A dad-of-two who lost his wife just five months ago says he will be haunted by the conversation where a consultant said she had days to live.
Nicola Robinson, a teacher at Fountain Primary School, was 35 when she died from a diffuse astrocytoma brain tumor in October 2021.
Her 38-year-old husband Alan, from Derry, is now taking part in the Brain Tumor Research charity’s Wear A Hat Day before embarking on a year of marathon fundraising.
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He explained how his wife has been complaining of “sore head and dizzy spells for two weeks” in November 2018.
Alan, dad to Alfie, four, and seven-year-old Amelia, said: “Her GP sent her to Altnagevin Area Hospital for a CT scan where they discovered a mass on her brain. It all happened so quickly.
“Five weeks later, Nicola underwent two seven-hour awake craniotomies at Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast, followed by six weeks of radiotherapy and eight months of chemotherapy – her final session coming on New Year’s Eve 2019.
“We went clothes shopping and had lunch in Belfast before her final treatment. It was a great day that we had been aiming towards for so long.”
In summer 2020, Nicola had a seizure where later MRI scans revealed new tumor growth, leading to the young teacher going through another round of chemotherapy.
In spring 2021, the mum-of-two lost the function in her right hand and foot, and continued to deteriorate throughout the summer until she was admitted to Belfast City Hospital on October 5, 2021.
Alan said: “Nicola was a really devoted teacher and she loved the children like they were her own. The consultant told me that Nicola had only days to live, a conversation which will haunt me forever.
“Nicola’s mum and dad Robert and Beth Clarke and her brothers Steven and Andrew Clarke have been by our sides through thick and thin, they’ve been so supportive.
“Nicola was moved closer to home, to Foyle Hospice where she received the most amazing care and attention in her final days.”
Nicola died on 13 October 2021, surrounded by her loving family.
Alan will don a hat for Brain Tumor Research’s Wear A Hat Day and will then run five half marathons that he has signed up for, starting with the Omagh Half on April 3, where he will be joined by 20 friends and family.
Teachers from Drumahoe Primary School, where Amelia attends, will also take part in the Belfast Marathon to fundraise for the cause.
He said: “Brain tumours are a shocking killer. We’ve been through so much as a family over the last three years, it’s been a constant battle.
“The statistics around brain tumors are grim. Brain tumors kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer, yet just 1% of the national spend on cancer research has been allocated to this devastating disease.”
Matthew Price, community development manager at Brain Tumor Research said: “We’re so sorry to learn that Alan and his children lost Nicola to this devastating disease and send them our deepest condolences.
“We’re really grateful to the family for taking part in Wear A Hat Day, and for taking on five half marathons to raise money for Brain Tumor Research, as it’s only with the support of people like him that we’re able to progress our research into brain tumors and improve the outcome for patients like Nicola who are forced to fight this awful disease. “
Brain Tumor Research funds sustainable research at dedicated centers in the UK. It also campaigns for the Government and the larger cancer charities to invest more in research into brain tumors in order to speed up new treatments for patients and, ultimately, to find a cure.
The charity is the driving force behind the call for a national annual spend of £ 35 million in order to improve survival rates and patient outcomes in line with other cancers such as breast cancer and leukaemia and is also campaigning for greater repurposing of drugs.
To donate to Alan’s GoFundMe page, visit here.
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