A 29-year-old woman whose firefighter husband lost his battle with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in August is teaming up with her two sisters to run the Virgin Money London Marathon 2020 for the Anthony Nolan charity.
Emma Smith, whose husband Scott died around 18 months after being diagnosed with the blood cancer, will team up with sisters Hannah and Charlie to take on the marathon challenge.
The trio call themselves the ‘Hope Runners’ as they aim to give hope to other people like Scott, who died before he was able to have a stem cell transplant.
Emma, who is from Colne, said that just over two years ago, Scott discovered a lump on his neck. Due to his dad having recently died from prostate cancer, he was particularly aware of his health and went straight to see his GP
Emma said: "His GP said it wasn’t anything serious. Scott wasn’t happy so he went back again and saw the practice manager who told him to come back in six weeks if the lump hadn’t gone."
After returning to his GP six weeks later, Scott was referred to hospital for tests which revealed he had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a type of blood cancer.
Emma said: "We were told that if you get cancer, this is the one you want to get as it’s so curable and easy to treat. Six months of chemotherapy and then you should be fine. Because of this we really thought everything was going to be okay, but things didn’t work out that way at all."
A few days after receiving his diagnosis, Scott started chemotherapy and radiotherapy. However, he didn’t respond to treatment like doctors had hoped, which is when the possibility of a stem cell transplant was first mentioned.
Emma said: "We were told if chemo works, he will need a transplant. That was the dream, a transplant. The chance of a cure."
Emma and Scott had got engaged in 2017 and had their wedding booked for last April. Due to Scott’s diagnosis, they took the decision to cancel the wedding in advance, as they thought Scott would be too ill to go ahead with the day.
Emma said: "However when we were sat in the hospital one day, we decided to get married. We were madly in love and best friends, we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together. Just six weeks later we got married surrounded by our closest friends and family, it was a magical day filled with love and laughter."
Shortly after their wedding, Scott developed a hole between his oesophagus and bronchial, which was caused by the cancer and worsened by the radiotherapy he was having. This resulted in fluid directly entering his lungs and he developed pneumonia.
Emma said: "At this point we were told that we had two options, stop the radiotherapy and give Scott end of life care or they could attempt to reconstruct Scott’s airways, but we were told that he could be in hospital for up to two years and chances are he won’t survive. So, they gave us two choices but really there was only one."
In April, Scott stopped all treatment and Emma stopped work to care for him. Charlie, Hannah and the rest of their close family and friends rallied around both her and Scott.
Before Scott died in August, aged just 30, Emma talked to him about doing the London Marathon and after asking Hannah and Charlie if they would be up for the challenge, the three of them signed up together.
Emma said: "Running has really helped me cope since Scott’s death. We’ve set ourselves a big goal for fundraising and training to give us something amazing and positive to focus on in what we know will be the hardest year.
"We’ve seen each other through the darkest of times so if we can get through that together, we can get through a marathon."
As part of their fundraising efforts, the sisters organised the Hope Ball, which took place at The Craiglands in Ilkley, earlier this month, and was attended by around 250 people.
Anna Scalera, head of events and community at Anthony Nolan, the charity that finds matching donors for people with blood cancer, said, “We are delighted that the Hope Runners are lacing up her trainers and running the London Marathon for us this year. With every mile completed they will be providing hope.
"The funds they raise will enable us to recruit more potential stem cell donors to the Anthony Nolan register – any one of whom could give a second chance of life for someone with blood cancer.”
To sponsor The Hope Runners visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/hoperunners
To find out more about Anthony Nolan visit www.anthonynolan.org/events