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Nurse takes part in Race for Life in memory of mother who worked as head teacher

PUBLISHED: 15:07 02 February 2018 | UPDATED: 15:07 02 February 2018

Sally Millsopp, 53, and her daughter Eleanor, 17 holding their Race for Life back signs. Photo:  Mark Hewlett

Sally Millsopp, 53, and her daughter Eleanor, 17 holding their Race for Life back signs. Photo: Mark Hewlett

© 2013 Mark Hewlett

When Sally and Eleanor Millsopp took part in Race for Life in 2015, they had no idea if they would get to see their mum and grandmother again.

Eleanor Millsopp and Nora the puppy. Photo: Mark Hewlett Eleanor Millsopp and Nora the puppy. Photo: Mark Hewlett

Jennifer Earnshaw was desperately ill with a form of lung cancer, but she encouraged the pair to take part in the event as she knew the fundraising would help others.

Ms Millsopp, 53, and Eleanor, 17, went to the Norfolk showground that day not knowing if she would be alive when they reached the finish line.

But they managed to make it back to her bedside just in time to show her the photographs. Jennifer, who was a former head teacher at a primary school in Attleborough and Toftwood Junior School, passed away the following day, aged 76.

Ms Millsopp and her daughter, who live near Reepham, are once again taking part in the Race for Life on May 13 in her memory, and will be speaking on stage to inspire others.

Jennifer Earnshaw, who died aged 76. Photo: Millsopp family Jennifer Earnshaw, who died aged 76. Photo: Millsopp family

Ms Millsopp, who works as a practice nurse at a GP surgery, said: “Mum was a selfless person, she always wanted to help others. She knew it was too late for her but she really wanted to help other cancer patients and thought it was important to fundraise for research.

“We’d raised around £450 in sponsorship and I knew she really wanted us to do Race for Life but it was very difficult to leave her that day. The rest of the family encouraged us to go but it was hard not knowing if I would be there with her at the end.

“When we reached the finish line, Eleanor and I both felt elated that we’d done something so positive at such a sad time. We had a big hug and knew it was something mum would be proud of.

“We went straight home and were so relieved to see her. She hadn’t been able to communicate verbally for a while but we showed her the pictures and I saw the reaction in her eyes. We felt really lifted by it. Mum died the next day but she knew we had done this for her.”

Jennifer had been diagnosed with mesothelioma – a very hard to treat type of lung cancer – in 2011.

Mesothelioma is often linked to asbestos. The disease can have a long latency period, with people being diagnosed many years after coming into contact with asbestos.

It is thought that Jennifer breathed in a spore while building work was carried out at a school she had worked at. After four years of treatment, which included chemotherapy and radiotherapy, she passed away in 2015.

Ms Millsopp said: “Mum did incredibly well fighting the disease. The treatment was invasive and gruelling but she was determined to stay with us for as long as she possibly could.

“Life is precious and it’s snatched away. You never imagine life without your mum. I tell my children more than I used to that I love them, it makes you realise how important loved ones are to you.

“Now when we do Norwich Race for Life we feel proud to run in mum’s memory but there is a sadness to it. I just want to get home and see my mum but I know she won’t be there waiting for us.”

One in two people in the UK will be diagnosed with cancer at some stage in their lives, but the good news is more people are surviving the disease now than ever before.

Cancer survival in the UK has doubled since the early 1970s and Cancer Research UK’s work has been at the heart of that progress.

Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life, in partnership with Tesco, is an inspiring women-only series of 5k, 10k, Pretty Muddy and Hiking events which raise millions of pounds every year to help beat cancer sooner by funding crucial research.

Gemma Turpin, Cancer Research UK’s Norwich event manager, said: “We are very grateful to Sally and Eleanor for their support and for sharing their personal and very moving story. Their story highlights how special Race for Life is to people.

“By following Sally’s and Eleanor’s lead and signing up to Race for Life, women in Norfolk can make a real difference in the fight against cancer. Money raised through Race for Life is helping to drive research to help beat over 200 different types of cancer - that’s why every step, every person and every penny raised counts.”

To enter Race for Life, visit raceforlife.org or call 0300 123 0770.

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