'Angels' are tribute to kindness of brave Annabel
THE kindness of a dying mother-of-three who selflessly ignored her own plight to help other seriously-ill people has inspired women across the UK.
It was only after the death of Annabel Hancox from cancer at the age of 40 that her grieving husband, Simon, realised how many lives his wife had touched.
Simon said: "When Annabel died, I had the task of trawling through her phone and letting people know what had happened.
"Going through it, I was completely overwhelmed by all these people I didn't know but who knew her – because she'd been trying to help them deal with their own illness.
"Even in her hospital bed over Christmas, Annabel was busy providing support, with the help of her phone, to others in times of need.
"She just had this desire to, and knack of, helping people. She was my best friend and just a perfect person."
So he decided to continue Annabel's good works by starting up a massive fund-raising campaign in the city to support people living with cancer.
At the same time, groups calling themselves Annabel's Angels have sprung up across the country – all to raise money in her name for cancer research.
It has all come less than two months after the death of Annabel from breast cancer.
The teaching assistant, of London Road, Alvaston, was diagnosed with cancer in April last year – only days before her 40th birthday and 15th wedding anniversary.
She underwent chemotherapy but it was later discovered the cancer had spread to her lungs and liver.
Despite further treatment, her condition continued to deteriorate and she died at the Royal Derby Hospital on December 28.
She leaves daughter Alina, 24, and sons Will, eight, and Sam, four.
During the nine months after she was diagnosed, Annabel decided to use her own experience to help others also suffering from cancer.
This included using online self-help forums run by charity Macmillan Cancer Support to reach out to others.
Simon said: "When we discovered the cancer had spread, it was hard to take because we'd actually had a really happy summer.
"Things like the Olympic Games were putting everyone in a good mood and we'd been so determined to beat the cancer – it wasn't going to stop us and we'd been making plans.
"On top of that, Annabel had landed a job as a teaching assistant at Oakwood Infant and Nursery School, in Alvaston – something that she'd always wanted to do – so it felt like a real kick in the teeth.
"But she always looked on the positive side. Whether she was losing her hair or feeling sick, she never once complained."
While Annabel was still alive, son Will decided he wanted to raise money for the combined day unit at the Royal Derby Hospital – which was caring for his mother.
With his father, he completed his own version of the Three Peaks Challenge in Derbyshire and collected £515.
And a further £850, collected during Annabel's funeral, has also been given to the unit.
Simon said: "We cannot thank the unit enough for everything they did for Annabel.
"And it was that thought which came to me when I was thinking: 'What can I do next?' after Annabel's death. I didn't want to just sit at home.
"I started talking to Annabel's 'Mac mates' – the friends she made on the internet forums run by Macmillan.
"And, in less than two months, Annabel's Angels has been set up in memory of this remarkable, unselfish, caring and loving woman who helped so many people in so many ways."
The aim of the local Annabel's Angels charity is to raise money for the combined day unit.
Simon said he was also looking for opportunities to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support – having already raised £700 when he and Will climbed Mount Snowdon in February.
Meanwhile, nationwide Annabel's Angels groups – including ones in London, Middlesbrough, Folkestone, Aberdeen, Kings Lynn, Worksop, Bath and Derby – will be taking part in Race for Life this year.
Money raised from these events will go to Cancer Research UK.
Simon said: "The response to creating a legacy for Annabel has been phenomenal.
"We were both lucky that, when Annabel was diagnosed, we had a strong network of family and friends around us. It would be nice to think what we're doing now ensures that is the case for other people.
"And it's not just people in the UK involved – because of social networking, Annabel's Angels is reaching all four corners of the world and that is so touching.
"It's really humbling to know just what an impact Annabel had on people's lives."
For more information about Annabel's Angels, visit www.facebook.com/Anna bels Angels or, to donate to the charity, visit www.justgiving. com/AnnabelsAngels1