Rowena Derby, 33, husband Phil, 34, son Freddie, 3
United Kingdom – A mother who is dying from bowel cancer spends her last moments writing cards that her son will receive on each birthday and Christmas until he is 21.
Apart from that, Rowena Derby, 33, from Bolton, Lancashire, has set up an email account in his name, which he can access it when he’s old enough. He’ll be able to read the emails she’s written to him during her illness, giving him insights into her life. She has also recorded a CD of her favourite songs and nursery rhymes for him and even plans to write some children’s stories and film herself reading them. She even has a tree and a bench dedicated to her son and her husband.
Perhaps most personal of all, she has hand-made beautiful cards that Freddie will receive on each birthday and Christmas until he is 21. There are also cards for his first day at school, his graduation, even his wedding.
Rowena, who was diagnosed with bowel cancer shortly after Freddie was born, says that preparing her little boy for life after her death is keeping her going.
Rowena shows three-year-old Freddie two of the cards she has made for him to remember her by.
“I can’t waste any time crying,” she says. “Of course, there have been tears and the last thing I want to do is leave Freddie. But I can’t let my time be taken up by being upset because what good is it going to do? The important thing is to spend time with Freddie, give him lots of lovely memories and make sure he can cope when I’m no longer around.
“Freddie is so young. Is he going to remember me? And are they going to be real memories?”
While Rowena hopes that these messages from beyond the grave will provide comfort for her son when she is gone, she is acutely aware that they might have the opposite effect.
“I’m jealous of all those people who are going to carry on living and spend time with Freddie. I need to have something there so he won’t forget me, too.
It was a month after Rowena gave birth, here pictured with one-month-old Freddie, that she started experiencing pain
She and husband Phil, 34, have talked about the future and while she finds it hard to imagine him with someone else, she says she wouldn’t want him to be alone.
For now, Rowena is doing everything she can to extend her life. She has undergone an exhausting 27 rounds of chemotherapy, multiple operations and radiotherapy.