A mother-of-two who survived cancer only to lose her husband to the disease said she owes her life to cancer research and to her quick diagnosis.
Tracey Horsburgh, 46, of Colchester in Essex, was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer in 2015, 10 days after she found a lump in her right breast.
She has since fully recovered.
Her husband, Matt Horsburgh, was diagnosed with kidney cancer in 2016 after he collapsed while playing golf, while he and his wife were in training for a 10k run for breast cancer charities.
He had been losing weight for several months previously, but Mrs Horsburgh said they “put it down to the stress brought on by my cancer”.
He died in 2018 at the age of 43.
They had been married for 10 years.
Sainsbury’s worker Mrs Horsburgh said she is determined to live life to the full for the sake of their daughters, Charlotte, 11, and eight-year-old Isabelle, and in memory of her husband, a former soldier.
She said research into cancer helped save her life and she is urging others to support Cancer Research UK as it faces a £300 million drop in income this year amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Fundraising is currently down and coronavirus restrictions across the UK continue to affect its shops.
The charity said it was forced to slash £45 million from its research budget earlier this month and has been unable to fund any new clinical trials this year.
“I was lucky,” said Mrs Horsburgh.
“I was diagnosed quickly and I received the best treatment available and the best drugs to give me a fighting chance.
“By the time Matt was diagnosed, his cancer had spread throughout his body and it was too late for him.
“He would look at our daughters and he knew that he wouldn’t be there to see them grow up, to give them away when they married.
“It was heartbreaking and I often ask myself why I’m here and Matt isn’t.”
Mrs Horsburgh took two chemotherapy drugs which Cancer Research UK helped to trial and develop – fluorouracil and epirubicin – as part of her treatment.
“Matt and I lived healthy lives,” she said.
“The doctors just said it was down to bad luck but I guess I was also lucky because there has been so much research into breast cancer and that’s what saved my life.”
She said her husband had a 5in (13cm) tumour on his right kidney and spots on his stomach, liver and lungs.
The rugby player, who used to weigh 16 stone, was barely six stone by the time he died, Mrs Horsburgh said.
“I am grateful Matt gave me two beautiful children and I owe it to him to bring them up to have as good a life as they can,” she said.
“We have good days and bad days, but we talk about their father every day.”
The family have completed a series of charity runs for Cancer Research UK.
“It’s thanks to research and improved treatments that I’ve been given more special Christmases with my loved ones,” Mrs Horsburgh said.
“If I had been diagnosed with cancer 10 years ago, the outcome might not have been the same for me – and that’s down to research.
“So, it’s distressing to think that progress that could help more people like me survive cancer in the future is being delayed because of the effects of the pandemic.
“Nobody wants to see scientists have to start hanging up their lab coats, so I hope that people will be inspired by the charity’s determination to carry on beating cancer and give what they can.
“They could give hope to families like mine and that’s what Christmas is all about.”
– To donate, see https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/get-involved/donate
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