A MUM from Gwynedd is making it her mission to run the Virgin Money London Marathon this April in memory of her 17-year-old daughter who died from a rare form of cancer.
Emma Furneaux, a mum of three, said she lost all motivation after her daughter Elisha passed away in 2016 after being diagnosed with undifferentiated soft tissue sarcoma. While watching the London Marathon last year, Emma thought of her daughter who lost her ability to walk before she died and decided to sign up to run the marathon and raise vital funds for CLIC Sargent, a charity that supported them every step of the way.
Emma said: “There are so many children and young people affected by cancer and I just want to help as many more families to be able to access the support we received.
“Elisha was ill for 26 weeks from diagnosis to her death and so I will be running a mile for every week she was ill and a little bit extra for good measure. I know it’s going to be hard physically but I’m excited.”
Elisha, 17, had been studying an NVQ in childhood studies and working as an apprentice at a nursery when she first started to complain of back pain.
Emma said: “It was in January 2016 that we first noticed something wasn’t right. Elisha was working with young children at the time and so we thought her back pain might have been caused by her bending down to pick up the children.
“We went back and forth to the doctors and they just prescribed painkillers and had no serious concerns which frustrated us. They eventually sent her for an x-ray, however by that point it was too late. Before she got the results she collapsed at home as the tumour had broken through her vertebrae and was in her spine.”
What the family thought would be a slipped disc or back injury, turned into a six month hospital stay for Elisha and a shocking cancer diagnosis.
Emma said: “Everyone was so shocked and in disbelief. You just don’t expect cancer when your child has been fit and healthy and a normal 17-year-old. Apart from a bad back, Elisha had no other symptoms. By the time she was diagnosed, it had spread to her lungs, kidney and pelvis.
“The initial word of ‘cancer’ devastated our lives. You come out of it a completely different person with all the experiences you go through – and you never get back to the person you were.”
During this difficult time, CLIC Sargent, the UK’s leading cancer charity for children and young people, supported the Furneaux family. Elisha had a CLIC Sargent nurse who would visit the family home and take her bloods every week so that she was able to be discharged from hospital – and a CLIC Sargent Social Worker was on hand to talk to and help the family with financial grants.
Emma said: “Elisha’s CLIC Sargent Social Worker helped her fill in a PIP application and apply for a CLIC Sargent grant. It made all the difference to Elisha. With the money she was able to buy an iPad which she could use in hospital.”
After enjoying time at home with her family and being back with her friends, Elisha passed away on October 5, 2016.
Emma said: “I would be happy to stay at home all day after losing Elisha. Simon and I struggled for motivation for things and just couldn’t be bothered. That’s why I entered the London Marathon – it’s something to get motivated for and just to have a reason to get up and out every day.”
She added: “There are so many people who would love to do it but can’t and what better way to motivate myself and raise money. I think in a way it’s keeping Elisha’s memory going too.”
Since signing up, Emma started her training last summer and has gone from a non-runner to running the Barcelona Half Marathon in February.
Jade Clarke, Major Runs Project Manager at CLIC Sargent, said: “When cancer strikes young lives we fight tirelessly to limit the damage it causes beyond their health. We rely entirely on donations to fund our vital work and so we can’t thank Emma enough for her incredible efforts. We’ll be there on the day cheering her all the way to the finish line!”
To sponsor and support Emma’s marathon challenge, visit https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/run4elisha.