Emma's storyEmma Maltby (neé Rawson) was an out-going, generous and spiritual person who was adored by her family and friends. “Once you became Emma’s friend you became part of the family”, as spoken by one of her good friends. Emma died of cancer on the 14th May 2003 aged 38. What follows is the story of her fight with cancer. It’s especially tragic to us, her family and friends, but we are only too aware that it is a story that is being repeated amongst other families, other friends, every day.

In December 2001 Emma had begun to complain of a pain in her hip. For a year and a half doctors investigated its cause. During this time Emma also sought alternative therapy to alleviate her discomfort. However, because the cancer was in her soft tissue and not in the bone itself during the early stages of her illness, it could not be traced by x-rays.

In July 2002 her worst fears were realised. She was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare form of cancer usually found in younger adults. The primary tumour was in her hip and there were secondaries on her lungs. Emma’s father had died of bone cancer in 1980, aged 47. As a result of his death when she was 16, Emma had always questioned her own life span. Emma was referred to Cheltenham hospital, which recommended a six-month course of aggressive chemotherapy, followed by an operation to remove the tumour in her hip. Emma responded well to the drugs, and by the end of the course she was enjoying Christmas with all her family at the home where she grew up in Kirk Deighton, near Wetherby in Yorkshire.

In January 2003 Emma organised a party for many of her closest friends at the Kandinsky Hotel in Cheltenham. Lunch took up most of the day and there was dancing in the evening. The next day it was quite apparent that Emma had overdone things and was in pain, but she never complained. That was Emma, always caring more for the people around her than for herself.

In February 2003 the family, Emma, her husband Alexander, and their children Amelia and Louis, twins aged seven, went away on holiday. Although they enjoyed themselves, Emma used a stick and a wheelchair. Towards the end of the month she was admitted to the Frenchay Hospital in Bristol where she was to have the operation to remove the tumour in her hip. Emma had been very apprehensive about the recuperation period after the operation, as she had been told by the surgeon it would be six to nine months before she would be walking again.

There then followed her biggest setback. In the operating theatre the surgeons discovered that they could not operate. At this stage Emma was used to disappointments and refused to let the setback interfere with her determination to get better. Within a few weeks she continued her treatment with a six-week course of radiotherapy which she endured with a fighting spirit.

Her last trip to Yorkshire was at Easter and although very weak she still managed a smile. A week later she met friends and her mother at the Titian exhibition at the National Gallery in London, a trip which had been planned for months but which, although now very frail, she was determined to enjoy. A month later Emma died in Cheltenham hospital near her adopted Gloucestershire home, May Hill. Her family were by her side. Even close to her death Emma remained strong in mind and put her trust in God – as she had done throughout her life. ‘Emma never bemoaned her fate, never asked “Why me?” says her husband Al. Because of who she was – and how she was – we will not let her death be in vain.