Tonight, a mom from Cottenham will pay tribute to her inspiring daughter in front of millions of viewers as part of The Great Celebrity Bake Off for Stand Up To Cancer. The special series features celebrities testing their baking skills and by this, they are dedicated to raising funds for life-saving research.
In today’s episode, Lisa Smart, 55, will pay tribute to her daughter Emily Parsons, who died on May 6 last year, just six months after she was told her rare spinal cord tumor was incurable. She was about 22 years old.
In spite of her diagnosis, Emily has raised more than £100,000 to support research into tumors like hers, and Cancer Research UK’s Children’s Brain Tumour Centre of Excellence at Addenbrooke’s Hospital has carried this off. Now Lisa hopes to continue Emily’s legacy by supporting Stand Up To Cancer, a joint fundraiser from Cancer Research UK and Channel 4 that aims to speed up new cancer tests and treatments for those who need them most.
Lisa said: “Emily was incredibly kind and caring. She was completely selfless in everything she did, and she was just finding her place in the world. From when she was diagnosed, not once did she show any anger, bitterness, or self-pity, and worried only for those around her. I was just so proud of her. We had an incredibly close bond.
“Emily committed the little time she had left to help others and now I hope to do the same in her memory for Stand Up To Cancer. No family should have to face this. As a mum, I should be there to protect her, but I couldn’t. It’s the hardest thing ever to say goodbye to your baby.”
Lisa’s world has been turned upside down a few months after Emily returned home from university in March 2020, at the start of the first quarantine. The young business psychology student at Loughborough University was fit and healthy.
She hoped to become an elementary school teacher after graduation but began talking about having pins and needles in her legs, which she attributed to exam stress. As the symptoms continued, Emily went to her GP and was referred for an MRI in September of that year.
Emily’s tumor was a diffuse midline glioma with a rare mutation. This meant that she had no treatment options available. When the news was heard, Emily asked the consultant if she would die, to which he replied, “Yes, I’m afraid you will.” Unfortunately, Emily’s health began to deteriorate rapidly.
Lisa said that when they left the hospital after Emily’s surgery in November, she was able to walk for about a week, then lost the use of one leg and had to be re-hospitalized. Further scans showed that the tumor continued to grow rapidly, and they were told that Emily had only a few weeks to a few months to live.
Lisa further added, “She was in a wheelchair and quickly lost the use of all her limbs. By February, her worst fears came true and she was totally paralyzed from the neck downwards. I can’t imagine how terrifying that must have been.”
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