Worthing mum backs cancer charity campaign after husband’s death

Karen Aitken with late husband Alex
Karen Aitken with late husband Alex

A mother who lost her husband to cancer is backing a charity campaign, encouraging people to leave a legacy in their will.

Karen Aitken, 59, from Worthing, is urging people writing wills to include a donation to Cancer Research UK.

Legacies fund more than a third of Cancer Research UK’s work and last year, 340 people in Sussex left gifts worth £6.3m to the charity.

Karen said: “When Alex was diagnosed with cancer it turned my life upside down.

“He was only 51, hadn’t smoked for 25 years and used to go to the gym five nights a week. It was a terrible shock.”

Alex began to develop pains in the side of his body in March 2009.

“We just thought he had pulled something in his side from working out at the gym,” added Karen.

“He went to the doctor and was given painkillers thinking it might be an ulcer.

“But the pain got worse and he also started passing blood, so he went back to the doctor a couple of weeks later and was referred to Worthing Hospital for tests.”

A scan revealed that Alex had cancer which had spread to his liver, pancreas, bowel and kidneys.

Karen, who has two daughters, Jennifer and Samantha, and four grandchildren, said: “They were quite amazing at the hospital and really helpful.

“But when they did the scan they told us that the cancer was too widespread to operate on. That would have finished him off.

“It was also too late for any treatment to fight the cancer, so they just gave him lots of morphine to relieve the pain.”

Alex passed away in May 2009, three months after his diagnosis.

In April, Karen, remarried 54-year-old Alan, who works for pharmaceutical giant GSK.

She still contributes Cancer Research UK and St Barnabas House Hospice in Worthing which helped care for Alex.

Karen said: “By leaving a gift in their will – no matter how big or small the donation – people in Worthing can give families the incredible gift of hope.

“Cancer Research UK’s ground breaking work relies on everyone who donates much needed funds.

“I can’t think of anything better than by helping to raise funds for research that will create a brighter future for my grandchildren and generations to come.”

Cancer Research UK spent £28m in the south east last year on research including clinical trials for prostate cancer .

Doctors have shown that giving men with advanced prostate cancer a chemotherapy drug together with hormone therapy early in treatment gives them more time.

Lynn Daly, from Cancer Research UK, said: “Survival rates have doubled in the past 40 years and today half of those diagnosed with cancer will survive.

“But half is not enough.

“There are over 200 types of cancer and we won’t stop until we find cures for them all.

“The more research we are able to do the sooner that day will come and that’s why we urgently need support. So we’re calling on people across the south east to consider including a legacy gift for Cancer Research UK in their Will and help us write an end to cancer.”

For more information visit cruk.org/WriteAnEnd or call 0800 077 6644.

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