Denise Welch, one of the nation’s favourite TV presenters and actresses, talks candidly about the painful moment her mum died of mouth cancer in a powerful video interview for Cancer Research UK.
Denise’s beloved mum Annie, who she describes as being ‘the life and soul’ and ‘the strongest woman’, died in 2012 after being diagnosed with mouth cancer over 20 years before.
When she was first diagnosed in 1991, Annie was told she could have just 12 months to live. She underwent successful 13-hour long surgery to remove the tumours and was doing well for 10 years. In 2001 however, she received a second mouth cancer diagnosis when her doctors found new tumours at a regular check-up.
Denise says her family was ‘lucky’ for having so much time with Annie, who worked as a psychiatric nurse, and talks of the special times they had with her. Describing her as ‘glamorous to the very end’, Denise gets tearful when she recalls the moment she realised it was time to say goodbye:
“Even when it was really bad mum refused to admit she was in pain. Her mouth would be covered in ulcers but she never complained once. She was like that. Always putting her family first. I think I got a little complacent – we all did – because we had her for so long after her first diagnosis. I remember going to see her a few weeks before she left us and she looked like a different woman. It was then that it hit me that she didn’t have long left.”
Denise also talks fondly of her children’s bond with Annie, particularly that of her eldest son Matthew, who fronts the band the 1975: “Mum passed away surrounded by her family. Matthew and Louis had time on their own with her to say goodbye. They were incredibly close so needed that. She kind of went into a 24-hour-long sleep with moments of lucidity, so she was peaceful and knew we were all there – kids, grandkids, and our partners. After she died Matthew had her name tattooed on his chest, so he carries her everywhere with him.
“I’m so grateful that we had all those years with her. She was diagnosed when Matthew was a toddler and she lived to see four more grandchildren. She also saw me overcome my problems with alcohol and met Lincoln, my husband, which means a huge amount to me. I’m so happy that when she passed she knew we were all OK. Doctors, scientists and research gave us that time and for that I’m eternally grateful.”
Denise and her family know all too well how important research is, as it gave them more time with Annie. But research costs money, and to fund it, Cancer Research UK needs support and donations from the public. That’s why Denise is calling on people to opt in to hear from Cancer Research UK about its life-saving work, following its decision to only contact supporters who have given their permission for the charity to do so from 1 July 2017.
To opt in to hear about all the work Cancer Research UK is doing, its research progress, appeals and ways people can support us, visit our website.