“Mommy is an angel now”

Vicki Brennan’s daughter Siobhan was only 25 when she died from cervical cancer in June 2019. Vicki is now guardian for her grandson Cruz and has shared her story in support of the Hope and Healing Appeal.

“My daughter Siobhan was just made to be a mommy. She was 18 when her beautiful baby boy Cruz came into the world and motherhood came like second nature to her. I was over the moon to be a nanny and so incredibly proud of my little girl. Like best friends as well as mother and daughter, Siobhan and I saw each other almost every day. You never know how much love your heart can hold until someone first calls you ‘mommy’ – now Siobhan felt that special bond too and thought it was the best feeling in the world. 

Siobhan and baby Cruz

It was three years after Cruz was born when Siobhan started to suffer with discomfort in her lower stomach. The pain gradually got worse until she was in agony and was referred to a gynaecologist. That’s when tests revealed she had abnormalities in her cervix and a biopsy needed to be taken.

On the day Siobhan’s results came back, I received a frantic phone call from her. In tears and struggling to catch her breath, she broke the news that she had cervical cancer. I rushed to be by her side so I could comfort and calm her but I just couldn’t take it in: ‘she’s only 21, she’s too young to have cancer’ was the thought that kept running through my mind. 

She began a gruelling course of treatment straight away and Siobhan and Cruz moved in with me. All the while, Siobhan continued to be the most wonderful person you could hope to meet and remained positive, strong and brave. Her thoughts and worries were always about Cruz and never about herself.

At her three-month scan, the doctors found cancer in her uterus and they needed to operate immediately. We were heartbroken after everything she’d been through. Over the following months Siobhan had to endure two operations – one of them lasting ten hours – before she could finally return home, pain-free. It warmed my heart to see Cruz and his mommy back together and Siobhan could start to enjoy her life again.

Just over two years passed before Siobhan started experiencing pain again and she was sent for a full body scan. The day we got the results was the worst day of my life: not only had the cancer returned but it had spread to her lungs. Even more radiotherapy couldn’t stop this cruel disease as the cancer spread to her ribs, her neck and her spine. There was nothing more that could be done to save my daughter – her condition was terminal.

Siobhan decided she wanted to spend what precious time she had left treatment-free and with her little boy. Siobhan and Cruz moved into a new flat which we’d decorated exactly how she wanted and she was so excited about it. Hospice nurses came to visit regularly and they even paid for a solicitor to come and see us so that Siobhan could make a will and name me as Cruz’s legal guardian. Siobhan didn’t want Cruz to see her pass away so they hugged, kissed and told each other ‘I love you’ before Cruz went to stay with his other nanny. Two days later, my beautiful daughter died peacefully at home – she was only 25.

At seven years old, Cruz understood that his mommy was an angel now. He was so brave but found it very difficult to talk about his feelings. We realise now that he was bottling up his emotions, trying to process his feelings and wanting to protect us. Sarah, the nurse that cared for Siobhan, told us about a bereavement group for children at John Taylor Hospice and, although I thought it was a great idea, Cruz was reluctant to go. We talked it through with him and after the very first session he said he loved it. By speaking to other children who’d lost parents and grandparents he felt reassured and realised he wasn’t alone. He started to look forward to going every week.

In the group he drew pictures of his mommy; such lovely, happy memories of the two of them shopping and playing together. After a few weeks of counselling and art therapy with the other children, we noticed that Cruz started to open up more, being able to express his emotions and ask more questions. It’s helped us as family too as talking gives us strength, the opportunity to grieve in our own way and the chance to share joyful, precious memories to keep Siobhan’s beautiful memory alive.”

To make a donation and help more children like Cruz, visit the Hope and Healing Appeal page at www.justgiving.com/campaign/hopeandhealing

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