"David's death is something I will never get over, but I am slowly learning to live with it and come to a place of acceptance over my loss. Everyday is a learning journey. I’m not the same person I was before my loss, but traumatic experiences can shape who we are as a person. I certainly have shown I am stronger than I ever thought possible when faced with adversity. His memory and every loved one that has been lost will live on in our hearts forever".

My story of loss and the road to recovery.

Clare and late husband DavidThe last 10 years since my husband passed away in 2013 has started me on a road of recovery and self awareness and discovery. I have learnt more about myself in the last 10 years than I have for the last 30 years previously. Two things that have greatly helped me overcome my loss are writing and sharing my story and running.

The title of my book which I’m in the process of writing is called ‘For David - Cancer Widow to Marathon runner. The inspiration behind my story came from something that he once said to me: “Look after yourself and remember you will get better”.

These were David’s words that he wrote to me back in 2013 about a month before he died. As I write this now 10 years later, his words are speaking to me as I start the process of writing my book. How can I use these words to help others? What can his legacy be to me and other widows? His words weren’t in vain. He wrote these words for a reason and they are the inspiration behind my book.

Being a widow is not an illness, you can’t take a pill and make it all better. You can only cope the best you can, and we all do it differently”

I have always wanted to help other people. That’s my nature, but I never knew how. Now I know. My book is my gift to the world. David’s life and tragic passing are my gift to others and have inspired me to share my story with the world. Cancer may have taken my husband but it cannot take my memories.

Cancer has no respect for age, or however healthy you are. All we can do is hope and pray that this terrible disease can be cured once and for all.

I would like my book to give others hope for the future. In life we can all learn from traumatic experiences. Whilst we can’t change the past, we can use these experiences as a chance for post traumatic growth and a search for meaning in life and who we really are. The phrase ‘things happen for a reason’ is a very powerful one.

This is the story of my loss and how I got from Cancer Widow to Marathon Runner.

April-August 2013 – unaware of the silent killer growing from within.

David was very rarely ill over the 12 years that I knew him. He had the occasional bout of ‘man flu’, but that was about it. I seldom had to look after him when he was sick. So when he started getting shoulder pains back in April 2013, David being David thought nothing of it and took ibuprofen to cover up the pain. I encouraged him to see an osteopath/sports massage therapist as it could have been postural related. Everyone told him the same thing; it was either muscular or a trapped nerve which was causing him pain. He began having treatment for postural related back and shoulder problems , and we hoped this would make a difference to his discomfort. Unfortunately however things got gradually worse over the next few months…

At no point in the 6 months that he was in pain David never looked ill. He didn't look like someone who was suffering with cancer. He hadn't lost any weight, didn't lose his appetite or have any of the ‘classic’ symptoms you would associate with cancer. This made it even harder to come to terms with when we found out he had cancer.

In August 2013, one month before he died, he started having problems moving his neck. Again, he went back to the doctors and they gave him muscle relaxants and painkillers to try and release his neck and reduce the pain. This didn't work so he had to repeatedly go back to his GP to try something else. He was signed off work with a diagnosis of ‘torticollis’ and was recommended to be referred for physio. David had even had a Private hospital 360 well-man check on 20th August which picked up nothing abnormal with his health. This was just 3 weeks before he died. I still can't understand that. Looking back I sometimes ask myself why the doctor didn't order more tests, but to be honest, as he didn't display any other symptoms of something more serious, Cancer would have been the last thing they suspected. A 37 year old man with no history of any serious illness. Someone who never drank alcohol, never smoked, never ate unhealthily, wasn't overweight - wasn't displaying symptoms of someone with an aggressive Cancer. How wrong could we be…. The pain continued until he was unable to move and was admitted to hospital on 12 September 2013.

Thursday 12th September 2013: The day before my life changed forever.

Little did I know what was to come in the next 24 hours…

The words “it will never happen to me”, however cliché, felt very true on that Thursday in September of 2013. David had been suffering with neck pain over the last month and went backwards and forwards to the doctor several times over a period of several weeks. It was a bit of a worrying time for both of us, but the doctors said he had muscle spasm in his neck and needed treatment. We worked on the basis that he required physio and all would be fine after a few weeks. I had absolutely no idea that the silent killer Cancer was invading David from within over the last few months and he was just 24 hours from being taken.

I remember the day we made our wedding vows to each other on 23 June 2007. It was the happiest day of my life; “For richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health. Til death us do part”. The last part of our vows never even entered into my head as happening as early as it did.

My nightmare unfolded on a September afternoon while I was at work in London. I got a phone call to say that David couldn't get up off the bed at home because his neck had gone and that an ambulance had to be called to take him to hospital. Little did I realise at the time that David was going to be taken away from our marital home and was never coming back. I had to make the mad dash home via taxi which my company very kindly paid for so I could get home quickly. I just said to my boss and HR that my husband had been hospitalised so I had to get home. I can't remember what feelings and emotions were going through my head at the time. A mixture of anxiety and fear as to what was happening to my husband whilst trying to make sense of it all in my head and how things had got to this. David was the type of person who didn't want me to worry – easier said than done for someone who suffers with anxiety. He kept telling me he didn't need to see the doctor again as they would only tell him the same thing. When you've been with someone for 12 years you get to know how their mind works. Whether he was trying to protect me I don't know, but I could tell deep down David was concerned this was something more serious. I am convinced to this day that he was downplaying his pain and had more symptoms than he was letting on to me. Secretly I think he knew this was more than just the trapped nerve and neck problems that he was trying to convince himself that he had. Maybe he was in denial, who knows. So many unanswered questions which will never be answered. Sadly I will never know the truth and what was going through his head during his final days.

I was frantically on the phone to him in the hospital on my mobile in the taxi back to Tunbridge Wells. He sounded delirious and beside himself with pain and worry. I was passed backwards and forwards on the phone to doctors and nurses while I tried to explain his symptoms over the last few weeks. I thought he was having some kind of breakdown because he wasn't making any sense and was so focused on his symptoms and the pain. He wanted them to listen to him and find out what was happening to him. I felt frustrated and helpless that I couldn't help him and tried to talk sense to the doctors and consultants at the hospital. I wanted answers there and then. I wanted them to tell me the crack his neck made was just a slight fracture and would heal after a few weeks. Over the next few hours, I tragically found out there was more to it than that….

The next few hours seemed to pass by in a blur. I got to the hospital to find my husband lying on his back in a neck brace seemingly oblivious to what was wrong with him. I seem to remember speaking to one of the consultants about what was happening to David. By the time I arrived he had had an Xray and CT scan. I was told by my brother in law that the Xray had shown a ‘shadow’ on his chest but they didn’t know what it was yet. A further CT scan revealed that he had an unknown ‘mass’ on his chest and another on his neck. I was starting to get really worried now. The wait for the doctors to come round to his hospital bed seemed like eternity. Such an unfortunate term to use, but it felt like waiting for a death sentence. How ironic looking back now…

The news we had finally been waiting for had arrived. I knew at this point things were very serious. The consultants hadn’t confirmed a diagnosis of Cancer but I knew this was what it was. The look in the doctor’s eyes when they told us they had found a mass on the chest and neck but didn’t know what it was yet said it all. David’s classic reaction to this news was so naïve and heartbreaking; “how did that get there?” Even then he didn’t seem to accept it. He seemed more calm than me, although I could tell by looking at his face he knew this was very bad indeed. He even asked me to take a picture of him on his phone so that he could show his work how bad things were and that he wouldn’t be back at work anytime soon. This was typical of David. If only he knew – even then he was more concerned about losing his job. So trivial now given the circumstances. I went outside the hospital room with the doctor then. I was very frank and asked her straight “it’s Cancer isn’t it?”. She paused for a brief second and looked me right in the eyes and said “we don’t know yet”. I wasn’t stupid though and knew he had Cancer. The way she looked at me told me what I needed to know. He was due to have a biopsy the following day and we were told it would take a week to get the results back. That in itself would have been the longest wait of our lives. Nothing however prepared me for the following 24 hours….

Friday 13th September 2013 – the day my life changed forever.

I have always been a bit superstitious about Friday 13th, but up until then I just thought it was an unlucky date. As the events of the day unfolded, this proved to be more than just a superstition…

I went back to the hospital that morning and waited for David to come back from his emergency MRI scan. I was on the phone to my friend from work and told her that they had found two lumps but it was unknown at that point what it was. I was frantic with worry thinking the worst. My friend can be very direct at times and sometimes doesn’t think before she speaks, but I guess she was trying to reassure me and not to think too much about it until we knew what we were dealing with. David was brought back in around lunchtime and the Consultants told me the scan results wouldn’t be back for a few hours. I didn’t know what to do then. I couldn’t bare to leave him as I wanted to be there in case there was some news. At the same time I was emotionally drained having been at the hospital until very late the night before and all morning. I eventually decided I couldn’t really do much else until we had the results, so I was going to go home and try and come back to see David later. If only I’d have known this was the last time I would see him conscious I’d have stayed by his side . I had absolutely no idea I’d never speak to him again. I remember him holding out his hand and saying “where’s my wife?” He asked me to put some Deep Heat on his back to try and ease the pain a bit. Oh David, so little did you know what was eating away at you and what was going to happen within the next few hours. Just before I left, the last thing he said to me was “can you bring my ipod with you when you come back later?” Those were the last ever words my husband said to me. Not what you expect is it? When you say goodbye to someone, this isn’t what you should be saying, especially when it’s the man you married.

I left at lunchtime and tried to switch off for a few hours. For someone who suffers with anxiety, this isn’t always easy at the best of times, let alone waiting to hear if my husband was going to die of Cancer. I have always been one for remembering times and dates of things, but what happened next during late afternoon on 13th September was something that will stick in my mind for the rest of my life…

I was at Mum and Dad’s after having visited my GP to explain what was happening and to see if there was anything they could do to help calm my nerves. Having had a bad experience with a previous GP earlier in the year, the last thing I wanted to be doing was taking more pills. They aren’t the answer, but more about that later. I decided against it and was hoping I could deal with this on my own. The sound of the phone ringing resonated in my head and felt like the longest few minutes of my life. At around 5pm, Tunbridge Wells hospital rang. I answered the phone, heart pounding as I spoke. “Is that Mrs Salmon?” I said it was. “This is Tunbridge Wells hospital here. I’m afraid David has become very unwell so we recommend you come down here.” I asked what did they mean he is unwell. They said “his blood pressure has become very low, he is very pale and is not responding.” I froze with fear. “What do you mean?” I said, barely able to speak. The doctor said “well, it’s up to you, but I think you should come down here.” I put the phone down and remember staring blankly at Dad, my heart racing. “What is it Clare?” Dad said. I explained that it was the hospital and that David was unwell and said we should go there straightaway. Mum and Dad dropped everything, and we jumped in the car and drove straight to the hospital. Dad was gripping my hand so tightly in the back of the car. The journey felt like hours not minutes. I was very scared by now, but nothing, absolutely nothing, could have prepared me for what I was about to be told in the next 20 minutes…

We arrived at the hospital and rushed through the door. I wanted to get to David as quickly as possible. We managed to find the ward he was on and then found the Consultant who was looking after him. At this point I was beside myself. Dr Tsang met us in the hospital corridor and then I was given the most devastating news of my life. The way he looked at me in the corridor is something I will never forget. He took us to the family waiting room and I knew this wasn’t good. “Mrs Salmon, we have the results of David’s MRI scan. I’m so terribly sorry but David has cancer and it has spread to his bones, pelvis and bronchial tubes. There is nothing we can do, we are going to lose him”. I just went numb. I wasn’t prepared for this at all. I remember collapsing in the corridor and going into hysterics screaming my head off. I didn’t want to hear this and couldn’t believe it. They wouldn’t let me go in and see him until he was more comfortable. I was hyperventilating now and having a panic attack. I kept screaming, “no, no this isn’t happening”. One of the nurses was trying to calm me down but I was in too much shock. I said I didn’t want to go in and see him die as I couldn’t bear it. The doctors and nurses encouraged me to go in as I would regret it. In a state of delirium I eventually went in and sat by David’s bedside. What was I going to do? I had a few minutes to say my goodbyes to the man I hoped would be my husband for the rest of my life. I remember holding his hand and feeling how cold he was. I asked why he was so cold and they said the tumour in his chest was pressing on his heart and slowly cutting off his circulation. I held his hand and tried to think what I was going to say. He was only partly conscious by now and I’m not sure whether he knew I was there or could hear what I was saying. From somewhere in my head I managed to say what I was going to say. I thanked him for the last 12 years of our relationship, and for being there for me and for all the special moments we shared together. I’m sure I heard him say ‘stop’. Whether he meant ‘stop, I don’t want you to say goodbye’ or ‘stop the pain’, who knows. Then I did something I’ve never done before. I’m not religious, but I made the sign of the cross on my heart and said “please release him from this”. Whether that was a sign that he was about to go I don’t know, but shortly after that he rolled over onto his back, and I knew he wasn’t far from leaving me. I ran out of the room in tears. About 5-10 minutes later, the Dr came in and said I’m so terribly sorry, David has gone… Dad’s first reaction was one that I remember vividly. Being Jewish, he has relied on his faith over the last few years to get him through the tough times. I just saw him break down and cry out “no, there isn’t a God”. To be honest the same went through my mind. If there is such a thing as God, why did he let this happen to David. He didn’t deserve it and neither did I. Bad things shouldn’t happen to good people. I personally am not religious and after all the heartache that I’ve experienced in my life, it really makes me doubt whether there is a God. But that is another story.

I eventually calmed down and my mind went into a complete blur. I remember just standing there in the hospital corridor completely numb. I couldn’t feel anything. I somehow managed to walk past David’s hospital room knowing he was gone and had to leave him there in a cold hospital morgue knowing I’d never see him alive again. The first thing I did was to tell the girls at work, then I rang Camilla, my Counselling Psychologist who has known me for the last 8 years. I needed her help right now. I’ve never known her to be as speechless as she was then. Oh Clare, I’m so sorry. She genuinely didn’t know what to say, but one thing she reassured me was that she was going to do everything she could to help me through this. My brother was angry at himself for not being there and in tears on the phone. I don’t think he was thinking straight and he said he was going to drop everything and drive down that night from St Albans to be with me. I told him not to be daft. He had an 8 month pregnant wife at home and he couldn’t leave her. I didn’t want the shock of what had happened to make her go into an early labour. He promised he would drive down first thing on Saturday. It was also Charlotte’s birthday that day. Our family do have a habit of picking their moments to die. Charlotte was in tears too. Nobody could believe it.

It was going to be a long night. What was I going to do now? It was just me vs the world. I was no longer a married woman, I was a widow at the age of 33… 6 years of marriage were over so suddenly. Widows are not associated with women in their 30’s. Why David?, How did it happen?, Why me? The long road into widowhood had begun and the start of rebuilding the rest of my life… My first thought was “I can't manage on my own. I can't do this”.

Saturday 14th September 2013 – the day after the night before and my first day as a widow.

Sleep that night was understandably not great. Fortunately I had some sleeping tablets that the doctor had prescribed for me so I managed to get some sleep surprisingly. My mind was whirring round with what felt like hundreds of questions and I wanted to answer them all there and then. I woke up and from what I remember I was completely numb. I just couldn’t cry or feel anything. The emotional shock was probably kicking in by now and my mind and body were emotionally drained. How was I going to ever get over this, let alone do anything else? I tried to eat something and keep my strength up. I’d just experienced the worst possible shock of my life so I had to take it very slowly and keep looking after myself. I am too hard on myself at times though so I often found I was expecting too much of myself too soon. At times though this wasn’t easy and the anxiety came back again. It’s amazing what shock and grief can do to you as I found out in the weeks and months to come…

Our first task as a family that morning was to contact the Funeral Directors to start the process of organising David’s funeral. I couldn’t believe I was having to do this. I was a 33 year old woman. Why on earth was I having to contact Funeral Directors for my 37 year old husband? However surreal it was, unfortunately it was happening and I had to deal with it. Between us and David’s parents we decided on a local Funeral Directors in Crowborough where David grew up. They were absolutely amazing. They had dealt with many tragic stories in their time, but David’s was even shocking to them. We started the first of the arrangements and they said they would do everything they could to help me through this terrible time. I had no idea what I was doing but they were in regular contact and explained each part of the painful process to me. First thing they had to do was collect David from the hospital once he had been ‘released’ by the Coroner and get his death certificate documents from the Consultants. Sounded all so final and I didn’t want to believe it. Felt like he was something that had been discarded and had to be taken away in a black bag. The thought of him lying there in the hospital morgue was harrowing for me to deal with. I had all sorts of thoughts and images going round in my head, but I left it to the Funeral Directors to deal with. I was given the option of going to see him in the hospital chapel of rest but decided against it. There was no way I wanted to see my husband lying there cold and grey. That is not how I wanted to remember him.

My brother arrived down on the Saturday morning. He and I were never very close when we were younger, but I saw a completely different side to him over the coming days. His support for his older sister was amazing. Sometimes he felt helpless and didn’t know what to do. I told him there was only so much he could do, and just to be there for me if I needed him. He proved invaluable to me that weekend and the next few weeks, and was the best brother I could have asked for. I couldn’t even face all the practical side of things like dealing with bank accounts etc and all the people we had to contact regarding his affairs. The list seemed endless. I didn’t know where to start. Fortunately my brother had found a website called ‘Tell us Once’ which is a service for people who are bereaved to provide practical help on advising what to do and who to contact when a person has died. There were so many people to deal with - it was all a bit overwhelming. This is where I had to call on my closest family to help. I felt like my brain wasn’t functioning. At times my brother didn’t know what to do to help. He hated seeing his sister so upset and got angry with himself for feeling so helpless. His practical support was something I will never forget. He contacted the credit card companies, some of which were very unhelpful on the phone. If he hadn’t been there, I think I’d have lost my rag with them. Sometimes these companies have absolutely no sensitivity when dealing with the bereaved. It was hard enough having to deal with all this stuff as it was, without having to deal with idiots over the phone as well. Dad having worked in Insurance for most of his life dealt with the Car Insurance and Life Insurance side of things. I couldn’t face that. That was one of the hardest things for me. I felt like the Life Insurance policy we had was ‘blood money’. Why should I be getting this large amount of money to pay off my mortgage when my husband had just died. It wasn’t right. I burst into tears when I was told that there would be a large sum of money in my account within days and my mortgage would be cleared. I didn’t want the money. I just wanted my husband back. Some people didn’t understand why I felt like this. I may have been mortgage free, but I know what I would rather have. No amount of money will ever bring him back. I felt like it wasn’t my money. It was David’s money and I didn’t deserve to be getting it. The phrase ‘money can’t buy you love or happiness’ was so true.

The next grim task I had was starting to inform friends and family about what had happened. Where do I start? What do I say? I slowly but surely started contacting friends and family over the weekend. I made an announcement on Facebook and I was overwhelmed by messages of condolence and support. Within the space of a few hours I had people messaging me saying how completely dumbfounded they were and so sorry for my loss. Every person I spoke to were absolutely speechless and totally devastated for me. When people have a bereavement, the first thing people always ask is “if there’s anything we can do, just ask”. I know they all meant well, but all I wanted was for David to come back. They couldn’t do that though could they? The boss at David’s company he worked for at the time was visibly and emotionally disturbed by what I was telling him. He couldn’t believe it. Even a business offered me any help and support I needed. Sounds trivial, but the first thing I thought of was keeping David’s photography website up and running. Who was going to do that now? Guess they could help in that way.

One by one over the next day or so, I contacted everybody I could think of to tell them the news. I think I pretty much had the same reaction from everyone: ‘speechless’, ‘devastated’, ‘unbelievable’. ‘How?’ ‘Why?’ ‘So unfair’. ‘David was such a lovely man’. ‘You two were perfect for each other’. One person I spoke to even thought this was a terrible mistake and some kind of joke. If only it was… I had people calling and texting me daily to check I was ok. I was deeply moved by everyone who kept in touch with me during those early days and weeks. Sadly as time went on some of those people lost contact. Maybe they didn’t know what to say, maybe they couldn’t deal with it, who knows. It does show who your friends are though and who you can rely on in times of crisis. Unfortunately I learnt that this is normal with people who are bereaved. I had to learn that friends come and go, however hard this was to accept at the time.

I sometimes felt very alone in the world and like some kind of ‘freak’ and an outsider who had something to be ashamed of. What happened to me wasn’t normal and I felt like no one understood what I was going through. How could they unless they had been widowed at such a young age? All they could do was listen and try and understand, but for some that was more difficult than others.

The longest 2 weeks of my life:
Monday 16th September – Tuesday 1st October 2013.

I somehow got through the weekend and all the emotions that went with it. It was horrible at times and emotionally draining. Today was the day that I had to go to the hospital and collect David’s belongings and the documents for the death certificate. I was dreading it, but my brother came with me and was my rock throughout. He wanted to do this for me. It would have been too much for my parents to handle. As I found out, this was to be the start of an agonising week of dealing with practicalities that one by one emphasised the fact that David was dead and not coming back. I remember shaking in the car on the way to the hospital. I was still suffering from emotional and physical shock and this next painful task just added to my heartache. I went in with my brother and we sat down and waited for the Patient Liaison Bereavement team. I knew what was coming, and the image of seeing David’s clothes, belongings and worst of all, wedding ring in a patient plastic bag just made me break down in tears. I started having a panic attack again, and my brother told me to try and keep calm and got me a hot drink to bring my sugar levels up. The last thing I wanted to do was pass out in the hospital. Grief is so emotionally and physically hard on the body so it's important to look after yourself. I had to go through each thing one by one, and the moment I’d been anticipating had arrived… David’s wedding ring was no longer on his ring finger. It was back with me. He was no longer my husband. I was no longer his wife. As soon as I saw it in the small envelope I just screamed. It was a shock seeing it knowing that just 48 hours ago he was wearing it as my husband.

We finished at the hospital and I needed to sit down outside. Step 1 over with. My brother took the plastic bag away and put it in the car so I didn’t have to keep looking at it. Images of things that reminded me of my loss is something that I found hard to deal with. We had a long chat just the two of us and I felt better afterwards. I think he was still as shocked as I was. I’d been through enough for one morning. Unfortunately my ordeal was only just beginning though….

Tomorrow I had to one by one start making appointments with the registrar to register David’s death, the bank to close all his bank accounts and the Funeral Directors to discuss the Funeral service. I couldn’t even begin to get my head round it all. I felt like everything was being thrown at me all at once. Why me?? I felt angry for being left in this position. It wasn’t David’s fault he died, but I felt angry as to why I was having to do this. It was never ending… My family and friends stuck by me in my darkest days to come. I couldn’t have done it without them.

The coming week brought its own set of challenges, and I had to face each one head on. I seemed to spend the next few days signing paperwork as David’s widow and Executor, going through his Will and making the most painful decisions of my life in arranging his Funeral. The week started by going to see the Registrar to register David’s death. That was the most awful thing I had to do up to then. Seeing the words ‘Death’ and ‘David Christopher Salmon’ at the top of a piece of paper was heart wrenching. Even more heart wrenching was his age; just 37 and cause of death as ‘Disseminated Carcinomatosis’. (In other words ‘Aggressive Cancer’). To me that was the most painful thing to see written in black and white. That was it – he was gone. I got through that day though and had a brief rest until the next day…

The following day I had to go and visit his bank to close all the accounts. All this was so unfair and unnecessary. Mum came with me as she was used to dealing with this sort of thing working for a Solicitor. Admin surrounding someone’s death is horrible and feels almost emotionless, but it has to be done. After what felt like another long hour at the bank I went back home to Mum and Dad. Why was I going through this? Answer: I had no choice, but I did it. Another step over with.

When I got home that evening, the number of condolence cards and flowers were starting to mount up. I was overwhelmed by people’s kind words and offers of support. I couldn’t take it all in. It was starting to look like a funeral parlour at home, but I somehow found comfort in having them up. It got me through the following week in the build up to my biggest challenge yet – my husband’s funeral.

The following day, my appointment with the Funeral Directors was upon me. How on earth was I going to go through all the arrangements for the funeral of a 37 year old man? Let alone that 37 year old man being my husband. I really couldn’t believe I was being put through all this. I remember being faced with a mountain of paperwork and brochures to go through; starting from choices of funeral flowers, type of coffins, wording and music for service, layout of the funeral service sheet. The list of decisions was endless. I tried in vain to think what I could do for David to make this a proper send off. As he was taken from me so suddenly, I somehow felt the need to do everything I could to make my last goodbye to him the best possible. It was the last thing I was ever going to get to do for him, so I wanted it to be perfect.

In the space of an hour or so, I managed to decide on the date, time and content of the service as well as other finer details. I was trying to think how I was going to best reflect David’s life whilst at the same time making it a fitting tribute to him. It wasn’t easy, but once more I found the inner strength to choose something appropriate for him. I decided on his favourite piece of music by Jean Michel Jarre to be playing in the background whilst having a slideshow of his best photographs running for everyone to see in all their glory. He was such a talented photographer and I wanted everyone to see what a gift he had. I chose a very moving piece of music to be played on his final journey to the crematorium – Chi Mai by Ennio Morricone. I have always loved this piece of music so having listened to it over and over I decided it was perfect. Again all of this was emotionally draining so I took it easy for the rest of the day. So Tuesday 1st October 2013 was to be the day; my very last goodbye to my beloved husband. I then had to find the words to write a eulogy for David. What on earth was I going to say? I didn't need to think too much. I just wrote what came into my head and wrote how I felt from my heart.

The weekend before the funeral.

By this point I was really starting to feel the physical as well as the emotional effects of the shock and grief following David’s death. This in itself triggered off my health anxiety again and I went through a period of several weeks convincing myself I was going to get Cancer or die at a young age like David did. I thought my poor body wouldn't be able to handle any more physical pain. I kept experiencing palpitations and various other physical symptoms which were horrible. My GP monitored me every 2 weeks but I had to get through it. It would pass, even though I felt I was going to die too. A lot of my symptoms were psychosomatic but felt very real at the time. Sometimes people didn't believe me and thought it was all in my head which upset me at times. This was real for me. My husband had just died of a Cancer which he didn’t even know he had, so in my eyes there was no reason why the same wouldn’t happen to me. He was fit and healthy and the silent killer had taken his life. It could happen to anyone. No one should take life for granted. It took several months for me to get over the health anxiety. I will explain more later, but with help from my bereavement counsellor and my GP, I eventually got through it.
I had to make the agonising choice of choosing which clothes I wanted David to be cremated in. Why oh why was I doing this? In a blur, I went back to the house and picked the first thing I could find. However silly it sounds, I wanted him to look his best for his final send off. I chose what made David feel good; his work shirt and trousers and a lilac tie that I had bought him. I handed over the clothes to the Funeral Directors together with a couple of sentimental items I wanted to go in beside him; a photo of his wife, us on our wedding day and a special ‘D’ teddy bear I had bought him. While I was there they asked me if I wanted to see David for the last time. What a decision to make.. Everyone is different but I personally couldn’t do it. I didn’t want that to be my last memory of David. I wanted to remember him as the happy loving man I married 6 years earlier.

I thought long and hard the last few days before the funeral about whether to visit him in the chapel of rest in the coffin before the funeral service. Given that I was dreading seeing the image of David’s coffin, I was advised by the Funeral Director that it may make it easier if I go and see him beforehand. I eventually decided I would go and do it but there was no way I could have the coffin lid open. No way. The Friday before the funeral came and I was panicking and wondering if I could go through with it. I just kept picturing a coffin imagining David inside it and that I’d run straight out of the room as soon as I saw it. Mum came with me as well as a close friend for moral support. The moment came, I was about to go into a room and see a large coffin with my husband’s name and date of death on it. It seemed so unreal. I slowly walked into the room holding the Funeral Director’s hand shaking like a leaf. My initial reaction was what I was expecting; I screamed and went into a fit of uncontrollable tears. Surprisingly though once I’d come face to face with the image of it and got over the initial shock, I felt calm again and found myself sitting down beside him. As with a lot of things along the way, the build up to it was a lot worse than the actual event. I didn’t know what I was going to say. I bought my ipod with me and played him some of mine and his favourite pieces of music. I remember making a slight joke and saying “where are his ears?” so I could make sure he would hear it properly! I played him our first dance song ‘We’ve only just begun by the Carpenters’, ‘Oxygene’ by Jean Michel Jarre, and a few others that were special to us. I have no idea where I found the strength from, but I found myself not wanting to leave. I just lay down my head on the lid of his coffin and hugged him, sometimes sobbing quietly to myself, other times just sitting there in quiet contemplation. It was agonising for my Mum to see but it was my last chance to say goodbye before the funeral in front of all those people. I just wanted a few more private moments with him. The time came to leave. I walked out of the room and said “til Tuesday David…” (the day of the funeral). I’d done it. I’d overcome a big hurdle and didn’t completely fall to pieces. Tuesday 1st October may have been a bigger challenge however…

Tuesday 1st October 2013 – the last goodbye.

I woke up that morning feeling unsurprisingly numb and in a state of panic. The thoughts that kept going through my head were that of ‘I’m not going to get through this, I can’t do it, I’m going to fall apart’. Dad went to pick up Janet from the station first thing so she could be there for me for moral support. Janet is a close family friend as well as Dad’s Rabbi at his Synagogue. Although we chose not to have a religious service, she was the perfect person to do the ceremony for us.

The service was at 10.30am so we had about an hour or so before we had to leave to make the final journey to the Crematorium. I had previously decided I couldn’t go through with following the funeral cortege, so I was going to meet my husband there for the very last time…. 1 hour to go…

I remember being a quivering wreck on the way in the car to the Crematorium. My stomach was churning with nerves and I was dreading what lay ahead in the next hour. Janet held my hand in the back of the car for the whole journey. She was my rock throughout. I didn’t think I could have got through it without her kind words and support. She’d done this many times before so I was in safe hands. I had no doubts she was going to make David’s final send off the most fitting tribute ever. It was only a 30 minute journey from Hadlow to Tunbridge Wells but it felt like forever. Once we arrived, I recall glancing out of the car window and saw the girls from work running towards the car. I couldn’t face it and didn’t want to break down in front of everyone, especially my work colleagues. I ran from the car and had to find the bathroom. My nerves were getting the better of me. Grief and shock plays havoc with your body.

The Funeral Directors met us in the car park. They had previously advised I wait separately on my own away from the main congregation as he didn’t think I’d cope with everyone fussing round me. People started to arrive. Some people didn’t know what to say. Others just came up to me and hugged me. I just sat stunned in disbelief. I was starting to get really nervous by that point. I then remember Steven Tester calling me over to say the hearse was about to arrive. I was dreading seeing it, even though I’d previously been to visit at the Funeral Directors the Friday before. This was it. The very last time I’d see him. The moment I’d been dreading over the last 12 years had arrived. David’s coffin had arrived in the back of the hearse with the DAVID flowers I had chosen for him. That was what hit me first. I let out a scream as I slowly managed to walk towards it. I had Mum and Dad supporting me on each arm. Then I remember Chris, my brother waiting with me and saying ‘you can do this’. The flowers were handed to me and I glanced up to see David’s coffin. I made the slow walk on my brother’s arm to the front of the chapel, watched by all of my family and friends. I could see the pain, anguish and disbelief in all their eyes. One of their close friends, Daughter in Law, work colleague having to be put through this and saying goodbye to her 37 year old husband. I don’t think even they could believe it, let alone me.

We took our places at the front of the chapel and then the service began.. Janet played tribute to David and said a few opening words. Then she read out a poem which I had chosen. The words just seem to pass through me in a blur without me taking them in…

He is gone, by David Harkins
You can shed tears that he is gone, Or you can smile because he lived,
You can close your eyes and pray that he will come back,
Or you can open your eyes and see all that he has left.
Your heart can be empty because you can't see him
Or you can be full of the love that you shared,
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday,
Or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.
You can remember him and only that he is gone
Or you can cherish his memory and let it live on,
You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back,
Or you can do what he would want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on.

All of the family Eulogies followed next. We started with mine, his beloved wife, then David’s parents, my parents and my brother and sister in law. I remember sobbing my heart out while I listened to all the kind and caring words that everyone had put together about my beloved husband. While I was listening, every once in a while I would glance up to the front of the chapel and see David’s coffin lying there; he was all alone with no one to hold him, no longer in this world, finally at peace…

We were coming towards the end of the service, but one final thing that I wanted to do to honour David was to display a slideshow of his photographs to everyone who attended with his favourite piece of music playing in the background – Oxygene by Jean Michel Jarre. I had chosen about 25 of his photos which I felt captured his photographic abilities perfectly.

My Eulogy - To my beloved husband David Salmon.

There will never be enough words to express what you meant and will always mean to me. Since we said goodbye on Friday 13th September, a big part of my life changed forever. I will never forget the day I met you 12 years ago in 2001 and never dreamed that 6 years later we would be happily married. The day you asked me to marry you was the happiest day of my life. It was just a shame that our happiness was cut short far too early in our marriage together – we had 6 wonderful years as husband and wife and I will always be grateful for that. You made me the happiest woman in the world and I thank you for all you did for me from the bottom of my heart. I will always remember your kindness and caring nature, your lovely laugh and smile and beautiful blue eyes – you always looked out for me and made sure I was ok. Thank you for all the happy memories we shared, places we went to together and the fun times we had which was reflected in your wonderful photos. You were very special to me. I will never understand why you were taken from us so early; life can be very cruel at times, but I’m sure you will be looking down on me wherever you are now. That gives me comfort knowing you are now at peace and have no more suffering. I wouldn’t want that. I have our wedding rings close to each other so you will always be close to my heart and I will never forget you. I will keep your memory with me forever and will try and work out how to use that Nikon camera of yours!
Sleep well David, as you would always say to me.

The final moment I'd been fearing had arrived. Janet started to read out the words for the Committal. This was it. I had to watch and listen as the curtains came round his coffin for the final time. Such a symbolic moment. Like a curtain coming down on stage at the theatre for the last time, but sadly time was up for David. The show had ended. I remember shouting out in front of everyone “David come back”. I seemed to forget there was a room full of people around me. Somehow I didn't care. I just didn't want to leave him but knew I couldn't have kept torturing myself by keeping on staring at it. Janet put her caring arms round me and together with the Funeral Director they encouraged me to go outside. I was in tears. I remember saying “Goodbye David” as I walked outside, Chi Mai playing in the background. It was all so final. I just remember standing in a daze while everyone came up to me to speak to me one by one after the service. Everyone said how brave I was but I didn't feel it. I'd just left my husband alone and he was never coming back. When we left the crematorium I turned round and looked back at it and burst into tears. Mum and Dad told me to look away and not to torture myself but I couldn't help it. This was where he was going to end up for the last time. Earth to earth. Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust.

We made our way to a local pub and began the wake with family and close friends. I remember feeling a sense of relief at having got through the funeral, but at the same time we were all sitting there celebrating his life while he was all alone being cremated at the crematorium. It didn't feel right. I didn't even want to think about what was happening to David at that point. I couldn't imagine my husband’s earthly remains being turned into ashes.

The mood lightened slightly once we had arrived at the pub. I had gotten through the worst moment of my life but I still had to put on a brave face in front of everyone for the next couple of hours.

A vivid memory I had of the wake was when my Dad put a pint on the bar for David. In certain religions it is tradition to mark someone's passing at their wake by keeping a drink aside for them at the bar in their memory. It was also lighthearted in that my brother made reference to that in his eulogy for David about the unfinished pint David had on the eve of my brother’s wedding!

I set up the book of condolence and digital photo frame next to it with photos of David playing in the background. I wanted to give people a chance to reflect about David and his life and what he brought to them. What was hardest for some people was that they were at our wedding just 6 years earlier. Here they were now at his funeral and wake to support his widow.

We were at the pub for a good few hours afterwards. Gradually people one by one started making their way home but some people stayed until the end to be there for me. I really appreciated everyone’s love and support on the worst day of my life. Some people were still speechless and didn't always know what to say but said they were always there for me if I needed them or if there was anything they could do. We eventually left after having one last toast to David. The day went as well as could be expected and everyone said what a lovely service it was and that I did David proud. It was the least I could do for him…my final goodbye…

I got through the day without breaking down completely but as one day was over in this horrible journey, the rest of my life started from now. My journey into widowhood had begun… I now had the long uphill struggle of rebuilding my life.

The day after the funeral seemed to hit me the hardest. Me and my close family went out for lunch with my in laws. For some reason I was an emotional wreck and remember hyperventilating and having a panic attack outside when we had finished. I was in a right mess and remember saying over and over how David wasn't coming back and was gone for good. It completely knocked the wind out of me. I hadn't expected to be so upset but the aftermath obviously hit me harder than I thought. I had to go back home to Mum and Dads as I was emotionally exhausted. I felt really tired afterwards with all the emotions so had to have a lie down for a while. As I've mentioned before grief really takes its toll on you sometimes.

The coming days seemed to pass by in a blur. I can't remember exactly how I managed to fill my days so I didn't have too much time to think but I tried to keep myself busy the best I could. Over the following weeks I started thinking about gradually returning to work. That was a huge hurdle that I had to overcome but I knew I had to do it at some point. It would have been the first time I'd seen my colleagues since David died and I was dreading what they were going to say to me (or not as the case may be). I had this fear that people would treat me differently or avoid me altogether as they didn't know what to say -It’s not everyday that their 33 year old PA had been widowed. I was highly respected by my company and colleagues but nevertheless I wasn't looking forward to going back and having to face everybody knowing they all knew what had happened. What if they didn't want to talk to me ? What if their opinion of me had changed in some way and they no longer thought I could do the job? These were all feelings I had to contend with in the early days of trying to make the first steps of going back to my everyday routine.

I had a meeting with Occupational Health which was organised by my HR department. I was in regular contact with them and they were an amazing support to me throughout my ordeal. They advised that I should make a gradual return to work starting very slowly with a couple of days a week doing reduced hours. For someone who normally works at 110% capacity in the office my brain was probably only functioning at half that. I was still in shock just a month or so after losing my husband do couldn't process things or work as efficiently as I normally would as well as having the added stress of having to grieve at the same time.

Before my first day back at work, being a forward thinking PA that I am, I decided to arrange a lunch with a few of the team before my first day to break the ice a bit. Despite having worked there for 6 years at the time, I was still dreading facing everyone. I don’t know why I got so nervous about it, but I couldn’t help how I felt. Unfortunately nowadays there is still a stigma surrounding death and no one wants to talk about it . I felt awkward enough as it was, without having to think about how people were going to act around me. I managed to get myself up to London on the train and to the office to meet everyone. It may not have felt like a big deal to everyone else, but to me it was a major hurdle over with. Everything I did at the time took more effort and it was yet another difficulty I had to face up to and get through. It was only a small group of my colleagues and my boss was there too which helped. Everyone was really friendly and supportive so I needn’t have worried. They were just glad to see me again and were looking forward to having me back to work.

I had agreed with Occupational Health that I do a gradual phased return to work so I didn’t do too much too soon. Initially I was going to do a couple of days a week shorter hours then build up the days and hours slowly. I sometimes felt ashamed that I wasn’t able to function at my normal 110% at work but I shouldn’t have expected too much too soon. I had an awful lot to deal with as well as trying to start my everyday life again with my job. My first day back at work was to be the following week Tuesday and Thursday working 10-3. I then had to do this for a couple of weeks and see how I got on then have regular reviews with Occupational Health to check on my progress. I felt like I was letting everyone down at times and felt guilty going home early. I shouldn’t have expected too much of myself but I have always been a perfectionist so always wanted to do my best in all situations. I had to take my return back to work slowly. I’d just been through the most traumatic experience of my life so one day a time. Easier said than done...

The first couple of weeks back were difficult. Some of the fears I had were sadly true and I sometimes felt like my colleagues were avoiding me and not coming to me with work. This caused me more anxiety and upset and I felt like even more of an outsider. It seemed that because of what I’d been through people didn’t know what to say to me and thought they couldn’t come up to me because they didn’t know how to deal with it. All I wanted was to try and get back to some kind of normality (if that was possible). The one thing I needed was to be treated like a normal person and not as if I had two heads.

On the other hand however I want to highlight how supportive my employer was during my ordeal and how incredibly supportive they were towards me and not putting pressure on me to come back to work too soon. I couldn’t have asked for a better employer. Some employers in these situations aren’t always so understanding, but in my case, my company were always very supportive and helpful. So many people are expected to be 100% from day 1 back at the desk. It may be that way for some people but they would be the tiniest of minorities after having suffered such a bereavement and may not actually have dealt with things completely. I was lucky enough to have an excellent HR and Occupational Health department and kind, caring and compassionate colleagues. … It took a few months to get back to full time at work, but in a way I was glad to be back to some kind of normality with my work routine. The rest of my life was another matter though…

The next few months were a complete blur with everything that I had to sort out. I just recall there being a rollercoaster of emotions and there didn’t seem any let up in my grief. However, on 12th October 2013 my baby nephew Samuel was born. Finally a bit of happiness after the first month of grief our family were having to go through. I had a call from my brother one Saturday morning a week or two after Samuel was born to ask if I’d mind if they named his middle name after David. I was so touched and honoured that they wanted to name him after my husband, and who would have been Samuel’s Uncle. I remember bursting into tears on the phone when my brother told me. It meant so much to me. David had gone, but Samuel was a new life that had come into the world shortly after David died. Samuel was a very special little boy to me and always will be in the future. In a way, I saw him as a ‘replacement’ for David in so much as he was a new life; as one life passes, another one starts. Even though it was a joy at becoming an Auntie for the first time, I also had several other conflicting emotions that went with it. I had to deal with the fact that I was a widow and childless in my 30s and probably unlikely to have a child of my own. Don’t get me wrong, I was very happy for my brother but it just emphasised the fact even more that David and I never had children and he died without being a Dad. My brother and sister in law had their new life now with their new baby and I was having to start my life all over again without a husband and no children of my own. I was also very sad that David never got to see his baby nephew. He was just one month short of meeting him and died never knowing him. I hope that one day that my brother will tell him about his Uncle and what a lovely man he was. I remember meeting Samuel for the first time a week after he was born. He was so tiny and it was amazing to hold my nephew for the first time. I took some lovely photos of him but again it was tinged with sadness that David wasn’t there to take the family photos. He would have been in his element with the camera and again I got upset that he wasn’t there to witness this moment.

I decided at that point I didn’t want being widowed by Cancer at 33 to define me. How was I going to get through this and live the rest of my life. I needed a way to find meaning in my loss.

Charity Running to help me through my grief.

Clare running a marathonI first started running in 2012 when I lost a lot of weight. A friend at work got me into it and we started just running for fun at lunchtimes along the Thames. When I first started running I could barely run for more than 5 minutes without getting out of breath. I gradually built up the distance so I could run 5k comfortably.

Before that the only other jogging/running I did was the Race for Life 5K events every summer for Cancer Research UK. At that time I ran these in memory of my Grandparents who sadly lost their lives to cancer several years ago. I managed to raise about £50-£100 for CRUK for each of those races. I once remember a comment David had written on my Race for Life sponsorship page one year about ‘Charity Begins at home and this one is certainly close to ours’. I regularly did the Race for Life event in Dunorlan Park in Tunbridge Wells which was very close to where I live. Who’d have known that 5 years later I would be running Race for Life in memory of my husband. That was to be the start of many fundraising running events for Cancer Research UK.

As I’d only ever run 5K events before I wanted to build myself up gradually so I could run a 10K event. I researched 10K running events and found the Bupa London 10K event in London in May 2014. This was quite a big event so I thought it would be a perfect one to start with. I signed up for a Charity Place with Cancer Research UK. I had to raise a minimum of £400 in sponsorship money to get the place but I thought I’d easily manage to do this. A lot of people had been very supportive of me in the past so I didn’t doubt I’d be able to raise the money. This event nearly coincided with the first anniversary of David’s birthday since he died so seemed quite a fitting tribute to him. I set up a sponsorship page with Justgiving and publicised my fundraising page on Facebook and amongst my friends. When I started to get my first donations in I was really pleased. Some people were extremely generous so I was touched at how my story had struck a chord with so many people. Over the coming weeks and months I started to get more and more donations and it wasn’t long until my fundraising total went over my £400 minimum target. I kept up with my training and let people know how my training and fundraising was going through Facebook and Social Media. My total kept going up and up and I found that I had already raised £1000! I couldn’t believe it. I never expected to raise this much money and so this motivated me to keep going with it. After that it wasn’t long before I was up to £2000! My story had touched so may people and it is amazing how many people’s lives had been affected by Cancer in some way. With this being my first major fundraising running event and the donations continuing to come in, I thought to myself that I should do more fundraising in the future. I had found something that gave me a sense of purpose. A way of dealing with my loss whilst doing something positive out of a tragic situation.

This continued my next few years of running challenges to help make sense of my loss.

Running 37 races in Davids memory – one for every year of his life.

I met a lady through the WAY Widowed and Young Foundation who had lost her husband on exactly the same day as me on 13 September 2013, also from Cancer. Our stories were so similar it was uncanny. We were chatting online for a while and it turned out her husband was only 43 when he died from Oesophagus cancer. He himself also had hardly any symptoms and deteriorated very suddenly within the space of a few months just like David. We became quite close friends and she explained that since losing her husband, she had got into running as a way of dealing with her grief. She explained that she wanted to get fit and healthy so she decided to take up running and run 43 races in memory of her late husband – one for every year of his life.

As I was already a runner and had got into it the year before to lose weight, I thought I could do the same. I had only run 5K Race for Life for Cancer Research UK previously but wanted to try and do more running. The lady I met through the WAY Foundation had inspired me to do the same. What a lovely tribute to David to run 37 races in his memory and collect a medal for every year of his life.

I made it my mission to take on these challenges and give myself something positive to focus on. Everyone deals with grief in different ways, but for me it was my way of coping with my loss. My first medal was in May 2014 at the Bupa London 10K race. In June 2014 I collected a medal at the Race for Life Tunbridge Wells event.

My 2016 London Marathon journey.

One day on my daily commute to London about 18 months after David passed away, a friend of mine suggested that I should apply for the 2016 London Marathon. I remember looking at him at the time thinking he was completely mad to even suggest I should run 26.2 miles! After all I’d only ever run 10K races in the past- this is another 20 miles on top of that! I was thinking about the idea never imagining in a million years that I would be able to do it. But then something in my mind started to appeal to the idea more and more. I was watching the 2015 London Marathon on TV and I remember watching all those thousands of charity runners who were running for their individual charities. Tears welled in my eyes as I was so moved at the sheer determination of ordinary people and their passion to run 26.2 miles for charities so close to their hearts. I thought, if they can do it so can I. Nothing is impossible if you put your mind to it. That was the deciding moment for me. I knew this was something I wanted to do. The next day I found myself on the CRUK website applying for a charity place for the 2016 London Marathon. I had a contact at CRUK who I knew and met through one of my running events as a volunteer. I had got to know her quite well and she was so moved and shocked by my story. I got in touch with her and explained I was going to apply for a CRUK charity place for next year’s marathon. 2016 would have also been the anniversary of David’s 40th birthday and the London Marathon would have been just 3 weeks beforehand. I had an even greater reason for doing this now – what a fitting tribute to mark his 40th birthday and raise over £2000 for charity in his memory. She said she would help put in a good word for me as she knew how much this would mean to me. I knew hundreds of people would be applying for a charity place, but I had as much chance as anyone else and a very good reason for doing it. I had to wait a couple of months before I would find out whether I was successful. I had doubts as to whether I would be offered a place because of the amount of people applying and each and every person has their own story. Then one day at the beginning of August in my lunch hour at work I had a completely unexpected phone call that was to change my life.

“Hi Clare this is Kelly at Cancer Research UK. Are you sitting down?!”. I was thinking at this point that it must be good news! “The team here at CRUK have read your application and were so moved by your story and your motivation for wanting to run the London Marathon that we would love to offer you a Golden Bond Charity place”. I was beside myself. I couldn’t believe it. Tears were welling up in my eyes again. I was going to be running the London Marathon for CRUK in 2016 to mark David’s 40th birthday. What an honour and achievement to do this for him. To me this was the next best thing I could have done for him. He may not have been there in person to celebrate his birthday, but he would be there in spirit with me every step of the way.

1St August 2015, one month before second anniversary – proud moment being offered a golden bond place to run the 2016 London Marathon for CRUK to mark the anniversary of David’s 40th birthday in May 2016.

Running the London Marathon for CRUK in 2016 was to be my biggest challenge yet but since my running has helped me tremendously with my grief since losing David so I was determined to do it. What a great achievement to cross the finish line and get a medal and raise lots of money in his memory at the same time mark the anniversary of his 40th birthday in May 2016.

From that moment my 2016 London Marathon journey had begun… This was to be the biggest achievement of my life and I was determined to do everything I could to make sure I crossed that finish line in David’s memory. More importantly I wanted to raise as much money as possible for CRUK. The minimum target I had to raise was £2000 for the charity place but I was hoping to raise as much as possible.

After proudly accepting my Golden Bond charity place, I got in touch with CRUK to help start my training and fundraising. The first thought that went through my mind was how was I going to raise £2000 but I was very determined and would find a way somehow. Little did I realise what my final fundraising target would be. This meant the world to me and I’d never done anything like this before in my life. Everyone believed in me though and I knew I could find the inner strength to get to the finish line. When I put my mind to something I usually end up achieving my goals.

I got in touch with my local running coach from Sarah’s runners as I needed her help and advice to train me for the marathon. Running a marathon is no mean feat so I wanted to be in the best possible hands. She helped set me up with a running training plan and fuel/fluid strategy to use in my training runs. I also had daily and weekly stretching exercises to do. Running a marathon isn’t just about running 26.2 miles, it is all about dedication and spending 6 months of your life to training, healthy eating, exercises and building your body up to a level where it can cope with running such a long distance. I had to sacrifice a lot of time and effort for the marathon, but I knew I could do it. Each mile I was going to run on that day was dedicated to David.

I read this quote at one of the CRUK Marathon training evenings and I thought it was so true; “Everything you ever wanted to know about yourself you can learn in 26.2 miles”. - Lori Culnane

My training began in earnest and I met some wonderful people along the way, all of which had been affected by cancer in some way.

On the day of the race I felt a mixture of excitement, anxiety and pride. I couldn’t believe I was about to run the biggest race of my life. 26.2 miles from start to finish. Every step was one for David. Even though I was nervous, I knew I could do it. I’d already been through the worst thing that could ever happen to me, so if I could get through that, I could get through this. I won’t deny, it was one of the hardest things I ever did, but also one of the best and proudest days of my life. I crossed the finish line in just over 5 hours and raised a total of £5000 for Cancer Research UK. I couldn’t believe it did it, but was so glad I did. It wasn’t going to bring David back, but it helped me make sense of my loss. One day I hope that the money raised for CRUK will help find a cure for this dreadful disease and stop anyone else having to go through what I did.

For me running these races was not about getting a fast time. It was more important to finish and get another medal to mark each year of David’s life. Some of the races were running for CRUK to raise as much money for charity, and the others were just about winning that medal. At the end of each race I felt a sense of pride knowing I’d done this for David. He would have been very proud of me I’m sure. My running coach once said to me that every step I took when I was running would be a step for David. That meant a lot to me. Running has certainly helped me with my loss and giving something back to charity makes it more worthwhile.