Mark and Louise Forshaw had been happily married for 20 years when Louise was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumour. Here, Mark shares his story of how the Hospice supported their family during Louise’s final few months.
“From the minute I met Louise, it just felt natural to be together. She was reading a magazine in Asda café and I walked past and said, “anything interesting?”. I didn’t usually do that sort of thing but we got chatting, arranged to go out, and that was it.
We had 20 brilliant years together and when our son Dylan, 17, came along, he completed our family. We never argued and we tackled any problems together, as a team. Louise was brilliant when we found out about Dylan’s autism diagnosis – doing everything she could to get him the support he needed.”
“Our biggest challenge came along in November 2021. I was at work and Louise called to say she had a banging headache, unlike anything she’d ever had before. When I got home she was really unwell and I called the doctor, who told me to take her to A&E in Bolton. She was transferred from there to Salford where they thought she had a bleed on the brain and decided to operate. The operation and further tests revealed she had a stage 4 brain tumour and the doctor said she may only have 6-12 months to live – that was on New Year’s Eve 2021.
Within days Louise had started treatment. For just over a year she had chemotherapy and radiotherapy, until in February 2023 we were told the chemotherapy was no longer working and there wasn’t much more they could do.
Louise was a kind and loving person who faced her illness with fortitude whilst still retaining a strong sense of humour – even when told there was nothing else that could be done.”
“We first met Katie, one of the nurses from the Hospice, in early 2022. She was absolutely phenomenal and told us all about the hospice and its services, and even arranged for us to visit the hospice to look around as Louise’s wish was, once the time came, that she would like to be in the Hospice. Nothing was too much trouble and of all of the different services we came into contact with, the hospice did the most to help us.
In April we were trying to move into our new home, which was better for Dylan’s college and also would have made it easier to continue to care for Louise at home. By this point she was struggling to get upstairs so I bought a recliner chair to make her more comfortable and I would sleep on the couch.
On the last Friday in April, Katie called to check in with us. We’d had a terrible night the night before and Katie said a bed had just become available at the hospice. She arranged the ambulance for us so all I had to do was pack Louise a bag. We’d already had the visit to the hospice, so I knew what to expect.
The idea at that point was to get Louise back to her baseline again and then get her back home. But the following week I spoke to the doctor and knew it wouldn’t be possible to get her back home again.
That Thursday we moved into the new house. I took loads of photos and took them into the hospice to show Louise. I think it helped her to know that we had the house and that Dylan and I would be settled there. The following day she told me she’d had enough.
Over the next week she was sleeping more and more. One of the nurses explained that she was probably going into the final phase of her illness, but I could see that myself.
On Tuesday 16th May, our anniversary, all of the family had come to visit Louise. I could tell it was imminent and I asked everyone to leave me alone with her for a few minutes. A couple of minutes later she passed – she was 44-years-old.”
Thanking the hospice
“I really can’t thank the hospice enough for the support they gave our family in those final weeks. The hospice itself was like staying in a 5* hotel, just with a hospital bed. The gardens are beautiful – Dylan and I would go for walks when we needed time for reflection. Our favourite place was by the waterfall at the back of the gazebo.
Everyone we came into contact with was absolutely phenomenal – from the nurses, to the receptionists, to the cleaners – absolutely nothing was too much trouble for anyone.
Louise didn’t want us to be sad. Before she died she left instructions for her funeral and letters for family – she was always really organised. She recorded her voice on a bear for Dylan and he’s framed the letter she left him. We’re supporting each other through this and I tell Dylan how important it is to focus on the 18 years he had with the most amazing mum anyone could ever want.
As a family we cannot thank the hospice enough for all of their care and kindness and we now want to do everything we can to support the charity, so other families, like ours, can have the same chance to experience the love, care and dignity it offers at such a difficult time.”
This story was published November 2023