A young widow whose husband died suddenly just before Christmas is using his inspiring message to drive her on as she prepares for the London Marathon.
Emma Willis (27) said a tearful goodbye to husband James (30) who was buried on Christmas Eve after he had suffered a brain haemorrhage earlier in the month.
James was already battling Stage 4 sarcoma cancer having been diagnosed on Valentine’s Day 2018 - four months after the couple from Baston had eloped.
Now Emma, who was a teacher at Barnack Primary School before leaving to spend her last precious moments with James, is using his positive attitude to inspire her as she seeks to go from non-runner to completing a marathon.
“I think ‘how the hell did he get out of bed every day?’ He must have felt awful, but his strength was amazing,” she said. “When I’m five miles into a run and I can’t go on I think ‘what would James do?’
“He never complained. I had a cold one week and I complained more than he complained about having cancer for 10 months. He was funny about it and made jokes, but he was realistic about the situation.
“He was so positive and inspiring - I’d say kick-ass.”
Quantity surveyor James did not have a long life expectancy when he died on December 4, but it still came as a shock to Emma who had seen him fit enough to attend his work Christmas party four days earlier before he rapidly deteriorated.
“I expected he was going to die but I thought there would be a decline. It was so sudden,” said Emma.
James’ cancer diagnosis had also been a shock as a pain in his shoulder which he had attributed to exercise turned out to be sarcoma which had spread to his lungs and become incurable.
Despite being dealt such a cruel blow, James remained hugely upbeat and determined to fight the cancer with everything he had.
He was also able to enjoy some quality time with Emma including a well deserved honeymoon in California.
After James’ death Emma spent Christmas with all of the family as she began to grieve.
She intends to return to work in the future, but for the time being she is preparing for April’s marathon under a running programme supplied for free by Jordan Foster from Project Marathon Girl.
“I’m really excited. People said when you’ve done one, you want to do it again, ” said Emma, who hopes to raise more than £10,000 for Sarcoma UK.
When Emma does hit the streets of London she will be surrounded by thousands of people, but there will only be one person on her mind.
Asked what she misses most about her husband, Emma replies: “It was having a sounding board. He was my moral compass. It’s going from discussions all the time to making my own mind up. Even for dinner I ate what James wanted!”
As well as running the London Marathon, Emma is also organising a charity ball which is being held on Friday, February 15.
The ball is set to be a sell-out and will hopefully raise £5,000 to go to Emma’s overall fundraising goal of £10,000 for Sarcoma UK, which she believes she can stretch towards £15,000.
There will be a raffle and silent auction, and businesses who can contribute an item are being asked to email firstname.lastname@example.org.
To help with the fundraising Carol and Robert Willis are sponsoring the drinks on arrival, while on the same day Emma’s old school Barnack Primary is doing a dress up day to raise money for Sarcoma UK.
Last year James set up a JustGiving page which raised more than £22,000 for Addenbrooke’s Hospital and the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital in Birmingham.
To donate to Emma’s fundraising page, visit: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/emma-sarcomaslayer-willis.