Coverage from the Watford Observer:
A father-of-one from Bushey has been selected out of thousands of applicants to act as an Olympic torchbearer.
For Dan Blake, of Wendover Way, the chance to have such a pivotal role in run up to the games will be particularly poignant, he said, as he will be carrying the torch in memory of his late wife Nicki.
The 35-year-old said: “Nicki passed away 17 months ago at the age of 33 from pancreatic cancer.
“It was sudden, she had complained of pains in her stomach and back six weeks after giving birth to our son Joshua.
“At first her condition was put down to bending and lifting a newborn baby, and she was given anti-inflammatory medication.
“Then doctors thought it was gall stones. But an ultrasound and CT scan found that in fact she had pancreatic cancer.”
Despite undergoing many bouts of chemotherapy, endoscopies and targeted radionuclide therapy, the disease had spread from her pancreas to her liver and bones and she passed away on November 11, 2010.
Mr Blake’s mother Cynthia nominated her son for the torchbearer role, describing to organisers the heartache he and her grandson have endured since Nicki’s initial diagnosis and death.
Mr Blake said: “My mum relayed what a gaping hole Nicki has left in our lives. She also highlighted that I have been fundraising for, and trying to raise awareness of, pancreatic cancer.
“I have set up a charity Nicki’s Smile, which is acting as a fundraising arm of Pancreatic Cancer UK, and since it launched in February last year, £270,000 has been raised for the charity.
“Not enough people know about pancreatic cancer, in terms of research and development, it is an illness which has stalled. Breast and testicular cancer, there have been developments with regard to treatment, but because pancreatic cancer is so hard to diagnose, there has been no progress.
“We live in a developed part of the world, yet about 8,000 people a year are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and most will die from the disease. It’s ridiculous.
“I want to change that, if I can raise money for research, if I can make people aware of pancreatic cancer, if I can save a life, then everything me and Joshua have been through will all be worthwhile.
“It’s difficult to lose your wife, we had so many plans. It’s difficult for Joshua to lose his mother – especially at such a young age. But we get by and we want something positive to come from Nicki’s death.”
At present the family are busy organising a fundraising magic event at Finchley Arts Centre on May 13.
But on July 23, Mr Blake will walk about 300 metres, carrying his torch, through Croydon.
Despite not knowing his route yet, the law student, who gave up his career in the city to care for Joshua, will be wearing a white shellsuit at the event.
He said: “I’m hoping to include something that will identify the charity, but it’s very strict.
“My family and friends will be cheering me along and I’m also hoping to get Joshua to walk alongside me.
“It’s a fantastic chance to be part of something really memorable and as I’ll get to keep the torch, I’ll be sure to pass it on to Joshua, so it’ll pass through the generations to come.”
Often called The Silent Cancer pancreatic cancer has one of the worst cancer survival rates with only 3% of patients living for longer than five years.
Watch the clip here.
“It’s something that I think about every day,” Dan Blake tells me. “Is there anything more that I could have done? Certainly, there’s more the doctors could have done …”
Dan is remarkably composed for this interview but the emotions are raw and are glimpsed, momentarily. His wife Nicki died from a rare form of pancreatic cancer ten months ago in a London hospital. She was just 33-years-old. The only positive is that at least Nicki and Dan together enjoyed the first three years of the life of their son Joshua. Read more at Channel 5 News…
I am pleased to say that Nicki’s Smile will be featured on Channel 5 News later today at 5pm and 7pm.
Please spread the word and tune in!
“It was a perfect moment, almost. Our son Josh’s eyes lit up and he hurtled across the amusement park, with me chasing behind. ‘Buzz!’ he shouted. Next thing, he had his arms clamped round Buzz Lightyear’s Leg.
We were at Walt Disney World in Florida, and our boy was having the time of his life. It was a 3-year-old’s dream come true. Watching Joshua chatting away to Buzz I had to laugh.
I turned to you to share a smile. Reached for your hand, knowing this was a memory that would never fade. But next to me was an empty space. You weren’t there. It had been eight months since you died, and it still hadn’t sunk in. I don’t think it ever will…” Click on the picture below to read more.