"Mum kept us all strong together"

Sian Higson’s mother, Shirley, died of stomach cancer in January 2017 at the Marie Curie Hospice, Cardiff and the Vale. Sian shares how proud she is of her mum and how she and her sister are giving back to remember her.

“Mum always told us to be strong, and we’re doing okay. We have our moments. One minute you’re crying your heart out, and the next you’re laughing at the happy memories.

Sisters Sian and Sarah
Sisters Sian and Sarah spoke openly with their mum, Shirley, about what they were going through as a family.

“Grief is such a strange emotion.

“We’re trying are our hardest to remain strong for mum and for each other. It’s like we have an invisible cord – when one person is down, we lift each other up.”

Getting the diagnosis

“Mum was told she had inoperable stomach cancer in May in 2016. I remember she said: ‘There’s nothing they can do for me. I want to spend whatever time I have with my family now.’

“She had a stent put in and had some palliative chemotherapy. She did so well with it. Me, my sister and my brother all pitched together to get her through it.

“She was amazing, so strong and very courageous.

“I promised her that if she lost her hair, I would shave my hair off too… and so that’s what I did in September 2016, to raise money for charity.”

We spoke about everything very openly and we dealt with it all together as a family.
Sian

Building memories and making plans

“When Mum was well enough, we did lots of things to create new memories together. She liked going to the seaside town of Tenby in west Wales. She would document everything and she wrote some poems, too.

“She loved spending time with her grandchildren, Ffion and Evan.

“We always talked openly about what was happening and she even planned her own funeral. 

“She said: “I don’t want you children worrying”. So she planned the songs, and what flowers she wanted. It definitely helped us. We never had to question what Mum would have wanted, as she had talked to us about it.”

Mum said: ‘I’m not afraid to go, it’s just my time to leave you. Don’t grieve for me. Live your life.’
Sian

Hospice support

“Just before Christmas 2016, we found out the cancer had spread. That’s when Mum said she wanted to go into a hospice.

“We were happy to take care of her. But towards the end, she wanted the 24-hour care and she said she didn’t want to be a burden.

“She was always thinking of us and wanting to make things easier for us, as she had helped to care for her father and two sisters when they’d had cancer.”

Sian and Sarah are volunteering to collect for the Great Daffodil Appeal in memory of Shirley.

Never on your own

“At the hospice, the nurses were kind, caring and patient and nothing was too much trouble. They would get Mum lollipops and drinks, soup and yogurt – whatever she fancied.

“We could go and see Mum whenever and it didn’t matter what time, that meant a lot. Members of staff would sit and talk to us and offer us support. It was good to have the reassurance that you were never on your own.

“The morning she died, we were already there. It was a Monday morning and me, my sister, my brother and my sister-in-law went to see her. We knew what signs to look for because we’d all wanted to learn about what to expect.

“We didn’t want to be afraid. As a family we always faced things head on together.”

We had each other – but not everyone does

“When Mum was ill, there were doctors and the district nurses coming and going all day. But in the evening when the door shuts and the blinds come down, you’re on your own.

“Those can be the loneliest darkest times.

“We were lucky as we had each other. But some people don’t have that at all. My mum used to say: ‘What about people who are alone? Who are not as blessed as I am? There are some people who don’t have that support’. She would say: ‘Think of all the people you could help.

"I remember thinking - I am going to give something back. I don’t want my mum’s passing to be in vain, I want something good to come out of it.”

Sian and her sister Sarah will be collecting for the Great Daffodil Appeal in Cardiff, so more people can get the care they deserve at the end of their lives – like their mum did.

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