BEAUTIFUL – in all senses – and mischievous and smart and poetic and funny and kind.

Helen Harris, attests husband Nick, was extraordinary.

Growing up in Helensburgh, she did work experience with the Advertiser in the mid-1990s before becoming a journalist, later working as a press officer and author.

At the age of 43, in August 2016, the mother of two was diagnosed with a brain tumour.

Given around three months to live when the last treatments and trials failed in May 2018, Helen lived for 30, as the heart and soul, before passing away in December just five days before Christmas.

Helensburgh Advertiser: Daisy, Nick, Isabel and HelenDaisy, Nick, Isabel and Helen

In a candid, heartbreaking account of the final years of her life, Nick, an investigative sports reporter with the Mail on Sunday, has detailed his journey in finding life’s riches the hard way.

Writing on his own website, Sporting Intelligence, the man who knew her best, along with children Daisy, 19, and Isabel, 17, describe Helen as the “ultimate role model”, as a daughter, sister, wife, friend and mum.

Recalling “the worst day of his life” receiving the results of an MRI scan on Helen’s brain, Nick said: “I remember the howling wind outside. The rain on his window [in the consultant’s office]. A few of the phrases.

“‘It doesn’t look brilliant’... ‘about the size of a lemon’...‘can’t be certain, but the dyes suggest malignant.’

“It was a brain tumour.

“Helen was fit, slim, a healthy eater, a lifelong non-smoker. She was 43. With no previous serious illnesses.

“We made the case to the consultant for going home; he wanted Helen admitted immediately.

“‘The girls are 13 and 15, I need to tell them myself,’ Helen said.

“We drove home. Our mobiles were ringing every few minutes. It was the girls, and then Helen’s parents, then the girls again, trying to find out where on earth we were. We ignored every call.

Helensburgh Advertiser: Daisy, Helen and IsabelDaisy, Helen and Isabel

“As we drove, we repeated the same thing over and over to each other. What are we going to tell them?

“As we pulled into the drive, about 5pm, we’d decided: the truth.

“’Mum has a brain tumour. Probably malignant, but not definitely. She has to go into hospital, now. There’s a risk of seizure or brain haemorrhage at any time. Hospital is safest. Over the next few days the doctors will decide what to do. Whatever happens, we’ll do it together.’

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“Daisy, then 15, asked: ‘Is mum going to die?’ My response: ‘Daise, we’re all going to die. Hopefully mum isn’t going to die any time soon.’”

Sportswriter Nick, who met Helen in September 1995 on a post-graduate journalism diploma course in Glasgow, said he was “wiped out, physically and emotionally” by the diagnosis.

Surgery to remove 85 per cent of the tumour in September 2016 went well, however after further analysis it was discovered to be glioblastoma - an aggressive form of cancer with an average lifespan post-diagnosis of 15 months.

Nick, Daisy and Isabel’s world had been turned upside down.

Over the course of the next four years Helen defied all odds as the family made the most of their remaining time together.

After staring down the barrel for the first time in late January 2019, Helen experienced inexplicable revivals before being re-admitted to hospital later that year.

Helensburgh Advertiser: The family during happier times at Hyde Park in 2012The family during happier times at Hyde Park in 2012

Her complex health situation meant she spent the last year of her life at St Margaret of Scotland Hospice in Clydebank.

“And then there was Covid,” Nick continued.

“For a short time after national lockdown 1.0, the hospice was still allowing one person per resident inside for one hour per day. But on a Sunday in late March, they said: ‘Sorry…’

“And in the circumstances, I agreed with the policy.

“That’s when the window visits started. At first, it was fine, if less than perfect.

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“The weather was glorious. For months, it seemed.

“Window visits were, in this period, actually visits on plastic chairs a few metres away from an open patio door to the bedroom, where Helen’s bed had been moved so she was looking out, with the sun on her face, and I was looking in.

“Some days were better than others. In the west of Scotland it’s wet and by late summer, and through the autumn, every visit required a warm coat and umbrella.

“In lockdown alone, to visit Helen I drove more than the distance from Scotland to Australia to sit in a muddy flower bed, usually in the rain, to spend an hour or three talking to her. It was, by turn, really rough, absolutely uplifting, mundane, painful, full of love, and life-affirming.

“In the end, it was brutally quick. She was poorly, then typically responding to treatment, laughing with the staff, dipping drastically. And gone.”

Helensburgh Advertiser: Helen and Nick celebrated their 21st wedding anniversary - through a window - in OctoberHelen and Nick celebrated their 21st wedding anniversary - through a window - in October

Helen’s funeral took place at Cardross Crematorium last Wednesday, January 6.

More than £22,000 has been raised through a JustGiving page set up by Daisy and Isabel to support Maggie’s, the charity where Helen worked in her final job, Brain Tumour Research, and the hospice where she spent the last year of her life.

Hermitage Academy pupil Isabel, who featured in the Advertiser recently as one of the school’s Cramb Medal winners, also created a touching video tribute to her late mother.

Nick added: “Isabel has wanted to be a vet for as long as any of us can remember, since she was about four.

“The last conversation she was able to have with Helen was on Thursday, December 17, via me via FaceTime at Helen’s window.

“In that last conversation Isabel was able to tell her mum she had been made a university offer to go to vet school.”

To donate to the crowdfunder search for ‘Nick Harris’ on

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