KEITH’S mum, Jan, was first diagnosed with breast cancer when she was in her mid-50s.
After treatment she recovered, but the cancer returned in her ovaries when she was in her early 70s.
After a hysterectomy the cancer went into remission until she reached her 80s, when it came back in her abdomen and chest.
Keith said: “Cancer seems to get more aggressive each subsequent time - it’s as though it gets angrier.
“My mum had chemotherapy and radiotherapy, which prolonged her life a bit.
“I moved in with her in November 2011 when it was apparent that she was becoming less able to look after herself.
“At that point we were all wondering whether she would survive through Christmas, but a blast of chemotherapy in November gave her a new lease of life.”
Marie Curie nurse Catherine McKechnie went into Jan’s home in Gartocharn in March 2012. Up until then Keith and his two sisters, Lesley (48) and Karen (52), had been caring for their mum on a rota system.
As Keith’s business is seasonal (he rents bikes out at Loch Katrine) he could care for his mum in her home during the winter months. Keith (42) said: “When Catherine arrived it was like an angel had walked into our lives.
“My sister Lesley was very tearful - the strain of looking after mum had begun to take its toll on us all.
“Mum was very poorly at this point, she was often bedridden and needed 24-hour care.
“Having Catherine there gave us some respite, which we desperately needed. She allowed us all to have a break.
“Both my sisters had young children at the time, so they were exhausted. Without Catherine’s help I don’t think mum could have stayed at home. Home is a much more comforting place for people when they are dying. It’s familiar and they can be surrounded by their family.
“It cheered mum up to have her grandsons running around her. She could also enjoy home cooking and little comforts that we all take for granted, such as her favourite music or candles and a bubble bath.”
A Marie Curie nurse for eight years, Catherine also helps to run a farm shop in Gartocharn with her family, where Jan had coincidentally been shopping for years, and she has four children aged 25, 23, 18 and 15.
She said: “Jan and I realised we knew each other and built a rapport very quickly.
“The aim of a Marie Curie nurse is to give comfort and take away fear.
“We help the family and patient in any way we can. People often feel alienated in hospital, so it’s great to be able to help them stay at home - if that’s what they choose at the end of their life.
“Although a person is seriously ill it’s important for them to maintain pride and dignity and feel like themselves as much as possible.”
Catherine admits that she gets attached to patients and feels very sad when they pass away.
She added: “You’d be a very hard hearted person if it didn’t affect you.
“I will spend hours talking to patients reminiscing about the past and of course your affection grows for them as you get to know them.”