MARIE Curie provides care and support to people living with a terminal illness across the Lothians in the Edinburgh hospice at Fairmilehead and through its community services.
Last year the charity cared for 480 people as inpatients at the hospice and 95 per cent of patients were able to die in their place of choice. It also carried out more than 2,200 clinical nurse specialist visits to patients in Edinburgh and more than 1,000 in West Lothian.
Father of three Gaven Borthwick from Bonnyrigg was a well kent face in the Stockbridge community, having owned Armstrong’s fishmongers on Raeburn Place for over ten years.
In March 2012, Gaven was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer. When treatment failed to cure the cancer, his GP put him in touch with Marie Curie.
“It was a big shock for us, definitely,” says his wife of 25 years Lesley Borthwick.
“Gaven wasn’t even feeling unwell. He just felt like he couldn’t swallow.
“He had felt a sticking in his throat but not much else aside from that.
“He had to have an operation – a ten hour-long one – to take part of his stomach out. He had chemotherapy before this, but this hadn’t worked. Instead it made him worse by giving him a heart attack.”
Before he became ill, Gaven was very active. He played golf, loved fishing, coached football and was passionate about his motorbike.
“He was a joker with a great sense of humour,” remembers Lesley. “He was well known in our community because of the fish shop as well.
“We also loved travelling and would try to go somewhere different every time.
“Even in the later stages of his illness he refused to give up and was still quite active and was still playing golf until January 2014.
“We were on holiday in the February and he wasn’t doing great but he was still walking about. He thought he had another year to live but he deteriorated quite quickly from the January to the March.
“We were put in touch with Marie Curie by Gaven’s GP, who was great. From start to finish he was excellent.
“It was difficult telling the kids. The doctor told me that I had to be truthful and there was no point in trying to dress it up or dress it down. It was difficult.
“I know some families have to fight for the care they receive but we were fortunate to have a great GP who put us in touch with the right services, including Marie Curie.”
If you wish to be cared for in your own home, Marie Curie nurses can help. The charity offers free nursing care to people with all terminal illnesses across the UK, as well as support for family and friends.
Marie Curie nurses provide one-to-one care and overnight support in your home, usually for eight or nine hours at a time.
“Lisa, a Marie Curie palliative care nurse, came to our home three times in the last six or seven weeks of Gaven’s life to discuss help such as pain management and aids to help in the house,” says Lesley.
“She also gave us advice on how to tell the children about his illness.
“As Gaven deteriorated, we decided he would go to the Marie Curie hospice in Edinburgh to help with his pain. He went in March but sadly died four days after on 9 March 2014. He was 44 years old.
“He fought hard right until the end with great courage and his sense of humour.”
After Gaven’s funeral his family decided to raise money for Marie Curie by organising a football tournament with his sons’ team which raised £3,500.
Last year, Lesley and the couple’s children Ewan, Ryan and Leah did Walk Ten (now called Walk to Remember) in Dalkeith Country Park, accompanied by friends and other family members.
“We wanted to give back for the care that Gaven received and for the care that I am still getting,” says Lesley.
“I have had bereavement counselling through the hospice which involves meeting up with a group. I’m one of the only ones with young children so my situation can feel a bit different, but I do find it useful.
“At first I really didn’t want to go. Then I went to see what it was like and I did find it really, really helpful.
“We still meet up for a drink once every two months or so even though we’re not meeting at Marie Curie now.”
MARIE Curie is calling on food fans to hold a retro-inspired dinner party in aid of the charity this November.
Inspired by the surge of interest in retro food, Dinner Down Memory Lane, is about holding a dinner party and recreating your favourite nostalgic food.
By inviting friends to make a donation in return for dinner, fundraisers will be helping Marie Curie nurses provide care and support to people living with a terminal illness and their families.
TO sign up and get your free fundraising pack visit www.mariecurie.org.uk/retronight or call 0800 716 146.
Marie Curie is the UK’s leading charity for people with any terminal illness.
The charity helps people living with a terminal illness and their families make the most of the time they have together by delivering expert hands-on care, emotional support, research and guidance.