Marie Curie helped us through depths of hell, says mum who lost daughter to brain tumour
A heartbroken Co Down mother has told how she went from "heaven to the depths of hell" as she watched her daughter fade away after being diagnosed with a brain tumour.
Wendy Crawley, from Bangor, recently addressed almost 300 people at The Europa Hotel, sharing her story to highlight the importance of the care provided by Marie Curie.
Her praise of the services were in marked contrast to her criticism of an accident and emergency ward where her dying daughter, Angela Crawley-Smith, who was 39 and a new mother, was forced to spend 24 hours in "overwhelmed" conditions.
Last August Mrs Crawley spoke passionately at a We Deserve Better rally in her home town to criticise MLAs for continuing to take their salaries.
She told the crowd the money would be better spent on hospital beds for those in need.
Her daughter had died just three months earlier.
After attending the Marie Curie fundraiser, Mrs Crawley told the Belfast Telegraph how her daughter's death had devastated her family.
"I'm not doing this for myself, I'm doing it for others," she said. "As a family we're still very raw about what has happened and it's still touch to talk about.
"Angela's sisters, Jennifer and Gillian, were incredibly supportive and kept her in good spirits during her times in hospital and we all agreed it was important to tell our story.
"It's gone for us now, but we know there will be others to follow and when this all started we needed all the help we could get.
"In 2017 life was great. We had attended Angela's wedding to Tom the year before and she was expecting her first baby. There was so much to look forward to.
"I'll never forget when we got the devastating news. We had been on a family holiday in Italy and Angela and Tom flew back before us. That's when we got the call telling us Angela had suffered two seizures and was in hospital.
"After numerous tests Angela was diagnosed with a grade-four brain tumour and was told she would have from six months to two years to live. Hearing that hits you hard.
"My girl was so brave and we were so proud of her. She chose to have two operations on one day - a caesarean to deliver her 30-week-old baby, followed by major surgery to remove as much of the tumour as possible.
"Angela had a beautiful baby girl, Ella, and 10 days later she was well enough to hold her for the first time."
For a while, life seemed to be returning to normal, but Wendy explained how the discovery of a second tumour turned their world upside down again.
"In May 2018 her symptoms changed. She started to lose her balance and would fall," she said. "We knew she wasn't the same Angela and it was discovered a new tumour had developed in the right side of her brain.
"We were all completely shocked. (It was) another devastating blow. After that, arrangements were put in place and Angela was moved to the Marie Curie Hospice in Belfast.
"We very quickly realised that Angela would not be coming home, but from the point she entered the hospice she was given the tender, loving, expert care she needed.
"Importantly, Tom was able to stay with her, as was Ella. They could be a family.
"Her one fear was that she would wake up alone, but thanks to the hospice that never happened. Marie Curie became our second home.
"On June 28, 2018, 10 days after her 39th birthday, our beautiful daughter left too soon.
"We know we are not the only family who has travelled this road. This is one story, but it highlights the importance of the care provided by Marie Curie."
Wendy's emotional speech came during the Belfast Brain Game black-tie quiz event, which raised an amazing £106,000 for the charity.
This was the third year of the Belfast Brain Game, which was hosted by Tim McGarry and attended by 276 guests, including chef Michael Deane and Ulster Rugby CEO Jonny Petrie.