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‘She was simply my rock’ - Husband calls for more money for research after wife dies just 31 days after cancer diagnosis

PUBLISHED: 07:30 08 January 2018 | UPDATED: 15:31 08 January 2018

Carolyn Phillips (left), who died on December 29, 2017, with husband Gareth. Photo: Gareth Phillips

Carolyn Phillips (left), who died on December 29, 2017, with husband Gareth. Photo: Gareth Phillips

Gareth Phillips

The husband of a Norwich woman who died just 31 days after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer has called for more money to be put towards researching the disease.

Carolyn Phillips died on December 31 at home in Sunningdale, Norwich, aged 67. Along with her husband Gareth, Mrs Phillips had just returned from a 35-day holiday in New Zealand which the couple had booked to celebrate their 35th wedding anniversary.

But Mr Phillips, a retired accountant, said during the holiday his wife had fallen ill. He said: “We were told she had gastroenteritis. When we got home she saw the GP, but on the 27th of November we went into the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital and early hours on the 28th she was told she had pancreatic cancer which had spread to her liver.”

Mr Phillips, 66, said the impact the diagnosis had on the pair and their three daughters was “completely devastating”. But Mrs Phillips remained strong. He said: “She faced Herbert - as she called the cancer head on, courageously.

“She would remind me most mornings, when I appeared emotional, and say NB today - no blubbering. She had an inner strength and stoicism that remained with her to the end of her life. She accepted her diagnosis with grace and fought the cancer like a warrior. She was, indeed, the iron fist within the velvet glove.”

Mrs Phillips, a retired solicitor, worked for Cozens Hardy and Jewson in Norwich, and was also a school governor at Fairway School, now Eaton Primary.

From 1989 to 2015 she worked for South Norfolk Council and then Norfolk County Council, before she retired to enjoy her passion for reading.

Mrs Phillips was also a member of the Soroptomists and was heavily involved in the Norwich Welsh Society, twice becoming president.

Mr Phillips said: “She was very quiet, unassuming. For me, she was simply my rock and the rock to our family.”

Before Christmas, Mrs Phillips left the hospital and was taken home to spend the festive season with her family.

He said since Mrs Phillips’ diagnosis, he had discovered the survival rates of pancreatic cancer had stayed the same since the 1980s.

“The whole point is it is such a pernicious disease, it sits in your body until it spreads. The sad thing was when the consultant oncologist saw her just before Christmas he said if you had seen me in March we would have been able to give you chemotherapy.”

A funeral for Mrs Phillips was held in Norwich on Friday, where more than 200 people attended, with another set for today (Monday) in Trelech, Wales.

The family has started an online fundraising page in Mrs Phillips’ memory, with donations going towards pancreatic cancer research. To donate, click here.

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