Husband donates £1m to cancer research so 'no one else goes through same pain'

Richard and Lesley Ellis

Richard and Lesley Ellis - Credit: SUPPLIED BY ELLIS FAMILY

The husband of a businesswoman who died of pancreatic cancer just weeks after being diagnosed has donated £1m towards research into the disease. 

Richard Ellis lost his wife Lesley, the co-founder of holiday firm Norfolk Country Cottages, when she was aged 59. 

The couple, who had been married for more than 32 years, said their final goodbyes after she died at their home in Reepham in February 2019. 

Lesley Ellis paragliding in Nepal. Richard Ellis said he "loved" this photo and was "so proud of her"

Lesley Ellis paragliding in Nepal. Richard Ellis said he "loved" this photo and was "so proud of her" - Credit: SUPPLIED BY ELLIS FAMILY

Now, more than two years on, Mr Ellis and his family have pledged more than £1m in funding to develop a test to diagnose pancreatic cancer, in addition to funding five PhD students at Cambridge University to study the disease known as “the silent killer”. 

The 66-year-old said: “Of all the funding that goes into cancer research, just two per cent is spent on research into pancreatic cancer. 

Lesley Ellis

Lesley Ellis - Credit: SUPPLIED BY ELLIS FAMILY

“It is a vicious, painful and nasty type of cancer and as a family we wanted to ensure fewer people go through what Lesley did. 


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“For too long it’s been put into a ‘too difficult’ box, but we need to get it out of there and get it sorted.” 

Richard and Lesley Ellis with their children, Hannah and William

Richard and Lesley Ellis with their children, Hannah and William - Credit: Steven Flanagan

The Pancreatic Cancer UK charity found that 75pc of patients were diagnosed with the disease too late to start treatment. Developing a diagnostic test for pancreatic cancer would enable earlier diagnoses and better survival rates. 

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The grandfather-of-four added: "Although it's one of the biggest killers of all the common cancers, the survival rates of it haven't changed for about 45 years in this country." 

Mrs Ellis died just 15 weeks after finding a lump on her neck during a holiday in Spain. 

Lesley Ellis on the beach with the couple's dogs

Lesley Ellis on the beach with the couple's dogs - Credit: Steve Flanagan

The couple, who are parents to William and Hannah, spent the next few months of the diagnosis on “a rollercoaster of medical attention”. Mr Ellis has two more sons, James and Tom. 

“We suffered a devastating loss to our family, but there are thousands more that this happens to so we feel fortunate we have been able to help," he said.

Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month takes place next month.

Richard and Lesley Ellis

Richard and Lesley Ellis - Credit: Steven Flanagan


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