Bereaved husband's cancer charity

By Robyn Rosen, April 7, 2011
Daniel Blake with Nicki and the couple’s young son Joshua

Daniel Blake with Nicki and the couple’s young son Joshua

A charity supporting Pancreatic Cancer UK is being set up by a Bushey Synagogue member whose wife died from the disease at the age of 33.

Nicki Blake died in November, barely a year after being diagnosed with an advanced form of the cancer which had already spread to her liver and bones.

The primary school teacher had met her husband Daniel, 34, in 2003. They got engaged on the anniversary of their meeting and married on the same day the following year.

"It was love at first sight," Mr Blake recalled. "We clicked instantly. We were so right for each other. We shared loads in common, travelling, fine dining and theatre. She was a really kind, generous, warm person."

Their son Joshua was born in September 2007. Two months later, Mrs Blake started experiencing pain in her abdomen and back.

I knew she was really suffering

"We went straight to A&E but they dismissed it, saying it was from picking up the baby. If it had been picked up then, she would be here today."

Her symptoms worsened in early 2009 and she visited three GPs before being diagnosed with obstructive jaundice, which affects the bile duct. Doctors thought it was a symptom of gallstones but a procedure to relieve the blockage did not work.

From his own research, Mr Blake had found that "obstructive jaundice could also be a sign of cancer and I asked the surgeon if that's what it was. He just nodded and asked to see me later. I broke down. I was the one to tell Nicki. She was very frightened."

She was diagnosed with an aggressive neuroendocrine tumour and told it was inoperable.

For the next eight months she was in and out of hospital receiving treatment including chemotherapy.

"Throughout all of it she was the most unbelievable, courageous, positive person you could ever meet," Mr Blake said.

"It was soul-destroying to see all those toxic chemicals going into her. I knew she was really suffering.

"We fought and fought but despite everything the situation was not going to get better.

"It was mortifying to realise I was about to lose the person I wanted to spend my life with and see her die before my eyes."

He set up Nicki's Smile to raise awareness and funds for treatment and research.

"Pancreatic cancer is the fifth biggest killer in the UK and the biggest problem is that for a whole generation, the survival rate has not improved at all," he explained. "It is only diagnosed in the advanced stages.

"We want to raise awareness for the public to think about the symptoms and get them checked by a professional. We also want to raise funds for early diagnosis research.

"We have seen so much improvement with breast cancer, which is phenomenal, but the pitiable statistics for pancreatic cancer are appalling and something needs to be changed," Mr Blake added.

"If the disease is caught early on, thousands of lives could be saved. I know Nicki would be delighted if we could achieve that."

Nicki's Smile will officially launch with a fundraiser at Sopwell House in St Albans in November.

Last updated: 11:44am, April 8 2011