A KIND-HEARTED woman has started a fundraiser to help a work colleague create family memories after receiving a shock cancer diagnosis.

Zena Miller, of Haddington’s Lammermuir Crescent, received the news in January that she had cholangiocarcinoma – a rare liver cancer in the bile ducts.

And she was distressed to be told by her healthcare team that the illness was incurable.

She told the Courier: “I thought, when I was diagnosed, I was going to go in there and they would turn round and say: ‘Right, we’ll just remove it and then we’ll go from there.’

“But when they said they couldn’t operate and it was palliative care, that was a real shock to me.

“It took me a bit of a while to get my head round it, and my family as well, my friends, it took them a while to understand what the heck was going on.”

Now, the 52-year-old is receiving chemotherapy as palliative treatment and is hoping the regime will halt the cancer’s growth.

Her daughter Stacey-Anne, of Haddington’s Herdmanflatt, has brought forward her wedding to fiancé Thomas Young to ensure her mum will be there.

And Zena’s colleague, Emily-Jane Gilfillan, was moved to raise money to help pay for a lasting memory for Zena and her family.

Emily-Jane said: “I met Zena when I first started working in the kitchen at the East Lothian Community Hospital, just at the start of lockdown last year.

“Zena was one of the first ones to come and approach me, trying to make me feel part of the kitchen.”

When Emily-Jane and the hospital kitchen team were told of Zena’s diagnosis, she felt she needed to do something to support her kind colleague.

She said: “To be told that it was cancer and she wouldn’t be coming back to work, it was a knock for everybody. You miss hearing her voice in the kitchen, laughing or joking away. She was such a big part of the kitchen.

“She gave most of her life to the NHS, so I just thought with everything that’s been going on the last year, it would just be nice for her to get something back.”

Zena has worked in catering for the NHS for 30 years, first at Herdmanflat Hospital on Haddington’s Aberlady Road and then the new East Lothian Community Hospital when it opened.

Emily-Jane, who lives in Prestonpans, has launched a GoFundMe page to raise cash and also a raffle, with prizes including £500 holiday vouchers, stationery, hampers and cosmetics. The two fundraisers have already stacked up about £700 and Emily-Jane is delighted to be able to help in some way.

She said: “I don’t think she realised how far her friendship had gone, how far she’d touched people’s hearts.”

And Zena has been “overwhelmed” by the support of her friends and colleagues, saying she’d like to spend the money on a weekend away with her husband David, Stacey-Anne and her four-year-old granddaughter Maisie.

She said: “It just makes me feel so humbled that people are thinking about me, thinking about my family. It’s been totally amazing.

“It has helped my mental health no end.

“And as I’ve said to everybody that’s been fighting for me, it’s not over till the fat lady sings. I’m going to fight this tooth and nail.”

To donate to Emily-Jane’s fundraiser, go to gofundme.com/f/help-zena-and-family-create-an-everlasting-memory