Widower starts cancer group to raise awareness

Derek Mullholland is raising awareness of cancer of the oesophagus after he lost his wife Pat to the disease.
Derek Mullholland is raising awareness of cancer of the oesophagus after he lost his wife Pat to the disease.

A widower whose life was ripped apart by cancer after losing his beloved wife to the disease has set up a new group to highlight the dangers of the deadly condition.

Bereaved Derek Mulholland, 67, admits his world was turned upside down after partner Patricia Elizabeth died from an uncommon but serious type of cancer on November 7.

The 65-year-old contracted oesophageal cancer in 2011 and had a major operation at the end of that year.

The Longhoughton-based pair, with one son, thought she was free of the disease, but in the summer of 2013, she was diagnosed with metastatic cancer – a cancer which has spread from the place where it first started to another part of the body. Just months later, his wife of 43 years lost her battle.

Inspired by her brave fight, Derek has formed a Facebook group – along with Kerry Yates from Bognor Regis in West Sussex who lost her father to the disease – to raise awareness of oesophageal cancer.

Derek said: “We want to make people aware of this, because people don’t realise how much this disease is a killer.

“We aren’t a charity, but rather an awareness forum.

“People can join the forum and ask questions and get answers for us. It is also there to give them, or their families, comfort if they are distressed.”

The forum is named Team Periwinkle – after the colour which raises awareness of this form of cancer.

In honour of you, Patricia

Devastated Derek Mulholland has vowed to put his time and energy into making Team Periwinkle a success, in honour of his brave wife who never shed a tear during her cancer ordeal.

In a touching interview with the Gazette, the father-of-one said: “This new group is my passion. Cancer took my life away from me, because my wife was my life. We were together for 46 years, and married for 43 of them.

“It is so hard trying to get your head around losing somebody. When Patricia found out that she had cancer the first time, it was me that was sobbing, she was very positive.”

Patricia endured bouts of chemotherapy in 2011, before her operation in the December of that year.

Derek added: “She was pretty poorly after her operation, but she recouped. We had 18 or 19 wonderful months together, she was doing wonderfully well, but then she started getting pain again and we found out that the cancer had moved. She said we will fight it again. We will kill it. It won’t get me. But it did. But she never once shed a tear, even when she new she was dying. It was heartbreaking.”

In a touching tribute to his wife, Derek is planning to spread her ashes on her birthday in May, opposite the house in which she was born in Boulmer.