ONE day, cancer will be a footnote in history.
That’s the hope of Donna Ayling, of Gosport, who took part in the Race for Life in memory of her mother-in-law.
Donna, 45, was there to remember Heather Ayling, a much-loved Gosport florist who died of cancer in May after a short illness. She was 67.
Donna said a friend of hers had also recently been diagnosed with cancer, which came a ‘huge surprise’.
She said: ‘For years I didn’t know anyone with cancer.
‘I thought I was quite lucky.
‘And then suddenly, when a couple of people close to you get it, it seems crazy.
‘Hopefully in 100 years we can look back at this time as the cancer epidemic.
‘I hope we can look back on cancer like we look back at the plague in our history lessons.
‘To think, people can live through HIV now, so you would hope that one day, they’ll be able to do that with cancer.’
Donna said that when Heather, pictured inset, was diagnosed with liver cancer she wasn’t expected to survive for long, but exceeded expectations through sheer determination.
‘When she first found out about it they initially gave her two weeks, but she lasted for six weeks.
‘It was a massive shock. She went into denial and didn’t take in anything they said.
‘She thought that she would have a few years to live. She was generally healthy, and worked all her life in her flower shop.
‘She just started to lose weight very fast.
‘She was losing one or two pounds a day.
‘She had tests but they didn’t find it straight away.’
After the diagnosis, Heather’s life changed dramatically.
Donna said: ‘After she found out, she was in the hospital, maybe, two or three times a week.
‘You really don’t have much of a life after that because you’re always in hospital.
‘You live in hope. Hope and denial.’
Heather owned and ran Zodiac Florists in Whitworth Road, Gosport for 40 years.
Donna said: ‘She was very strong, she didn’t mince words and she had a very good sense of humour.
‘She was a much-loved, hard-working lady and she’s sadly missed by a lot of people.’
Donna, who works for Community Integrated Care as a support worker for autistic youngsters, was taking part in the Race for Life for the first time.