I lost my partner within weeks after her wrist started tingling

i lost my partner within weeks after her wrist started tingling

Mark with Cecilia and their son Arthur (Picture: Mark Smith)

My partner, Cecilia, was determined to grow a vegetable patch.

Towards the end of March 2023, she and I spent the day in the garden, preparing the ground and after a hard day’s graft, we came in ready to chill out for the evening.

I vividly remember Cecilia telling me that she had a strange tingling sensation in her left wrist. We put it down to a thorn or a nettle.

In mid-April, Cecilia woke up one day and was physically unable to get out of bed. After undergoing a series of scans at hospital that same day, the doctor pulled the curtain round to offer some privacy on the A&E ward and we were told that the scans had revealed an abnormal growth on the brain that would require further investigation.

Two weeks later, Cecilia was formally diagnosed with an aggressive, incurable and life-threatening brain tumour. She was just 52 years old.

Nothing can prepare you for hearing this devastating news. We hardly spoke on the way back home, the overwhelming feeling was numbness, and utter helplessness.

i lost my partner within weeks after her wrist started tingling

She became a shell of her former self (Picture: Mark Smith)

According to the Brain Tumour Charity, 75% of people diagnosed with a glioblastoma brain tumour – as Cecilia was – will not survive for more than a year.

It took less than a month for Cecilia to move from a diagnosis to the end of her life.

She went from being perfectly healthy to being unable to walk, to wash or to dress herself. She became a shell of her former self.

It was heartbreaking to see her – a strong willed, independent woman – look so fragile and vulnerable.

Cecilia was booked in for a biopsy at a London hospital on May 10, which we hoped would determine a course of treatment to make her life more bearable.

I remember waving goodbye to our two kids – Amelia, 18 and Arthur, who had only just turned 14 the month before – at the front door and looking at Cecilia. She was crying. I didn’t realise then, but she somehow knew that it would be the last time that she ever saw her children.

Sadly, Cecilia never made it to the operating theatre. She suffered a brain haemorrhage at the hospital and I was informed by her surgeon that he had two choices: to try and remove the brain tumour, which would have a long-term impact on Cecilia’s quality of life, or he could ‘make her comfortable’.

i lost my partner within weeks after her wrist started tingling

Mark, Cecilia, Arthur and Amelia (Picture: Mark Smith)

i lost my partner within weeks after her wrist started tingling

Amelia with her mum Cecilia (Picture: Mark Smith)

I asked what that meant and was told that Cecilia had just hours to live.

A close friend brought the kids to the hospital, to give them the opportunity to say goodbye to their mum. We were told that even though Cecilia was in a coma, she could still hear everything we were saying to her.

At 7.30am on the morning of May 11, the attending nurse told me that Cecilia was still fighting. I let her know it was ‘OK to go’, to end the pain and the suffering.

That moment will stay with me forever.

You never expect to lose your partner to a brain tumour. You never expect to have to arrange your 52-year-old partner’s funeral. You never expect to be a single parent and to be a widow in your fifties.

My kids and I are now having to adjust to our new life and create a new set of happy memories as a three. Everything we do now, we do with Cecilia in mind – we want to live our lives as if Cecilia was still here.

i lost my partner within weeks after her wrist started tingling

It was heartbreaking to see her – a strong willed, independent woman – look so fragile and vulnerable (Picture: Mark Smith)

i lost my partner within weeks after her wrist started tingling

Through it all our kids have been amazing (Picture: Mark Smith)

Despite being surrounded and supported by amazing family and friends, I have never felt so alone. Cecilia was my best friend and my rock, my life partner and my soulmate – and she is no longer with us.

In September 2023, my daughter took part in the Cancer Research SHINE night walk in memory of her mum. She bravely completed 26 miles in nine and a half hours with her friends and raised more than £10,000 for charity.

So I felt inspired to embark on my own challenge. In November 2023, I began making plans to organise my own walk – raising awareness and vital funds for the Brain Tumour Charity, an organisation dedicated to funding research, reducing diagnosis times and providing support and information for people with brain tumours, their families and friends.

At the end of March, I walked from Leicester (where I met Cecilia more than 30 years ago) to Bolton, where she was born and bred.

The 120 mile journey ended at the Tough Sheet Stadium, the home of Bolton Wanderers on Monday April 1, where the Trotters took on the football team that I support, Reading FC.

i lost my partner within weeks after her wrist started tingling

My kids and I are now having to adjust to our new life (Picture: Mark Smith)

Cecilia’s dad is a Bolton Wanderers fan and walked with me for the final few miles from his home in Sharples to the stadium – a poignant tribute to a much loved and hugely missed mum, partner, daughter, sister and friend.

The training provided a real focus during an incredibly difficult period for the family – we passed Cecilia’s birthday in February and had to deal with our first Mother’s Day without her.

But through it all our kids have been amazing. They have wholeheartedly supported me in my efforts and were by my side when I complete the walk.

Cecilia was the life and soul of the party who everyone turned to for help and advice. She was fun loving, energetic and vibrant. She was someone who made the world a better place, and that world is a lesser place because she is gone.

We don’t want anyone else to go through what we have had to go through.

We want to do everything in our power to bring about an end to brain cancer, to help bring some meaning to Cecilia’s cruel and untimely death.

You can find out more about the call for a National Brain Tumour Strategy here and donate to Mark’s fundraiser here

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