Imogen Potter campaigned tirelessly to raise public awareness about skin cancer. Last month the 37-year-old art teacher lost her five-year cancer battle, but her husband told Health Reporter Emma Brady he plans to carry on her work...
Three months ago, Imogen spoke in a very matter-of-fact way about her latest diagnosis. Doctors had confirmed she had two tumours bleeding into her brain.
She had been rushed to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, in Edgbaston, suffering headaches and vomiting.
The vivacious art teacher was then undergoing radiotherapy and joked that she felt ?superhuman? because ?normally patients don?t survive bleeding on the brain?.
Perhaps she was because, despite her condition, she led last year?s Race for Life event in Cannon Hill Park, Birmingham.
Imogen, who taught art at Sidney Stringer School in Coventry, had been due to inspire this year?s runners with a speech on Wednesday.
But on May 26 ? nine days before her 38th birthday ? Mrs Potter died at her King?s Heath home, surrounded by close family.
Her ashes were scattered in the grounds of Bolton Abbey, in the Yorkshire Dales.
Yesterday her husband Dean Bowker, paid tribute to his ?soulmate? and vowed to continue her work with Cancer Research UK.
The 35- year- old, who teaches history and politics at Birmingham?s City Technology College, admits he was not keen to get involved before. ?I wanted to stay in the background because I didn?t want the disease to define us as a couple,? he said.
?I can?t deny that it didn?t affect how we lived our lives, but we both saw that as a positive because we made sure we did all the things we wanted to do.
?But when Imogen was diagnosed with two brain tumours, things became a lot more difficult.
?Living for the moment just got harder but you do what you can, don?t you. She was my wife, my soulmate and I loved her to bits.
?She was very passionate about warning people about the dangers of skin cancer and sun beds, and now she?s gone I?d like to do what I can to carry on her work.?
Imogen was diagnosed with a malignant melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, in August 2000.
Like most people she enjoyed soaking up the sun while on holiday, but was not a sunbed addict or serial sunbather.
But the cancerous mole she had frequently shown her GP was only removed after she insisted on the routine procedure. ?There are more melanoma cases in Australia, but they have a better survival rate because doctors and GPs are not as reluctant as they are here to remove moles.
?An early diagnosis and treatment can minimise the chance of it spreading and becoming more serious. Why are British doctors unwilling to do this when it could mean saving more lives??
He added: ?This was very important to Imogen and I?ve told Cancer Research UK I would like to do something, to carry on Imogen?s work, in the future. As sad as I feel, I always knew she was going to die and I feel blessed that I met her and that for a brief time I had her in my life.?
The couple met when Mr Bowker started a new teaching job at Ernsford Grange School, in Coventry, in 2000.
The couple married in October 2003, by which time Imogen?s cancer had spread to her abdomen, lungs, liver and legs. Radiotherapy had also rendered her infertile.
After doctors diagnosed her brain tumours, Mr Bowker had to accept that their perfect life had no future.
?I?d always known about her disease, so at the back of my mind I always knew she was going to die,? he said.
?Two weeks before she went I had to go to Russia on a school trip, I didn?t want to go but Imogen was adamant that I should.
?Marie, the district nurse, had warned me she may die while I was away, but some how she managed to hold on to give us one more week together.
?Then on May 26, she died in my arms, in our home, surrounded by close family.?
Mr Bowker has set up a tribute to Imogen on Cancer Research UK?s website ? www.donateinmemory. cancerresearchuk.org n For more information about malignant melanoma and skin cancer visit www.cancerresearchuk.org