"This year, I'll be lighting a candle for Lorraine and holding her close in my heart"

Derek Green, from Oakfield, is remembering his loving wife, Lorraine, who died during lockdown, after a short battle with Cancer.

“We met just over 23 years ago,” Derek remembers. “Lorraine was working in a café in Newport, and I used to go in quite regularly for breakfast. I happened to overhear a conversation one day when her friends were talking about her birthday party. They decided they were going to go to the Balcony nightclub in Ryde. So, I decided I’d go to the Balcony on that particular night. Basically, we were together continuously after that; we clicked straight away.”  

Life was very normal for Derek and Lorraine. After developing a slight cough, Lorraine’s doctor told her she might have mild chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a lung conditionBut the couple carried on as usual, and Lorraine continued her love of running and raising funds for charity.   

Then just before lockdown, Lorraine’s health suddenly took a turn for the worse. “One day in February, we’d come back from shopping. We got to the house and Lorraine was trying to open the door, and she just collapsed.” 

After collapsing for a second time indoors, Derek called for an ambulance and Lorraine was transported to A&E. At St Mary’s, after complaining of head pain, she was given a scan. And it was later, at Southampton hospital, that a doctor would reveal the devastating diagnosis. Derek recalls. “The doctor said, ‘I’m afraid you’ve got cancer - it’s stage four.’ Lorraine’s exact words were ‘how long have I got?’ They said they didn’t know.”  

The couple made many trips back and forth to Southampton for treatment and tests.  Lorraine endured three rounds of radiotherapy, each time under a rigid mask to protect her face. Back pain in her lower back was found to be caused by cancer spreading to her spine.  

“Prior to this, we had already decided that we were going to get married,” Derek said. “We’d been together for 23 years, but we’d never actually tied the knot.” However, with lockdown restrictions beginning to have an impact on daily life, planning their wedding was not going to be simple. “We’d booked a venue in Ryde and sent out all the invitations, but then it had to shut, so we had to cancel everything. Then I tried to arrange it for the registry office; we were just starting the procedure, and then the registry office also shut. There was total confusion.”  

But Derek was determined and went to see his local vicar who managed to arrange a special license to allow the couple to marry at home. On 11 April, the couple wed. “It was an amazing day. Lorraine was a bit apprehensive, but it worked out fine. She told me it was the best day she had ever had and she never stopped smiling the whole time.”  

 Just a few weeks later, when Derek was caring for Lorraine, he pulled back the bedsheets to help her to the shower. “After I touched her,” he said, “she was in so much pain that I called Mountbatten for advice. They sent a paramedic who thought it might be sepsis. Very soon after that, she was rushed to the hospital.”  

 Lorraine was put on a respirator to help her breathe. About a day or so later she was told the treatment wasn’t working. Lorraine made the difficult decision to come off the respirator. “I think she’d had enough Derek recalls “Once they took her off the machine, she was taken to a ward and me and her daughter, Kristine, sat with her and held her hand. The vicar was there, and we sat watching our wedding video over the bed,” Derek said. And then Lorraine stopped breathing. “She had gone. I gave her a big kiss. A terrible waste; she was such a happy person who would do anything for anybody. A caring person who loved her family.”  

 “Her ashes are at home with me know; I talk to her every morning and every night. Her funeral was during lockdown, which made it very hard, but she had a really nice funeral. It was a nice day; it was a little bit drizzly, which somehow made it comfortable. Lots of friends and neighbours lined the streets to say goodbye, and there were tons of flowers.”  

Soon after, Derek reached out to Mountbatten for support. “I lost my daughter about four years ago. Because of that, I thought I could cope with this new situation with Lorraine. Unfortunately, it became apparent at a very early stage that I needed help.”  

“I’ve been coming on quite a regular basis for bereavement counselling which is very, very helpful and very comforting, as are the people here. And it’s somewhere to come; people are good company, they are all helpful. In that respect, it’s been a good experience. It’s helped, and it is getting easier. It’s not gone away, but each visit it seems to become a little bit more bearable.  

“Just having someone to talk to, someone to care. She makes me do the talking – she says that’s my job. It’s tearful a lot of the time, but it gets less tearful as time goes on,” he said.   

This year, I’ll be lighting a candle for Lorraine and holding her close in my heart. Alongside all the other families who have been touched by the hospice’s care. 

By donating in support of Light Up a Life, you’ll be helping to ensure that people like Derek get the help they need to carry on in the darkest of times.