first, but after looking into it a bit more, I realised it was a wonderful way for everyone to share their memories or show their support to us at a time when they physically couldn’t.
Nick cared about people. Since he died, several people have taken the time to write to me and share the positive impact he had on their lives. Some even went as far as to say his advice changed their life. There was one friend from university. He was struggling, and on the brink of leaving. Nick took him under his wing, and he stayed. Sadly, I don’t think Nick ever knew.
That was just the kind of person Nick was. He had such an approachable nature. He wasn’t what you would call outgoing, but he was a sociable person, comfortable in his own skin. When you talked to him, he listened. He was interested in you and, if you asked for his advice, he would sit and consider the situation carefully before offering advice.
Nick and I met at Durham University. I was in my first year and Nick in his last. We got together just before his finals. He still managed to get a 2.1 so I obviously didn’t distract him too much!
As part of my degree, I spent a year in France. We did the long-distance thing which back then, with no internet or mobile phones, was even harder than it is now. I remember queuing at a phone box with a handful of Francs each week. It was difficult, of course, but even at that young age, we were comfortable in our relationship. And we were right to be; we were together for 38 years.
Nick was diagnosed with lung cancer in February 2019. It started with a cough and coughing up a tiny amount of blood. His doctor sent him straight for an x-ray and they found a large tumour in his lung. He then also started experiencing a pain in his shoulder. We initially thought he had strained it because he was coughing too much, but it turned out to be a second tumour.
Nick started treatment, chemo first and then radiotherapy. He reacted well and this meant he could carry on with his life, which he was determined to do. Nick had two main passions in life (as well as his family!) which were wine and golf.
At the time of his diagnosis, he was the captain of our golf club and he remained committed to the role. I remember, before he was diagnosed, he had organised a captain’s away trip in Nottingham for 48 guys from the club, which now happened to be in the middle of his radiotherapy.
He managed to arrange his appointments around the trip. He had one appointment at 8am at Barts in London, then got the train to Nottingham to make his afternoon tee time. He gave a presentation at the dinner that night and received a standing ovation. He played again the next morning before getting a train home to attend his next appointment at 5.30. That was Nick: dedicated and determined.
It was a similar story a few months later. We were at a party when he started lurching a little and struggling with his coordination. It was like he had a disconnect between his brain and foot. Despite this, he went off to play golf the next day! Meanwhile, I called the nurse who advised us to go to A&E. That was when we learnt it had spread to his brain. Fortunately, the tumour was small and was treated with the state of the art Cyberknife therapy at Barts.
We had hoped he could have immunotherapy. However, he then started having problems with his liver and this ruled immunotherapy out and he went back onto chemo. He had his last round of chemo just before lockdown was imposed.
It was then at 11pm one evening, during the peak of COVID, that Nick was admitted into hospital. It was the worst moment of our lives. We had to say goodbye on the pavement and, at that moment in time, we believed this would be the last time we saw him.
We couldn’t visit him in hospital and, due to the brain mets, Nick was too confused to speak on the phone or use an iPad. With the hospital on overdrive, it was so hard to get any information. Our lung cancer nurses reported back as often as they could, but it was just awful.
Fortunately, that wasn’t our ending and Nick was discharged just before Easter, spending the final five weeks of his life at home with us.
I spent a long time putting together Nick’s tribute page. Isabel told me to stop fussing about it. Nick would have said the same! “Oh, hurry up and just do it,” he’d have said, but I wanted to get it just right. Given my years in marketing, it became a bit of a project. I was marketing Nick, and felt the more I put into it, the more others would too. I wanted to encourage them to share, and to donate as well.
It was so easy to do and I actually really enjoyed it, looking back at all our old photos and conjuring up memories momentarily forgotten. It is also so lovely to read the tributes and look at the pictures others have shared, not just for me but for Isabel and other family members too. I know his sister reads the page regularly. The tributes are all downloadable too, so we will always have them.
The tribute page also allows people to make a donation to the charity. At times like this, people want to help, and this is a way for them to do that. We’ve raised over £7,500. Nick would be really proud of that. I know I am. Even now, he’s still supporting those who need him.”