Derby cancer battler Helen Thornton is finally beaten – but her message of hope lives on

Posted: July 23, 2014

Cancer battler Helen Thornton has passed away after suffering from a terminal illness. The 57-year-old has left a legacy for other survivors across the city. Isaac Crowson reports.

CANCER survivor Helen Thornton had already fought her fair share of major battles.

She was famous in Sinfin and around Derby for being a constant source of help, support and encouragement to other people living with the disease and was on the committee of the Derby Breast Cancer Support Group.

But, there was one battle Helen could not win. The grandmother was diagnosed with the lung condition idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis five years ago, which gradually started to worsen at the end of last year.

There is no cure for the disease, though oxygen therapy, which Helen used, can be a way of slowing the progression.

In her final interview, sitting in her living room at her home on Maree Close in Sinfin, Helen was trying to stay positive.

She said: "People with this condition have a life expectancy of about five to ten years, but I have had this for five years now. I recovered from breast cancer 22 years ago but now I have got this.

"I've seen a lot of the horrors of cancer in my life and I have also met a lot of friends through it, mixing with and talking to people who have been through the same thing. It's an incredibly tough thing to see people battle."

Helen passed away at the Royal Derby Hospital on Saturday morning. Her family said she suffered from pneumonia.

During her life, Helen got stuck into many charity events to raise money for Cancer Research. Nothing held her back in her quest to help others and this included running the Race for Life nine times.

Helen, who worked at importing firm Richard Lang on Alfreton Road, Derby, was at the Relay for Life last month watching people take part in the 24-hour challenge to raise funds.

She said: "It's absolutely fantastic to see people doing this because the horrors of cancer are very real.

"It makes me feel very proud to see other people taking part in things like this for good causes. I would probably not be here if it were for the people who raise money. So many youngsters are here which is brilliant and hopefully they will be the scientists of tomorrow who can beat it once and for all."

Helen's daughter, Amanda Reeve, said her mother's determination and fighting spirit was there until the end.

She said: "My mum was and is an incredible inspiration to me. She had breast cancer and osteoporosis but she never let anything bother her.

"She was so lively and positive and always full of energy and on the go.

"In hospital she was unconscious and I told her it was ok for her to go. She could not talk but she grabbed my hand as if to say I'm not going anywhere. She was the matriarch of our family and an incredible woman.

"The world will be a sadder place but also quieter."

Helen leaves her husband of five years, Brian, two children, five-grandchildren and four step-grandchildren.

Helen's mother died from a similar lung disease but, in a meeting with medical experts, Amanda was told there are 200 possible strands and it would be impossible to test her for everyone to see if the disease was hereditary.

Brian, 59, said he was hoping his wife would live until Christmas time.

He said: "I'm really shocked, I can't put it into words how quickly it has all happened.

"I will remember Helen as a fighter and a saint who was loved by everybody.

"She always made time for everybody and this will be a big loss which leaves a huge void in our life.

"The people at Helen's work have been absolutely fantastic with their support. She could not have wished for a better place."

Brian said Helen was hoping for a lung transplant to try to prolong her fight.

But unfortunately, she was told it would not be possible because of the pneumonia.

Brian said: "When she was told, she was gutted because she was hanging on for a bit of hope.

"The transplant would have given her further fight.

"Her legacy will now live on and she will never be forgotten."

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