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Ted's wife Angela was diagnosed with cervical cancer in May 2013, and very sadly died in November the same year. Ted tells us Angela's story and how her death motivated him to fundraise for Jo's.
On 26 November 2013 I lost my wife, and mother to our six year old daughter Emma, to cervical cancer.
Everything started in May 2013 when my wife Angela went into hospital for an operation following her fifth miscarriage. During this operation the surgeon found a mass on her cervix which we were told about at a follow up appointment.
Angela was sent for a further examination at which point I was called to the hospital to be with Angela. The consultant sat us down in a room and told us it was cervical cancer, a rare and fast growing type called adenocarcinoma which is unlikely to show up on a regular smear test, which had always come back clear for Angela. The diagnosis came as a total shock to us and one of my first thoughts was that I needed to make sure she received the best possible treatment with the best surgeons. We had already suffered so much heartbreak with the five miscarriages Angela had. It's terrible to lose a child, but you somehow cope. However, for your loved one to be told she has cancer is devastating and for me it was incredibly hard to imagine how she felt. As a partner I wanted to stay strong and positive for her.
Angela was initially diagnosed with stage 2 and was told she needed radiotherapy, chemotherapy and brachytherapy but then they discovered that it was stage 3. As far as we were concerned we always thought she had a 50/50 chance and remained as positive as possible always believing she would make it.
Angela started her treatment and my work was amazing about it; I was able to be with her every step of the way, whether it was being with her during treatments or attending consultant's appointments. Treatment was tough but Angela was doing well. We actually had a holiday booked in August which I almost cancelled but the doctor told us to go saying it would be exactly what Angela needed after the treatment. In September Angela started another round of therapy. She had some more scans which revealed that the tumour had indeed shrunk which was great news. However, the scans also showed that she had blood clots in the veins of the pelvis and needed treatment for this.
Unfortunately further scans in October showed extension of the blood clots in the main vein draining her legs and pelvis. Again, I wanted to make sure Angela received the best treatment possible, it was my way of trying to help her. She was seen by a vascular surgeon who arranged for her immediate transfer to Queen Alexandra Hospital for treatment of the extensive clotting and they subsequently transferred her to Southampton General Hospital where some clots were removed. Despite starting her on clot-busting drugs, she continued to have problems. As she was about to be released from hospital she started having excruciating pain in her kidneys and she was unable to go home.. She then also started to have trouble breathing and after another round of scans we were told she had blood clots in her lungs. Doctors took me aside and told me that they had no idea how else to help her, they had tried everything to stop the clotting but nothing was really helping. That moment was the first time I realised Angela was actually going to die from this, that there was no hope left.
Angela stayed in hospital and the whole family visited her in hospital for her niece's first birthday. She had a lovely day seeing her niece turn one. Three days later, on Tuesday 26 November 2013, she peacefully died in her sleep.
Angela's diagnosis and death was an incredibly difficult time - I would have swapped places with her in a heartbeat – it was so difficult watching your partner suffer. I would have done anything to help her. Even though I knew that I had done everything possible, I still felt like I hadn’t done enough.
Our daughter Emma has been incredible. We did tell her mummy was ill right from the beginning and we took her everywhere with us, even to intensive care. She would put on gloves with the doctors and look after mummy. Even now she is incredible and wants to help in every way she can. She'd like to run the kids version of the Great South Run and raise funds for Jo's.
Angela had discovered Jo's during her journey. She used the Jo's forum quite a lot and found comfort in reading and talking to other ladies who were going through the same thing. Jo's is also great for partners, sometimes you just want that bit of extra information and the amount of info on their website is great and it's incredible to see all these survivors keeping in touch and sharing their story. It gives you hope and support.
Soon after Angela had passed away, Angela's sister Julie and I sat together wanting to do something. Julie started a Tribute Fund for Angela where people can leave their messages and donate money. The messages are a great way for us to remember her but also a great thing for our daughter Emma to read about the people who loved her mum so much. The money we decided would go to Jo's, which Angela had discovered during her journey. She used the charity's forum quite a lot and found comfort in reading and talking to other ladies who were going through the same thing. We thought doing this would have been exactly what Angela wanted. Jo's information was also invaluable to me as a partner as I often wanted to research in more depth treatment options as well as read other women's stories and how they coped. It gives you hope and support.
After setting up the tribute fund page and receiving the first donations I decided to organise my own events and fundraise even more. I'm quite well connected through work and not particularly shy so I sent all my business contact, friends and suppliers an email telling them about Angela, myself and little Emma and it was quite easy to get people motivated to help out. I initially sent them a link to the tribute page which Julie had set up and asked for things that can be auctioned off. I ended up with so much stuff I had to do two lots of auctions on eBay.
I then also started organising a golf day. I talked to the golf club which I'd been involved with before about prices for teams of four to go on the golf course, for example if the entry fee for a team of four cost £100 I'd sell tickets for £200 a team. I would then take the extra £100 as charitable fundraising. I also had a prize draw people could enter. The day was so popular there were 30 teams of four and the day made about £1,000.
I also organised a wine tasting evening which made between £3- 4,000 and not a day went past without someone emailing me that they wanted to get involved.
Before long we had raised £7,000, it was great. You obviously have to weigh up the effort put in with things such as finding a venue ensuring that the amount raised is decent, but luckily it always worked out fine for us and we learnt with every event the kind of things that worked.
I always received help from Julie and Angela's family and friends in general. We call each other Team Emma because we want Emma to see the incredible things people do in memory of her mother.
In a way, fundraising for Jo's has helped me cope with the loss. It just kept me busy. I'm not the type of person to deal with things by curling up into a ball and crying and I had to be strong for Emma so I just immersed myself in fundraising. I want Emma to look back and be proud.
The proudest moment from all the fundraising was probably when we finished the Great South Run in October 2014. It was almost one year after Angela's death and neither myself, Julie or Guy had ever run such a race before. It was incredibly exhausting but crossing the finish line was fantastic, we just hugged each other and remembered the reason we had done this - Angela.
We're going to take on the Great South Run again this year, we're already training and have a team of 10.
Angela's family and I definitely couldn't have done all this without the help of many other incredible friends and supporters. We had people doing bungee jumps, skydiving and just in general giving up their time to help out in any way they could. My friend Sally Nolan from Sallco Tools also organised a race day at Fontwell in Angela's memory and this raised over £1,000! There have been some incredible acts of generosity.
Ted and his supporters have now raised an incredible £174,284 for Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust to this date (15/09/2020) and have a goal of reaching £200,000!