In July this year, 71-year-old Glenda Harris went to the doctor with stomach pains. What was initially diagnosed as a kidney infection turned out to be late stage ovarian cancer, which had spread to her stomach.
Within nine days she was gone, leaving behind her doting husband Harry, 76, their three children and seven grandchildren.
Her sudden death dealt a harsh blow to the family and when Glenda’s daughter Lorna Harris, 45, was approaching her birthday two months later, the charity PR worker was dreading the fact her mum wouldn’t be there - especially as Glenda had religiously baked her and her siblings cakes every year without fail.
Lorna’s birthday came around on 22 September and her 76-year-old dad took it upon himself to surprise her in the loveliest way: by baking her a cake and keeping her mum’s tradition alive.
“I was so choked up that my lovely little old dad remembered mum would always do me and my brothers a cake,” Lorna, who lives in London, tells HuffPost UK. “He is disabled and has heart failure and kidney failure, my mum was his carer as well as his wife and best mate.”
Lorna shared a photo of the cake on Twitter, writing: “My mum always made me a birthday cake. Every year for 44 years. Two months since she died and my old dad tried his hardest and my heart melted.”
Her tweet was shared thousands of times and while plenty of people commented on the wonderful gesture, there were also those who took the opportunity to share details of their own grief. Editor Simon Brew wrote: “Lost my mum this year too. Your dad is a bloody hero. Have an amazing birthday, and the very best to you.”
Lorna says this year was the hardest birthday she’s ever had due to the death of her mum, who she was incredibly close to, but her dad’s kind gesture brought a smile to her face: “It was a dog’s dinner of a cake, but it meant the world.”
She adds: “I think for me it’s less about the cake and more about the conversation it’s created on grief. I guess the one thing we would like out of this is to raise awareness of the subtle symptoms of ovarian cancer.”
It is the fifth most common type of cancer among women and every year, more than 7,000 women are diagnosed with the disease.
The symptoms are similar to those of other conditions, which can make it difficult to spot for both patients and doctors. According to the NHS, there are early symptoms to look out for such as persistent bloating, pain in the pelvis and lower stomach, and difficulty eating. (Find out more about symptoms here.)
“Losing my mum has been hellish but it’s worse for dad I think,” Lorna adds. ”[They spent] 53 years together. He didn’t just love her, he was in love with her.”
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