I want to tell you a little about myself.

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On 21st December 2012 we were told that Lou’s cancer had returned. Where cancer is concerned, it’s safe to say there’s no such thing as good timing.

Though we’d heard the words several times before, we’ve always approached such a diagnosis with both positivity and a sense of hope. We’ve also known that we’ve been lucky in having the leading oncology specialists looking after Lou. More reasons for hope.

This time was different. We were told how the cancer had spread. Rapidly. This time we were told it wasn’t treatable, Lou could only expect palliative care. We both sat there in disbelief, we were numb, we could barely speak, we both cried.

Since then we’ve had to undertake things that most people won’t have to consider for many years, but for us they have become an urgent necessity. We’ve shared this terrible news with family, friends and colleagues. All have been amazing, providing us with moments of brightness, happiness and love. We’ve also focused on making the most of what time may be left and doing the things that Lou really wants to do, as long as she’s capable. Our life is now very much for the present.

It’s hard to see how there is an upside in having a life-ending illness, but we’ve decided to share our story in the hope that if only one person draws comfort, inspiration or positivity from our journey, then some good can be done. Hence this first post.

In October of last year Lou decided to write a presentation for the charity where she works, The Thistle Foundation. She saw this as a way of raising awareness and funds for Thistle. What it also does is say everything about Lou, her outlook, the way she always thinks of others and never herself.

I want to tell you a little about myself.

I’m here today to talk to you about the charity where I work, The Thistle Foundation.

But before I do that I want to tell you a little about myself.

I’m 41 years old and studied languages at Oxford and then lived abroad in Paris and San Francisco.

I liked to think I was fairly active but really I just loved to lounge about.

I’d always been interested in the arts and worked for a number of years in small arts organisations and I ended up running the Press & Marketing Office at the Fringe which brought me to live in Edinburgh in 2004. This is a picture of me 6 years ago. Please don’t tell my mum about the pint of beer I’m holding…

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And this is a picture of me 4 years ago the night before I lost my leg to bone cancer. The big arrow was drawn on by the doctors the day before surgery…it’s a bit worrying to think that’s how they make sure they get the right leg but it’s best not to dwell on that.

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You might also notice I’ve got rather fetching short hair in this photo….that wasn’t really a style statement…but actually because I’d had a year of chemo the previous year. To try and get rid of my cancer. But it didn’t work. Hence the big black arrow. Sadly that surgery and a second year of chemo didn’t work either. And over the next 2 year period I had my left leg amputated 4 times, each time taking more of my leg away.

And now I’m standing in front of you with an artificial leg. Artificial from hip to toe. And I’m not the skinny girl in the white dress with 2 legs anymore. In total I’ve had 9 major surgeries, including 3 to try and save my leg before it was amputated and 2 to remove firstly part of my left lung and secondly a third of my right lung in May last year due to the cancer spreading.

But I am still standing here. And the thing I want to tell you is that I’m standing here representing Thistle.

Diana, my boss, who’s also the Chief Exec of Thistle, hired me as External Relations Director in 2009. I’d just had my leg amputated for the second time and came for interview only 4 weeks post surgery. I got invited back for a second interview, which in all honesty was a chance to meet some of the people I’d be working with and for them to check me out too I guess! And I remember when I sat with Diana in her office, and she said to me that she’d really like to offer me the job and what did I think. And I thought, I need to be honest and tell her about my health and that I am a risk. So I did. And she nearly made me cry on the spot (never a good plan in a job interview!) ‘cos she said she was prepared to take that risk ‘cos she wanted to hire the person.

And that’s who Thistle are through and through. Thistle are a charity that live and breathe their values. Genuinely. And, since I’ve been at Thistle, 4 of the surgeries I’ve mentioned have happened. So I’ve had to go off work 4 times for weeks or months at a time.

But I’ve always known I can come back, and that I’m valued for my abilities and just general idiotic behaviour. And I’ve known I can take whatever time I need when I need to be off work. And that I should only come back when I feel ready. So I’ve always wanted to come back to work. Because work for me isn’t just a job and a salary. It’s a chance for me to still feel I have a contribution to make. And that my talents and skills are recognised despite the medical hiccups and missing leg.

And it’s exactly the same for the people we support through our services.

At Thistle we say “We believe life is for living”.

And this is both an inspirational statement about being able to achieve your dreams. But it’s also about the ordinary but equally important and necessary bits of life, like having friends and a job, being seen as a person and feeling good about yourself.

And that might sound simple, but it’s actually quite complex for some people who have disabilities or have ended up in an awful situation because of post traumatic stress disorder or Parkinson’s or MS.

So at Thistle we help people get great lives. Real lives. Full lives. And we work with a huge range of people, with a whole range of disabilities or health issues. But the common theme is that we support people to get great lives on their terms.

We take the time to work out what people want and we do our best to get them there.

That’s what really makes us different from others. We’re like Ronseal. We do what we say on the tin. We believe life is for living and we mean it.

So that’s the emotive part over and time to bring you back to the real world and talk to you about how you can help.

We’re a charity and the support we provide costs more to deliver than we get in funding. So we fundraise to cover that gap. And you can help us with that. I’d like to ask you today to consider giving us a one-off donation. Or maybe setting up payroll giving at work. Or become a regular giver. Or if you prefer to help in another way, you can volunteer for us or maybe run an event to raise funds for us. Or if you’re incredibly popular on twitter you could tweet about us.

Whatever you do, it does help and it will help. And you’ll be a Thistle Friend for life.

And people like Bob can keep smiling.

Thank you everyone…..for listening. http://www.thistle.org.uk/

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36 comments

  1. Leigh Dobson · · Reply

    Thinking of you both and sending much love. Leigh xx

  2. Incredible. Brave. Humbling. Devastating. Inspirational.

  3. Every person who hears your story, every one you touch, becomes part of your legacy.. I’ve just become the next chapter. Huge respect to you… x

  4. Thank-you for sharing your story. I shall make a donation.

  5. Lou, I’ve admired your bravery for a long time now. Sharing this is truly inspirational. I hope you both can take some comfort knowing so many people are sending love and good wishes. xx

  6. You’re beyond words, you wonderful woman you xxx

  7. Pom Pom in london · · Reply

    a brave beautiful lady.

  8. I love this photo of Lou in short hair. Parisian at heart xxx

  9. Carol Irvine · · Reply

    Lou, we are all thinking of you. It is a pleasure and a privilege to work with you. xx

  10. Brave exceptional woman x

  11. leithlabs · · Reply

    Very moving and beautifully written. Puts everything in a little perspective. Wishing you all the best xx

  12. Sharing your story is inspirational to all who read it, thank you. You’re a brave and special person. x

  13. Gemma Suttie · · Reply

    Lou you are truly amazing. You have all of our love and support. I’ve always said Thistle is made up of extra ordinary people none more so than you. X x x

  14. You are amazing. I have a great deal of admiration and respect for you. Thanks for sharing your story. Your words are helping and inspiring others. Sending you love and positive energy x

  15. Always solid, special and inspiring. Thanks for this and hope to see you soon. Owen

  16. My sister (Linda) works at the Thistle and has spoken of you many times, you sure are all she said you are…….thanks for sharing your story Lou, sending you a big hug xxx

  17. Sam Sills · · Reply

    Lou, you’re just amazing…Ok AND beautiful, funny, inspiring and great company. Sending you big Sammy smiles and positive vibes. X

  18. Lynn Taylor · · Reply

    Devastated for you Lou and for Alan. Stay strong. Lots of love to you both. Lynn

  19. Hannah Le Coic · · Reply

    Sending you both my love from Australia. Xxxx

  20. Johane Evans · · Reply

    Lou, what a brave and amazing girl with such a beautifully written journey – thinking of you xx Jo @ Jon

  21. Corrie Martin · · Reply

    Lou, I haven’t seen you since Kerryn and Paddy’s wedding. You told me a story about another wedding where a female guest was rather overly enamoured with you dancing with your crutches. Her means of telling you how amazing you are might have been a bit OTT, but the sentiment was right. You are absolutely incredible. I am so very sorry to hear this news. I hope there are many great days ahead, where you can do all the things you want to do, or even just indulge your love of lounging with the people who love you xxxx

  22. Thank you for all the kind words and thoughts. We intend to make other posts and we hope they can continue to provide inspiration and positivity to others. Much love Alan and Lou xx

  23. CSK& E XXX · · Reply

    Ever since you came into our lives Lou, you have been an inspiration to all of us. The strength with which you have met every challenge is truly inspiring. We love you to pieces. Al on the other hand….! Love you both X

  24. Helen Evans · · Reply

    Lou if I only had half of your bravery, courage, drive and determination then I would be a lucky girl. You really are a special person, always out and about looking gorgeous with a smile on your face and time for others even when facing your own big challenges. Glad you had a great time in Arran, we’re thinking about you both and send you our love X

  25. This moved me to tears, your courage and strength are incredible. Much love to you both. Xx

  26. Sending my love to you both. Nat x

  27. Sending my love to you both… xx

  28. Peter Rae · · Reply

    Lou

    We have never met although I have met your Dad and partner. You are very brave and honest, you moved me beyond words..good luck Peter x

  29. I suspect you’ll never appreciate the positive impact you’ve had on many, many lives, simply by sharing your story. So I’ll just say – ‘Bravo Lou!’. And love to you both.

  30. Thank you for sharing your story Lou. Your spirit shines through in everything you have said and I wanted to send you love and admiration.

    I have attended the Lifestyle management courses at the Thistle Foundation and they have helped me through all aspects of my life and ill health. The things I learned there even helped my husband when he went through kidney cancer. So I wanted to share with you that the work you all do up there is incredible and touches more lives than you really know.

    much love, Carole.x

  31. Gerry Farrell · · Reply

    Hi Lou and Al, those arm length fluorescent pink satin gloves are awesome! Al, they might even suit you if you can get hold of some matching cyclists’ Lycra. Thanks for sharing your photos and your feelings. Having a good think about what I could do for the Thistle Foundation.

  32. […] friend and mentor Louise Page has terminal cancer. Read her humble and inspiring story to remember what’s important in life, to appreciate what you […]

  33. Pat Mackinnon · · Reply

    Our trip to the SECC in the pouring rain,with the lovely veterans(!) was one of the funniest and most ridiculous nights I can remember Lou. You are always so full of fun, hence so inspirational! The impact you have had on so many people at work is phenomenal, as are you. Pat. Xxx

  34. Elizabeth · · Reply

    Thank you in this instance seems somewhat trivial but believe me Its anything but. You are an exceptionally brave and inspirational woman to all who know you and to those who have read your story. Wishing you every happiness. Ps I will be spending time with my family in Dunfermline August 2013, would love the opportunity to meet up for coffee and chat. Will contact nearer the time. Xx

  35. Kerry Webster · · Reply

    Hello Louise, I read your story on the daily mail this morning… I was filled with emotion by your words that I wanted to read more.

    Such a beautiful young woman with a strong family unit behind you.. I wish you all the best x
    P.s buy as many summer sandals as you can

  36. Hi Louise, I too have come across your story in the mail and just want to tell you how amazing you are. I was dying 18 months ago aged 29 of terminal end stage lung disease, I was on life support and everything and then had a miraculous recovery. I have been where you are (I had no idea that I would live) and I am in awe of your amazing attitude and strength despite everything you have been through. You are such an inspiration and I wish you and your husband every blessing. xx

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