Mum ‘left speechless’ by community after daughter, 22, dies from rare cancer

A mum whose daughter died from a rare illness has praised her local community – describing the support as “incredible”.

Emily Parsons, 22, passed away four months ago after battling a rare, aggressive, and incurable spinal cord tumour.

Mum Lisa Smart, 54, has been left heartbroken since her death – but is now determined to keep raising money in her daughter’s memory.

Before she died, student Emily managed to raise more than £66,000 for research into the devastating disease that killed her.

Ms Smart wants to continue her efforts with a charity fundraising event on October 30, a year since her daughter received her terminal diagnosis.

“It’s been really difficult, if I’m honest it gets harder as time goes on and the reality kicks in,” she said.

“We miss her enormously but we talk about her every day, we remember her every day and we just get through a day at a time really.

“This [fundraising event] has given us some focus as well as it gives positive focus doing something which was really important to Emily.”

The event, which will also take place in Cottenham, has already seen huge support with all 120 tickets sold and local businesses offering sponsorship for hiring and food costs, as well as prizes for both an online auction and raffle.

It is expected to raise upwards of £10,000, and Ms Smart said she has been blown away by the support shown by the local community.

She added: “We’re absolutely speechless.

“Everybody was so supportive through Emily’s very short illness, we had friends cooking for us and everybody just came together.

“I think when we said we were going to do this fundraising event people were just overwhelmingly generous. Yes, it’s money, because that’s what it’s about, but it’s been about more than that.

“It’s been about time, their enthusiasm, support, and wanting to help. That’s everything from our closest friends to local business people who have wanted to support.

“Emily’s story has really touched people’s hearts and that makes us feel incredibly humbled as a family. The level of support has been incredible.”

Emily’s problems began in April 2020 when she noticed a strange “pins-and-needles” sensation in her hands and feet, which she initially dismissed as being caused by the stress of upcoming exams.

She thenjoined her mum, brother and stepdad on holiday in Cornwall in July – with everyone blissfully ignorant to the fact that in a few short months she would be diagnosed with incurable cancer, which would see her paralysed and confined to a wheelchair by the end of the year.

Her symptoms worsening, in the autumn she sought medical help and was sent to a neurologist who ordered an MRI scan, which revealed a tumour embedded in her spinal cord.

Just five weeks later, further tests revealed that Emily, who had everything to live for, had an aggressive form of cancer that attacks the central nervous system.

And at the end of October 2020, she was given only a limited time to live.

“It was when we got that diagnosis that our whole world just stopped,” said Lisa.

According to the Brain Tumour Charity, diffuse midline gliomas – which are more common in the brain than in the spine – have an average prognosis of less than a year.

And by the time Emily passed away, the only part of her body she could still move was her head.

But Lisa said of her daughter: “She had grace and dignity which shone out of her and not once did she complain or ask, ‘Why me?’ Instead, she was grateful for the care she was given.”