'Christmas joy was instilled by their beautiful mother' - family tributes to beloved Lisa
PUBLISHED: 12:06 04 December 2019 | UPDATED: 13:20 04 December 2019
Life has never been the same for a family who lost a beloved daughter, sister and mum to a rare brain tumour.
But they remember her by celebrating the joy she brought them every Christmas.
Lisa Wiles, from Blackborough End, near King's Lynn, died from a brain tumour aged 43 in October 2011.
She continued to care for her three children, Zachary, Shannen and Cameron, and study for a degree at the College of West Anglia, after being diagnosed with a highly-aggressive brain tumour the previous year.
Despite surgery and chemotherapy, the tumour grew back and was inoperable.
Miss Wiles' family, including her parents Mervyn and Rosalie Wiles of Middleton, set up the Lisa Wiles Red Wellies Brain Tumour Research Fund after her death to find a cure for glioblastoma multiforme tumours - the type of cancer which killed her.
Before it closed last year, the charity had raised almost £143,000 to buy medical research equipment at Addenbrooke's Hospital, in Cambridge, where a laboratory has been dedicated to Lisa and Red Wellies.
Once again facing the festive season without her beloved mum, Shannen Norwood, who was just 18 when Miss Wiles died, is working with the charity Brain Tumour Research to raise awareness and share her memories.
Mrs Norwood, now 26, said: "She was the best mum as well as being my best friend. I could tell her anything because she was always so accepting, loving and protective.
"Mum always managed to make Christmas so magical, even though she was a single mum with not much money. We always seemed to get what we wanted - I don't know how she did it. Added to this, mum was fastidious about spending the exact same amount on each of us, even if it meant giving someone a penny to make it up to the same sum.
"When Zach, Cam and I were little, mum always bought each of us a Santa sack to put our Christmas presents in so we wouldn't get confused as to whose presents were whose. All was fine until one year I opened Zach's present which was a shirt. I pretended to like it until mum realised I'd opened the wrong one.
"Losing my mum is really hard to understand. I am a devout Christian, but I still ask myself why God gave me such an amazing mum for such a short time. I still remember all the lovely things she said to me and how she gave me so much confidence and belief in myself. She was the kind of mum I now try to be to my own three-year-old son, Caleb."
Miss Wiles' sister Hayley Spano, 50, added: "Lisa was older than me by 18 months. We both loved Christmas and as kids we would take our pocket money and buy gifts from the post office a few doors down from home. Needless to say, everyone got chocolate bars, bath salts and little figurines - the typical things village post offices used to sell. We'd be so excited for Christmas. I can remember as soon as dawn broke, Lisa shaking me and pulling off my bedding to wake me up, shouting 'it's Christmas morning'.
"When Lisa had her three children, she'd scrimp and save to get them what they wanted. Christmas remained just as magical for her, perhaps even more so as she then had her children to join in her excitement. On Christmas Eve, she would pack the car with all the presents, fit the kids in somehow, and begin the journey to our parents' home, just five minutes up the road.
"Lisa never lost her love of Christmas. I'm happy to say the same can be said for her children who are now all in their 20s. Christmas joy was instilled in them by their beautiful mother. Every year that passes without her is painful, yet we keep Lisa's memory alive by reminiscing about her."
Paula Rastrick, community fundraising manager at Brain Tumour Research, said: "Lisa's tragic story reminds us that brain tumours are indiscriminate, they can affect anyone at any age. Brain tumours are the biggest cancer killer of children and adults under the age of 40 and yet historically just 1pc of the national spend on cancer research has been allocated to brain tumours."
Brain Tumour Research is calling for a national annual spend of £35m in order to improve survival rates and patient outcomes in line with other cancers, such as breast cancer and leukaemia, and is also campaigning for greater repurposing of drugs.
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