Labour's Neil Findlay tells of wife's battle with breast cancer

Labour politician Neil Findlay has written movingly about his wife Fiona's battle with breast cancer and the support they received as she fought the illness.

Neil Findlay with his wife Fiona.

The left-wing Lothian MSP wrote of his pride in the way his wife coped with the diagnosis, which saw her endure seven months of cancer treatment.

His wife’s illness is at the heart of his political memoir Socialism And Hope, which chronicles the 2014 independence referendum, his failed bid to become Scottish Labour leader and the rise of Jeremy Corbyn.

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Launched this weekend by Luath, the book is scathing about Jim Murphy, his rival for the Scottish party leadership, and pays extensive tribute to his mentor – the late Tam Dalyell.

But the most personal aspect of his account of an explosive era in Scottish politics concerns the moment in October 2015 when a lump was found on his wife Fiona’s breast when they were holidaying in France.

When the disease was confirmed, there was the emotional toll of telling their nearest and dearest.

“We had to then tell loads of folk and that was the difficult part,” Findlay wrote. “There was a lot of crying and talking to family and friends, but we were ready to get on with it and beat it. “

“We were relatively confident we would do so, as the consultant had told us the size of it, how they planned to deal with it and that they expected Fiona to live for another 40 years, so it certainly wasn’t a case of ‘the end is nigh’. It was a hammer blow, no doubt about that, but there was a lot of hope.”

He described the “procession” of people at the door offering support and bringing flowers and cards. “People genuinely cared and were 100 per cent behind us.

“Yet we thought of those who receive similar news but who leave the surgery and return to no-one: to a cold, empty flat. No support, no cuddles, no cards, no flowers. How do they cope? I can’t even begin to imagine.”

His wife was determined that life should go on and they sat down as family with their daughter Chloe. Findlay was told there would be “no moping around the house” and it was made clear to him that he should not start ironing and dusting on the basis that he had not shown much interest in those chores before her illness.

In anticipation of the hair loss caused by chemotherapy, his wife took the bold decision to cut off all her hair. According to his wife, losing her eyebrows proved more traumatic than the hair cut.

Great was the relief when they were told that the treatment had gone well. She was contacted by Breast Cancer UK’s Race for Life and asked to be a starter for their Edinburgh race.

“She also agreed to make a speech and did very well,” wrote Findlay. “She had decided to embrace it and I was very proud of her.

“One thing Fiona did say right from the start was that she would shout it from the roof tops to ensure that the message ‘check yourself’ got out.”