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As Philippa and Wilma reflect on their friend Emma and her gregarious way of life, they are grateful to be able to remember her in a way that might one day find a cure for secondary breast cancer.
Emma was always there for the good times: being with friends, going out, socialising. She liked to have a drink and to party, to get dressed up and go out. She loved her fancy shoes and clothes. Even at her funeral, we weren’t allowed to wear black!
Every time she would walk into a room, heads would turn. She just lit up a place, and you knew that – if she was there – you were going to have a fun time. It may sound like a cliché, but she was so full of life. She was a force of nature.
You wouldn’t have known she had cancer up until the very end. She never let it affect her, and even continued with work all through her treatment. She had so much strength; it was quite incredible to see.
We all came to know one another through work, but we became close outside of that too.
In the office, she became the organiser of monthly nights out. We didn’t have them before she started working there, but it became something we all looked forward to.
She was great at bringing people together, too. At birthday celebrations, she’d bring together all these different groups of people who might not normally mix, and she was so great at making sure everyone had a great time.
Even when she was going through treatment, she’d make sure to give you a present.
But it wasn’t just the birthdays and anniversaries that she was great at – even when there was no occasion, she’d remember little things you’d told her and she’d make sure to check in or send a message. She was so thoughtful and considerate.
She really loved cooking for people and entertaining – and she did it well.
If she hadn’t seen you in a while, she would make sure to pop in to say hello – but she would also make sure she was there for important things.
When my [Wilma’s] daughter was born – she's 19 now – Emma was the only person who actually came around to check on me. Everybody else was cooing over the baby, but she wanted to know how I was doing. She’d bought a present for my daughter, but she also brought me some things to pamper myself and just make sure I was ok.
It might have seemed like such a little thing, but it meant so much to me. I burst out crying, which led her to say, ‘For god’s sake, get a grip woman!’ That’s just what she was like.
She didn’t really do big displays of emotion – she always preferred to just get on with it. And that’s how she confronted everything, really. She never even suffered from hangovers – or never seemed to, anyway.
She was brutally honest; you always knew where you stood with her and what she thought about people. But that was a good thing.
Towards the very end of her life, while she was in hospital, she realised she was dying and wanted to make some arrangements with us for after she had gone. Typical Emma: she had a list of instructions to make sure everything was done correctly.
One of the things she wanted us to do was to sell all her lovely clothes and shoes – some of which she’d never had the chance to wear – and make sure that the money went to a breast cancer charity. Another of Emma’s friends, Lisa, had been through breast cancer too, and had shared part of her journey and her struggle with Emma. She’d been quite involved with fundraising for Breast Cancer Now, so we decided that’s where the money would go.
It was actually Lisa who suggested that a Funds in Memory page would be the best way to donate the funds, so we set it up in her name as a way of fulfilling one of her last requests.
A year later, we held a black-tie event called Emma’s Last Wish. We auctioned off Emma’s clothes which, along with the tickets and a raffle, ended up raising £15,000. It was so important to us to be able to do that for her.
The entire fund is over £35,000 now, and I know that Emma would be thrilled to know that we’ve been able to do that. She’d be there saying, ‘Well done guys!’
The tribute pages just give you a focus for something positive, and they’re a good place to go every now and then to remember the person you love. Obviously, we’d much rather she was here, but the Funds in Memory page is a space where we can see how much good she did and is still able to do.
The page has also helped us to connect with and get closer to other people who knew Emma, which has really helped to keep her memory alive. It gives us an opportunity to get together and do whatever it may be to fundraise further – have an Afternoon Tea, drink champagne, talk about her.
Of course, eating cake and drinking champagne are always good things, but it feels even better to remember Emma while raising money for a good cause.
One of the things that was really important to all of us about Breast Cancer Now is that they fund research so that, hopefully, someone else doesn’t go through what Emma did. It provides hope. And even in her final days, Emma was selflessly thinking of other people and hoping she could help them.
If you have lost a loved one to breast cancer and would like to have a way of remembering them while raising money to further research and care, consider setting up a Fund in Memory today.