A HIGHLANDS woman has spoken of her devastation after losing her husband to a brain tumour, just five months after his unusually loud snoring first alerted her that something was wrong.

Trish Mackay, from Thurso in Caithness, was shocked when husband Michael was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumour in October 2020.

He passed away in March this year.

Mrs Mackay, 50, said: “I’d got up early one Sunday morning and couldn’t believe how loud Michael’s snoring was. He was upstairs in bed and I was downstairs.

"I grabbed my phone and went up to video him, so I could show him later on. It was only when I approached that I realised he was actually having a seizure.”

She had noticed that her husband's snoring was worsening over a number of weeks but never imagined it would be related to a brain tumour.

READ MORE: Waiting lists balloon as planned operations slashed by 180,000 during pandemic

Mrs Mackay, who works as a travel administrator for Dounreay, added: “I called an ambulance and when the paramedics arrived, they thought he was having a heart attack.

They took him to Caithness General Hospital in Wick and I followed in the car. By the time I arrived, he seemed fine, which was a huge relief.

“They did a CT scan of his brain and when the results came through, the doctor told us he was happy for Michael to go home.

"However, as we were about to leave, the doctor came back asking us to stay, as the team at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness had picked up something on the scan that they weren’t happy with.”

HeraldScotland: Michael Mackay (right) with children Leanne and MarkMichael Mackay (right) with children Leanne and Mark

On August 16 2020, the couple made the 2.5-hour car journey from Thurso to Inverness, where Mr Mackay, who worked for Highland Council, was scheduled to undergo a more detailed MRI. scan.

Initially the results were inconclusive.

Mrs Mackay said: “We had a follow-up phone call the following week but they still weren’t 100 per cent sure what is was. They mentioned the possibility of a brain tumour and Michael was referred for another two scans back in Inverness, for further investigation.

“They held a multi-disciplinary meeting (MDT) but there were still no conclusive results. At the end of September, Michael saw Consultant Neurosurgeon Peter Bodkin at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.

"There was more to-ing and fro-ing, more appointments and phone calls. Eventually, on October 5, he went for a brain biopsy, as Mr Bodkin decided that was the only way to determine what was going on.”

READ MORE: Hundreds of patients hospitalised with Covid after having their first vaccine dose 

After an agonising three-week wait, Mr Mackay was diagnosed with Grade 3 anaplastic astrocytoma.

Due to the location of the tumour on the brain it was inoperable and Mr Mackay was given just three to 12 months to live.

In December 2020, he began a course of chemotherapy to try to shrink the tumour.

Meanwhile, Mrs Mackay faced further heartache when her 75-year-old mother died with Covid shortly before Christmas.

She said: “Mum lived in England and because of the travel restrictions, we hadn’t seen each other for several months.

"She had COPD and an underlying heart problem and took ill just before Christmas. It was a huge shock and I was left heartbroken when she died on December 22.”

HeraldScotland: Mr Mackay was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness last yearMr Mackay was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness last year

The day after her mother's funeral on January 12, Mr Mackay took a turn for the worse.

Mrs Mackay said: “Up until then, Michael was doing okay. The day after the funeral, I went to the cemetery to see the flowers and video call my sister, who hadn’t been able to travel up from England, having tested positive for Covid herself.

"Michael had been having tremors in his arm when I left but by the time I got back, he’d lost the ability to speak."

READ MORE: Why 'eliminating' Covid means fewer deaths, faster economic recovery, and more freedoms

Mr Mackay had suffered a grand mal seizure and, after deciding that ongoing chemotherapy was having too detrimental an effect on his quality of life, was placed on end of life care in February.

He died six weeks later on Friday 26 March.

Mrs Mackay said: “I take great comfort from the fact that Michael wasn’t in pain at the end. It’s been hard to process everything though, especially in the context of the terrible year we’ve had with Covid.

"Before Michael became unwell, my 50th birthday and 25th wedding anniversary plans were ruined, due to lockdown.

"Just like my mum’s funeral, Michael’s had to be scaled back as well. It has truly been the worst year imaginable.”

Now Mrs Mackay and her children - 29-year-old daughter Leanne and son Mark, 22 - are taking part in the Jog 26 Miles in May challenge to raise money for Brain Tumour Research.

Mrs Mackay said: “I’m definitely not a runner, so I’ll probably walk most of my miles. Leanne and Mark are fitter than me and will jog.

"We are hoping to have done 25 miles by 22 May and the last mile will be done together with family and friends in fancy dress, finishing at Thurso Cemetery, where Michael is buried."

So far, the family has raised £2,637 in donations on their Facebook fundraising page.

Joe Woollcott, community development manager at Brain Tumour Research, said: “We were so very sorry to learn about Trish and her children’s tragic loss. Our thoughts are with them, as they try to come to terms with losing Michael to this terrible disease.

“What the Mackays are doing in memory of their loved one is really inspirational and we will be cheering them on, every step of the way.

"Michael’s story reminds us that brain tumours are indiscriminate; they can affect anyone at any age.

"We are determined to continue in our mission to find a cure for this terrible disease, to help prevent other families from suffering such a tragic loss.”