Nicola Mansfield’s husband died from brain cancer just days after she told him she was expecting twins.
Nicola, from Darlington, was pregnant and grieving when she learned that she too had a life-threatening tumour.
A decade on from an ordeal that plunged her into depression, she has published Growing from Grief about how she survived “through all of the pain”.
“If this book helps just one person, it will all be worthwhile,” says Nicola, now a mum of two ten-year-olds.
“A whirlwind romance with a tragic ending” is how the 45-year-old describes her relationship with late husband John.
Within moments of meeting one another, she says the pair knew they wanted to marry.
But weeks after their honeymoon, John collapsed. He was subsequently diagnosed with terminal brain cancer.
Days before he died, Nicola whispered in her comatose husband’s ear that his last wish had come true – she was pregnant with twins.
Shortly after John’s death, Nicola was told that her own life was at risk, and that the hearing loss and headaches she had experienced during his illness were symptoms of a brain tumour.
The same team that had looked after her husband went on to care for her, performing life-saving surgery on Nicola when she was 23-weeks pregnant.
Doctors told her that the babies were too small to save.
But against the odds, Nicola and her children, Ella and Archie – both now happy and healthy ten-year-olds – survived the ordeal.
“If I had not been pregnant, I would have taken my own life – especially after my own diagnosis,” says Nicola.
“Before I sought help, I was stuck in the ‘waiting room’ of grief and didn’t know how to move forward.
“But I knew I needed to go on for the sake of the twins. To give them a better quality of life, I needed to become a survivor.
“I still had everything to live for, and I needed to see that.”
Putting pen to paper and writing about her heartrending experience helped Nicola come to terms with the events that changed the course of her life.
She began writing her book while pregnant, hoping to leave something tangible for her children to remember their parents by if the worst happened to her.
Nicola says the book offers guidance for those going through similarly difficult experiences.
“It’s about how I have coped with grief, and grown,” she says.
“I wanted to write this to make a difference and give hope to others.
“Nobody’s grief is experienced in the same way. You’ve got to find your own way through, using whatever positives you can.”
She adds: “I think the reason for me having to go through all of the pain I’ve been through is so that I can help others.”
If you are affected by any of the issues in this article, you can find details of organisations who can help via.
Follow BBC Tees on email@example.com., and . Send your story ideas to
- 1 November
- 17 June