Menu

Elinor's story

Elinor's story - my cancer diagnosis just four months after losing my husband

12th March 2021

Before Elinor lost her beloved husband Phil to cancer in 2016, they lived what she described as a normal, happy life together with their two beautiful boys. Then just four months after Phil passed away their family had to face even more devastating news when Elinor was diagnosed with breast cancer. Here, she recalls how their lives changed forever.

Family photo outside of Elinor, Phil and their two boys

"I didn't see it coming, the day our lives were turned upside down, the day our lives changed forever.”

You might have heard my husband Phil's voice before - he is the voice of the familiar 'Mind the Gap' announcement on the railways across the UK.

In 2014, he was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer. We were devastated to be told that he had a less than 16% chance of survival and chemotherapy, surgeries and palliative care beckoned.

But still, life carried on. The boys had their homework, house chores didn't stop, and our business still needed to run. Unfortunately, when going through a cancer diagnosis, life doesn't give you a break.

“My brave Phil passed away in 2016. Not only did I lose my best friend and love of my life, but the boys lost their father at such a young age.”

I was determined while grieving to keep everything as normal as possible - but sometimes life has other plans. Just four months later, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Stage three - like Phil.

My world collapsed. I had to manage early widowhood, surgery, and treatment without Phil there to hold my hand or reassure the boys that mummy wasn't going to die as well.

But I also feel like I’m one of the lucky ones - simply because I knew the type of cancer I had meant my chances of survival were good.

“I feel fortunate to have benefited from years of research - especially because our children don't need to face losing another parent.”

But it still saddens me deeply that research into Phil's type of cancer is still so far behind. That's why I ran the London Marathon for Worldwide Cancer Research a couple of years ago - they fill the gaps in research by funding projects looking into all types of cancer.

Staff and volunteers cheered me towards the finish, their voices joining Phil's who was with me every step of the way, announcing trains below the roads I ran along.

As someone who has benefitted from lifesaving cancer research, I'm delighted to have been able to help 'Phil the gaps' in oesophageal cancer research. But many more gaps remain for other cancer types. That's why Worldwide Cancer Research needs more kind-hearted supporters like you to give what you can.

There are over 200 types of cancer and whilst we've made major breakthroughs over the years, there's still so much more to be done to help people like Phil. Will you follow in Elinor's footsteps and help us start new cures for cancer?

Become a Curestarter today