"December 4, 2000 was my 50th birthday," she recalls, "and my darling husband took me to Tenerife to celebrate. We had a fantastic holiday.
"If I had known then what was before us, though, I think we'd have cut and run."
Since that untroubled vacation, the former Scottish Borders Council employee has experienced a run of bereavements, including the devastating loss of her husband, and then a diagnosis of breast cancer. A mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiotherapy followed.
Tonight, four years on, Elizabeth will be speaking about her experience at a Breakthrough Breast Cancer reception at the Scottish Parliament to mark Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October. She will be explaining the importance of early diagnosis, but also stressing the crucial role that kind, compassionate nursing plays in helping patients through a difficult, lonely time.
When Dave died, Elizabeth, now 61, couldn't imagine how she would cope without him. He'd been there, quietly organising everything, after her brother had died suddenly of a heart attack while they were on honeymoon in 1994. He'd been there in 2001 when Elizabeth's mother died of a heart attack and Elizabeth was there for Dave when his mother died of cancer three months later.
Then in February 2004, the couple received the news that Dave had advanced prostate cancer and had a year to live. "I took long-term leave and spent the best part of that time with him, taking him out in the car and latterly in a wheelchair because he couldn't walk. I watched him go downhill." She takes a deep breath before adding quietly: "It was hard." Dave died on December 8, 2004.
"Part of me didn't want to go on because I'd lost my husband, my friend, my confidant, my lover. He was everything to me. Life today still seems very empty."
But life did go on. In February 2008, a friend asked Elizabeth what her worst nightmare would be and she answered, "to be diagnosed with cancer". A few months later, that's what happened.
Elizabeth had been experiencing pain in her right breast for several months but didn't suspect cancer as she had never heard of pain as a symptom and could find no lumps. However, when she mentioned it to a friend who'd had breast cancer, the friend called Elizabeth's doctor straight away. The doctor sent her straight to Borders General Hospital A&E, where the on-call oncologist performed a biopsy the same day. It revealed she had stage-three breast cancer.
Elizabeth was desperately lonely following her diagnosis, but she had sterling support from friends and neighbours, and always had a picture of Dave with her. The picture helped her through the mastectomy operation, thanks to the actions of one of the nurses. Going to theatre, she was upset that Dave's photo had been left in the ward, but a theatre nurse arranged to have it brought along. "I went to sleep with his photo under my left hand and I awoke with it under my left hand. That meant the world to me," she says.
What Elizabeth wants other women to remember is very simple: "Don't be as ignorant as I was. If I had known about breast soreness as a symptom, I would have gone to the doctor a lot sooner and I might not have lost my breast."
Today, Elizabeth is sustained by her faith and supported by friends. What has she learned about herself? "Everybody tells me still that I'm a strong person but I tell them I'm not strong, I'm a survivor."
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