Rachel Ross and Lorna Reid work in the same Bruntsfield branch of RBS, but sadly, that is not the only thing they have in common.
Both their lives have been touched by the tragedy of brain tumours – and the duo are now committed to raising awareness and cash for research into the cancer.
Rachel’s first child, Aaron, was diagnosed with a brain tumour as a baby, and while the brave youngster has miraculously overcome a terminal prognosis and is making inspirational progress, the growth has robbed him of his sight.
Lorna lost her father Bill to the condition last September, after it struck suddenly and claimed the 57-year-old’s life just weeks after it was found.
After being made aware of their heart-breaking stories, bosses at the Capital-based bank have agreed to adopt Brain Tumour Research as its chosen charity in the region, with staff across several branches set to take part in Wear a Hat Day next week – the charity’s equivalent to Red Nose Day.
Rachel and Lorna hope to make a small difference in the battle to increase awareness of brain tumours, with the field receiving less than one per cent of UK cancer funding, despite being the biggest cancer killer of UK children and under-40s.
Rachel, a customer service officer who works on Saturdays while her husband Michael, 27, is able to look after their son, said: “We didn’t get any signs until Aaron was three-and-a-half months, when he just lost his appetite and started to lose weight.
“We spent ten days in the Sick Kids Hospital and he had all sorts of tests, he was doing everything that he should have been, except he wasn’t eating.
“They were trying to reassure us, saying it could have been a milk intolerance, but then they found a tumour on his brain. I can’t describe the feeling.”
As the inoperable tumour grew and failed to respond to chemotherapy, Aaron, now two-and-a-half, began to experience more and more pain and after doctors said his condition was terminal, the distraught family spent the summer of 2011 at Rachel House Children’s Hospice in Kinross.
But incredibly, the tumour stopped growing and Aaron is now back at home in Corstorphine, where he is going from strength to strength.
Rachel, who is also 27 and is due to give birth to her second child next month, said: “He’s doing really well, we’re working with the Sick Kids therapist on his development. He’s started rolling about and we’re trying to work on his standing and speech, and he’s begun copying sounds. He has regular scans but we just have to hope for the best, and are looking forward to the future.”
“He’s amazing. He’s happy kicking his legs and chuckling away to himself. He does need extra care and attention but I’m happy to give him that. It is hard work but we almost lost him – nothing would have been as hard as that.
“I hate the thought of other people going through what we did. But there’s so little funding and research. There wasn’t the information when we needed it.”
Lorna, 37, of Bathgate, has also become frustrated at the lack of awareness and resources around brain tumours, following the tragic death of her father, an IT expert who was the driving force behind the introduction of computer systems at the Crown Office, which he joined in 1989.
Bill began to notice he was forgetting things last summer, before his GP referred him to St John’s Hospital in Livingston for a brain scan, which revealed two growths.
When he received the results of a biopsy in September, which revealed Bill’s condition was terminal, he was given between six months and two years to live. But just a week later, he passed away after the tumours began to bleed.
“It was obviously an awful shock, to put it mildly,” Lorna said. “He was very brave about it, but one of the side effects is that you develop a blasé attitude. He was more concerned about being stuck in traffic and missing dinner. But because he was being strong we had to be as well.
“He went downhill very quickly. He would still complete The Times crossword but physically, he wasn’t able to do things.”
Bill, who was known for his quick wit and intelligence, left the Crown Office with “a legacy of IT innovation”, according to his colleagues.
Lorna, a branch manager who was instrumental in obtaining support from RBS for Brain Tumour Research, has already raised £5000 since her father’s death, alongside her mother, Jean.
“Part of me just can’t understand why more money doesn’t go towards it,” she added. “Research hasn’t moved very far. It seems like over the last ten to 20 years understanding of other cancers has progressed and survival rates are better, but for brain tumours it stays the same, yet it’s so deadly.
“It was only when I came into my new branch in January that people started to tell me about Rachel’s little boy. We thought the event would be a fitting thing to do. It’s a charity that’s very close to mine and Rachel’s hearts.”
Wear a Hat Day takes place on Thursday next week. There are 13 RBS branches, as well as the Regional Directors Office, taking part – Bruntsfield, University, Castle Street, Leith, Tollcross, Comiston, St Andrew Square, Nicolson Street, Stockbridge, Goldenacre, North Bridge, Blenheim Place and Davidson’s Mains.
Staff are invited to dress down for work while a large bake sale and raffle will take place. For more information visit www.braintumourresearch.org