How tragedy led to special mother-daughter relationship 30 years on

Karen Reeve (right) and Gemma Ritchie, from Attleborough, have revealed their unique mother-daughter

Karen Reeve (right) and Gemma Ritchie, from Attleborough, have revealed their unique mother-daughter relationship in celebration of Mother's Day. Picture: Courtesy of Cancer Research UK - Credit: Archant

Carol Ritchie was mum to six-year-old Gemma when she was diagnosed with terminal bowel cancer in 1994.

Carol Ritchie died following a battle with terminal bowel cancer in 1994. Her best friend Karen Reev

Carol Ritchie died following a battle with terminal bowel cancer in 1994. Her best friend Karen Reeve, from Attleborough, pledged to look after her daughter, Gemma. Picture: Courtesy of Cancer Research UK - Credit: Archant

Given months to live, her main concern was who would look after Gemma when she was gone, but there was only one option - her best friend Karen Reeve.

“Carol and I were like sisters,” said Mrs Reeve, who lives in Attleborough. “We had the same values and outlook on life and we did everything together.”

A few days after Mrs Reeve vowed to bring up Gemma as her own, Carol died, nine months after being diagnosed.

Mrs Reeve and her husband, Colin, became Gemma’s guardians, with her grandparents looking after her during the week.

Karen Reeve (left) with Carol Ritchie and 18-month-old Gemma in 1989. Karen and Gemma, from Attlebor

Karen Reeve (left) with Carol Ritchie and 18-month-old Gemma in 1989. Karen and Gemma, from Attleborough, have revealed their unique mother-daughter relationship in celebration of Mother's Day. Picture: Courtesy of Cancer Research UK - Credit: Archant


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“It was a dreadful time,” said Mrs Reeve, who was 26 at the time and recently married. “I had this little girl grieving for her mother and I just did what I had promised - I took her into my home.

“Gemma needed stability in her life, but in reality there is no escape from losing your mum.”

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Almost 30 years later, Mrs Reeve is still keeping her promise and has happily become grandmother to Gemma’s two children, Sofia and Oscar.

“Gemma is a constant reminder of Carol and I tell her all the time how much she is like her mother,” said Mrs Reeve, 52. “Carol would be very proud of Gemma - she has achieved so much despite such a tough start in life.

Karen Reeve, from Attleborough, married her husband, Colin, in 1994. They are pictured with Gemma, K

Karen Reeve, from Attleborough, married her husband, Colin, in 1994. They are pictured with Gemma, Karen's mother and father Pauline and David, and Gemma's dad Viv. Picture: Courtesy of Cancer Research UK - Credit: Archant

“Gemma will always be Carol’s daughter but we have a very strong mother-daughter relationship. Carol’s legacy lives on in Gemma and her children and that’s all you can ask for.

“I’m so glad I made that promise all those years ago.”

Mrs Reeve, a teaching assistant at Rosecroft Primary School in Attleborough, has helped raise more than £10,000 over the years as part of Cancer Research UK’s Race For Life Schools.

She and Gemma are sharing their story on Mother’s Day in support of the charity.

Carol Ritchie with her daughter Gemma in 1989, when she was just six months old. Picture: Courtesy o

Carol Ritchie with her daughter Gemma in 1989, when she was just six months old. Picture: Courtesy of Cancer Research UK - Credit: Archant

And Gemma, now 32, said: “Karen is still there for me now as she was 30 years ago. Mother’s Day is not a day I do well, but I can’t thank Karen enough for being there for me, for being her, and for being an amazing mother figure.

“Cancer affects everyone, including mums, and we all need do what we can to beat this terrible disease.”

Gemma Ritchie, from Attleborough, with daughter Sofia following the birth of her son, Oscar. Picture

Gemma Ritchie, from Attleborough, with daughter Sofia following the birth of her son, Oscar. Picture: Courtesy of Cancer Research UK - Credit: Archant

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