Nurse Emma Watson is raising awareness of melanomas after her “sun-worshipper” mum died of skin cancer aged just 59.
Emma’s mum Jo was first diagnosed 18 years ago after she went to the doctors concerned about a mole that was bleeding.
Jo, who lived and worked as an accommodation manager for NHS staff in Surrey, had the mole removed and, after a follow-up appointment five years ago, was given the all-clear.
But early last year Jo started to suffer pains and then swelling in her lower abdomen. She was retaining fluid which had to be drained weekly, reports SurreyLive.
A blood test suggested she could may be suffering from ovarian cancer but a CT scan revealed she had cancer lining her abdomen.
Jo was referred to the Royal Surrey County Hospital in Guildford and appeared to respond well to her initial treatment, with tests showing the tumours had shrunk.
But Jo’s health started to decline again last December and with the cancer spreading to her abdomen, doctors said there was nothing they could do.
Emma, aged 29, said: “My mum used to be a sun worshipper. There was not the same awareness back then and she used to put cooking oil on her skin to go out in the sun!
“She was sun obsessed and used to travel around Europe in a VW camper van and even lived in France for a year.
“A consultant at East Surrey Hospital told mum she was dying.
“It was January 20, a day after my birthday, I received an unexpected telephone call from her oncologist informing me that my beautiful, determined mum, had only a few short weeks left of her life.
“I will never forget those words for as long as I am alive. The few short weeks turned into a few short days and mum died under the amazing care of St Catherine’s Hospice in Crawley, West Sussex.
“She didn’t want me to see how she was and she died just five days later.”
Emma Watson with her daughter Frankie.
(Image: Emma Watson)
Emma, from Horley in Surrey, still mourns the loss of her mum, but was glad she could make her proud by gaining a nursing degree and other qualifications to become a community matron.
She added: “When I was young I gave my mum a lot of grief. She used to say I would never get anywhere in my life.
“I wanted to prove to her I could make something of myself.
“She was over the moon. I am glad I made her proud. She was always very supportive of my career.”
Jo was a regular gym-goer and vegetarian, she didn’t smoke or drink and twice took part in the London Marathon.
And, in the wake of her death, Emma believes mole mapping – a process that records every mole on your skin – should be made available on the NHS.
She said: “Her heart was so strong because she was fit but the cancer couldn’t be stopped.
“Mum had worked throughout the Covid-19 pandemic until her last days.
“She was a selfless person who would strive to ensure NHS staff under her care – many of whom had travelled from abroad to work in our amazing NHS – were looked after.
“She was the definition of a fighter and was determined to battle cancer. I will always be incredibly proud of her.
“I am sharing her story to raise awareness about melanoma and to encourage more diagnostic testing.
“I believe mole mapping should be offered on the NHS for early detection for future melanoma patients, to save precious lives – a life like my mums.
“Every day I wake up and think about her. I miss her.
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“My four-year-old daughter Frankie waves up to the sky every morning. She also misses her. Mum used to look after Frankie one day a week. They were very close.”
Emma is now supporting Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life events which help fund new ways of diagnosing and treating cancers.
Emma, who has a brother Paul living in Brighton, said: “My mum was a runner so hopefully she will be pushing me on!”
Jo and Emma’s dad split up when their daughter was just eight, but he has joined the whole family in raising money for Cancer Research UK in various ways, having just completed the 31 miles in 31 days challenge.
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