Tim lost his wife Gywneth to breast cancer in 2011. He chose to support Breast Cancer Now in her memory by creating a Pink Ribbon Tribute Fund.
I met my wife, Gwyn, in 1997. We had our first argument within 10 minutes but despite that I fell for her almost immediately. She was witty, intelligent and had a great sense of fun. We were married two years later with our first son, Matthew arriving in 2001 and a second, Joel in 2003.
Then in February 2004, when Joel was only 8 months old, Gwyn found a lump on her breast. It was confirmed as cancer and she had a lumpectomy followed by a full mastectomy. She went through a gruelling course of chemotherapy and then radiotherapy but she remained amazingly strong throughout the treatment.
She wore a “cold cap” so she was able to keep most of her hair, and she kept a brave face to the world so only those closest to her saw how much the treatments affected her. She was a strong Christian and I remember her giving a talk at a Bible session.
She was speaking to people she saw every week but they were coming up to her afterwards in tears – most people had no idea how ill she was.
Over the next couple of years we discovered she had the BRCA1 mutation and as a result she had operations to remove her ovaries and other breast to minimise the chances of a second cancer. After this we tried to get on with our lives.
Gwyn loved getting us all out of the house and doing things and she continued to be an amazing mother to the boys. She did such a good job at knocking them into shape for the first seven years that they’re both really great kids.
Five and a half years after the original tumour, the cancer came back. We had a further course of chemotherapy and radiotherapy which seemed to be working, but on Christmas Eve, Gwyn found another lump. It was confirmed that the cancer had spread to her bones.
This time we knew that we were looking at when, rather than if the cancer was going to kill her. But the cancer hadn’t gone to any vital organs and it looked like we still had time together.
On 19 March 2011 we were out celebrating my father’s birthday when she complained of blanking out for a few seconds. She deteriorated very quickly and 10 days later was rushed into hospital having had a major seizure. The cancer had spread to the lining of her brain and there was nothing the doctors could do. She died just over a week later. She was just 45.
Setting up a tribute fund
When Gwyn died I was very keen that her memory didn’t disappear. Not just for me and the kids but for all of the people she had touched.
As I prepared for the funeral I wanted somewhere that people could give donations. It was important that these donations would fund breast cancer research, but more than that, I wanted the money raised to be in her name to keep her memory alive and so people knew how much she was loved. I set up a Pink Ribbon Tribute Fund with Breast Cancer Campaign (editor's note: now known as Breast Cancer Now).
Watch Tim's video
It allows all the money raised in her memory to be put in one place and gives a focus for people to keep in touch with how the money is being used and the progress the charity is making. It makes the memory real and it’s comforting to know that I’m working with other people to eradicate breast cancer.
When I talked to people at the charity and read up about the disease I realised how complex breast cancer is and how much we don’t know about it. Breast cancer has many different forms, causes and morphology so there is unlikely to be a magic bullet to cure them all. This is not to say that research is not making progress.
The chemotherapy Gwyn had the second time didn’t exist when she was first diagnosed, but these gaps clearly showed the need for more funding for research to make a significant reduction to the numbers of women still dying from the disease
The more we understand the breast cancer the more we can predict who is at greatest risk and the more we can tailor individual treatments to maximise the chances of long term survival.
The more money I can raise in memory of Gwyn, the less people are going to have to go through the suffering that we went through.