A diagnosis of cancer is devastating enough. But what if this terrible disease claimed a loved one just five weeks later?
Claire Downie lost her husband, Paul, only last month after a short fight against stomach, liver and lung cancer.
He was really full of love and life and he would do anything for anybodyClaire Downie
Claire, along with her brave 11-year-old daughter Mollie, decided to pay tribute to him by taking part in the Race for Life in Southsea at the weekend.
They lined up alongside all the other entrants to help begin easing the pain of losing Paul after what has been a ‘very difficult’ time.
‘It just all happened so fast – we didn’t really have much time to process it at all’, Claire, 38, of Paulsgrove, says.
‘He just meant so much to the both of us.
‘I think it’s just been hard on us to both deal with it together.
‘Paul was the ultimate family man. He was hard-working, great with children and such a gentleman.
‘He was our everything.’
Paul, 51, was diagnosed with cancer on April 26 and passed away on June 2.
The family had first noticed something was wrong when Paul started coughing up blood.
A trip to the doctors later confirmed their worst fears and on May 13 the family was told the news that Paul’s cancer was terminal.
Paul and Claire had worked together as chefs for 13 years and had recently been working aboard HMS Excellent together.
The couple, who have been together since 2003, were due to get married in Florida in November.
Following Paul’s diagnosis, the couple decided they would speed things up and tied the knot at home with a few close friends and family.
Claire explains: ‘Paul was just a gentle giant, he was really full of love and life and he would do anything for anybody.
‘It made him so special to anyone who knew him.
‘I do not think you would be able to find someone who knew him that would not have liked him.’
After Paul’s condition started to deteriorate, Claire made the decision to spend as much time with him as she could, nursing him at home every day.
‘I wanted to spend every possible moment with him.
‘I just did not want to let him out of my sight.
‘It was hard to see him the way he was before the end, but I had to be there by his side.’
Mollie says that her relationship with her much-loved father was ‘really special’.
‘I was very much a daddy’s girl’, she recalls.
‘We were really close and it’s been really hard for us over the past couple of weeks.’
Claire adds that they were doing the Race for Life to help make sure their tragedy would not happen to others.
She says: ‘You really could not make up all that we have been through.
‘It’s been really challenging and we are still getting there as a family.
‘I know that Paul was up there today, looking down on us, urging us on and I really did think about him.
‘When you do things like this for the people you love, I guess that of course they will be on your mind.
‘I just hope that I did him proud and that no-one else ever has to go through something like we did.’
Nicci Paffett was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1998 and has since had to contend with losing her mum Angela to bone cancer back in 2010 and her uncle, Ken Gordon, who passed away after fighting the illness the previous year.
Nicci, 49, from Fratton, says: ‘Fighting this disease has kind of become my own personal battle.
‘I go to a support group at the Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham, where I hear from other people who have also given me support in terms of helping me to come to terms with it all.’
She adds: ‘I came down today to join in with this lovely atmosphere as everybody here are all running for the same reason.
‘We want to stop cancer and the only way to do that is to try to make a difference and not let it win.
‘Every year I’m blown away by the passion that you get from the runners. Everybody really encourages each other.’
Nicci has been doing Race for Life for the past 15 years and ran the 10k this year.
‘Doing the runs is my way of celebrating life’, she explains.
Her father, Gordon, 71, from Copnor, says Nicci is ‘an inspiration’.
He adds: ‘It’s all come as a big shock for Nicci, having to fight this illness herself and seeing it hurt her family.
‘She is such an inspiration to all of us and I really am so proud of her.
‘Nicci has such a positive attitude that it’s infectious and it rubs off on people.
‘She just never, ever gives up.’
Memories of Julie Poling’s father, David Ellis, came flooding back to her on Sunday as she ran the Race for Life 5k for the second time.
Julie had previously run the race back in 2011 after he passed away from prostate cancer in 2009.
She signed up this year after her daughter, Sophia, 11, (pictured right) insisted they do the run.
Julie says: ‘Sophia has really been hassling me to do it, so we decided that it would be the right year to give it a go.
‘Even though it’s been seven years, it still really makes me think about my dad being back here.
‘He was just the loveliest man and it makes me sad as Sophia never really got to spend much time with him and get to know him really well. He passed away before she was really old enough.’
She adds: ‘When he died, there was a huge impact on us as a family and it’s nice to be able to come down, just the two of us, and enjoy the event and celebrate his memory together.
‘We’ve only just sorted my dad’s estate recently’, Julie explains.
‘Sorting that has brought back all my memories about him.’
Sophia says: ‘I’ve been really excited because I’ve seen pictures of Race for Life before and I just thought that it looked so much fun.’