Marilyn’s Story – in the words of daughters, Sue, Joanne, Liz and Laura

“I just wish Mum had found you sooner.”

Our lovely, beautiful Mum, Marilyn Wootten; was the kindest, warmest, funniest and most ‘lust for life’ woman. She was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015, and for six years on and off she lived well with cancer. She was the strongest person we have ever known. We’re extremely proud to have been able to call her Mum.

Her whole life, she had always been such an inspiration to all that knew her, and it was during her last few years that she became even more positive and inspiring than ever before.

During a routine appointment in 2019 she was diagnosed with leptomeningeal disease, a form of cancer that affects the brain lining. This diagnosis hit her incredibly hard, it was one of the first times that we ever saw her hit a real low point. But being a retired nurse, Mum had such a ‘go-getter’ mentality, and so she very quickly took things into her own hands. She went off and conducted lots of research and found the details of a Research Doctor in the US. After a few Zoom calls, she put her on a treatment programme, and somehow, with the help of that and intrathecal chemotherapy, her cancer went into remission.

Marilyn in a field of flowers

She was persistently positive throughout, and so much of this came from her attending Penny Brohn UK, which two years ago she found and took into her heart.

When she visited, she could completely relax and feel at peace. She made friends with individuals who were so understanding of her situation, and the staff were incredibly supportive. Mum enjoyed so many of the activities that Penny Brohn UK had to offer. From these she learnt how to meditate which became her solace, the cooking classes gave us a new insight into healthy eating, and she enjoyed experimenting her new recipes on us – which we fully appreciated! We also attended a ‘Biodanza’ event with Mum, also known as ‘The Dance of Life’, which gave her the opportunity to lose herself in the music. She loved to be able to show off the great things that she was taking part in.

“When I walk through the doors, I automatically feel the warmth and love from the people that are there to help support me and also from the friends I’ve made along the way. You cannot know how valuable Penny Brohn UK is to people like me living with cancer” – Marilyn’s own words.

The community spirit that those living with cancer, and their families, experience is just second-to-none. The weekend retreats were her particular favourites, and she always came away feeling enlightened, positive and stronger.

Marilyn and her family at the Penny Brohn UK 'Stomp' event

Marilyn and her family at the Penny Brohn UK ‘Stomp’ event

The whole family were keen to support Penny Brohn UK in their own ways to thank them for everything that they were doing to help Mum live well. A group of us took part in Penny Brohn UK’s Autumn walking challenge ‘Stomp’ in 2019, and again in 2022. Alice, Sue’s daughter, ran her own 10k on the day that the Bristol 10k would have taken place in 2020 – with Grandma even joining in by walking laps of her own home at the same time!

Alice said: “Grandma did such an amazing job, she managed about 2km with all her walking. I completed the run in 57 mins and my Mum had asked all my neighbours to come out and see me off and back again – it was honestly such a lovely day! I’m so happy that I was able to do something to help raise awareness for such an amazing charity, particularly at such a difficult time.”

Following Mum’s death, we were asked by many of her friends and family where they could donate in her memory, and without any hesitation we knew that Penny Brohn UK was the one. Leaving a financial legacy in Mum’s memory, towards this outstanding place, brought us such comfort and direction during the first few weeks of our loss.

Knowing that these memory donations would honour our Mum and help others, gave us something to focus on in heart-breaking times. A JustGiving Page was set up and by the power of social media we were able to spread the word and raise over £3,000 just like that.

In June 2022 we held a special evening at the Penny Brohn UK National Centre in memory of Mum, in lieu of the wake that we weren’t able to have due to the ongoing COVID-19 restrictions. It was such a lovely way for us to be able to celebrate Mum’s life with around 120 of her closest friends and family, in a place that held such special meaning to her. We were able to fundraise for Penny Brohn UK on the night, and raised £4,000 from a raffle and auction.

In October 2022, almost 3 years since the first Stomp we attended, Penny Brohn UK invited the whole family back to the National Centre to reveal the total amount that we had raised. We were all in an absolute state of shock to hear that collectively (and with the help of gift aid) we had hit a whopping £12,000!

A photo from above of a party in an event room at Penny Brohn UK

We honestly had no idea that this was going to be the total, and we are all so proud of the legacy that we have been able to leave in Mum’s name. We will continue to support Penny Brohn UK long into the future, to pay thanks for the support they gave to Mum and continue to give to those affected by cancer.