'She was my rock': Simon Thomas tells of heartbreak at losing wife Gemma
PUBLISHED: 10:45 10 February 2018 | UPDATED: 09:45 11 February 2018
She was his rock: the person who gave him belief when he doubted himself.
But in a few short and devastating days, Sky Sports presenter Simon Thomas lost his wife Gemma, 40, to a merciless blood cancer that struck swiftly and cruelly.
Eleven weeks have passed since November 24, the day that Simon, their eight-year-old son Ethan, and the couple’s family and friends surrounded her with love as she died in hospital in Oxford.
Now Simon, 45, is ready to talk about the woman who shared his life - was his life - for 16 years, since the day he first met her at a party.
The former Blue Peter presenter, who spent part of his childhood in Norfolk, spoke to the EDP at his sister Becky’s house in South Norfolk, where he and Ethan have received unstinting support from their family.
He said: “She joined my life halfway through Blue Peter and was with me every step of the way with Sky. It’s impossible to imagine being back at a game and not having her to call.
“She’s the wind beneath my wings. She gave me the belief when I was doubting. The two things I spoke about at her celebration were her compassion and how she was a rock. She had a generosity of spirit that you don’t always see in others.”
He added: “She had amazing wisdom. She had a heart for other people. She would watch the news with tears in her eyes and she wanted to start a refugee project at our church.
“She launched it, and that was what she was working on at the time that she died. When I am ready I will help to see that legacy fulfilled.”
Simon and Gemma’s relationship and marriage had a hint of “meant to be” about it from the beginning,
Simon said: “I was working for Oasis Trust and I didn’t think a TV career or my Blue Peter dream would ever happen.
“I left in December 1998 for Blue Peter, and at the time Gemma was at Sheffield University. She told me that she was watching Blue Peter with some friends one time and saw me and said: ‘I’m going to meet him one day’.”
Three years later, the words became a reality. Gemma was working at the Oasis Trust and Simon was invited to a party in September 2001, thrown by her boss at Oasis.
Simon said: “I went there with another girl, Sarah, in mind. I chatted to her but there was this girl in a lovely cerise top who I chatted to for a long time.
“At the end of the night I took Gemma’s number. I broke the golden rule that says you should not text on the same night. We met the next weekend at Sevenoaks and began seeing each other.
“In summer 2004 on a holiday to Cuba I proposed to Gemma. We were married a year later at her church in Sevenoaks. My dad took the service. Ethan was born in September 2009.
“She ended up working for the Electoral Commission, then when Ethan came she didn’t need to go back to work.”
Simon said he felt a “real sense of injustice” at losing Gemma, exacerbated by how she had endured and come through other challenges in the past.
He said: “We went through some stuff as a couple that made us stronger. We wanted a brother or sister for Ethan and found out Gemma had a serious fertility problem.
“We went down the IVF route twice. The second time she fell pregnant but had a miscarriage. It was really hard to deal with. But we made our peace over not having any more children and were really happy to have Ethan, who in many ways was a miracle.
“There’s a sense of real injustice for Gemma. She went through all of that and then this happened.”
Simon reveals his promises to his wife Gemma before she died
As the couple prepared for the possibility of Gemma’s death, Simon made some promises to his wife:
■ “I promised that I would carry on the amazing work she had done in Ethan’s life. I wanted her to know I would be the best possible dad I could be. I see her in Ethan; in his kindness.”
■ “Gemma was her sister Rebecca’s rock. I promised I would stand in the breach for Rebecca and for their mum Wendy.”
■ Simon served as a young man on the Cromer Scripture Union Beach Mission team. His father Andrew is a retired vicar and Simon has been open about his Christian faith down the years. He acknowledged that Gemma’s death had raised painful questions, but said: “I promised I wouldn’t give up on my faith. I don’t want to let go of it.”
Simon asked that people would consider giving a donation in Gemma’s memory to the following causes:
Maggie’s - a centre in Oxford that provides free support to people with cancer and their family and friends. Visit www.maggiescentres.org
To give money to help Gemma’s refugee support dream come true, visit greyfriars.churchsuite.co.uk/donate