11th April 2018

Jo Keller

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Despite getting a clean bill of health, Jo Keller knew something wasn’t right with her mum, Jenny. Her intuition turned out to be right; her mum had stage 4 lung cancer which had spread to both lungs, her brain, skin and liver.

“Lung cancer is brutal. My mum went from a stunning 65-year-old who was enjoying life to becoming partially sighted, unable to hold a cup or feed herself. She couldn’t walk. She lost her hair. She trebled in size due to the drugs. And it all happened at the speed of light; she passed away just 15 weeks after diagnosis. I was by her side.

It was awful to witness. I’ve seen so much. Lung cancer doesn’t discriminate and when you’re in those chemo bays, it is so humbling.

Mum and I were very close. My dad died in 2006 and then my grandma in 2016. Mum was my only family. Life is awful without her. I feel so lost.

She was an amazing woman. She worked her socks off – the hardest worker I will ever know. She was only a year into her retirement when she died. She used to take my children, Max and Remee, to school every morning just so she could see them when she was working. She’d do anything for them.

I remember one time, the kids and I were on holiday in Portugal, staying in the same place we’d taken mum on her 60th birthday. One day, there was a knock on our hotel room door. It was mum. She surprised us all by turning up out of the blue. The kids were so happy.

After mum died, I knew I wanted to raise money in her memory. I’ve raised 26k in the past – for Great Ormond Street as my son is under their care and also Leukaemia Research as my grandma died suddenly from this. But this time I felt I had to do something that really challenged me. I hate running. Like really hate it so it seemed the most appropriate challenge to take on.

My friend, Amanda, did the London Marathon in 2016. I was in complete awe of her and vowed never ever to do it. Then I watched the BBC documentary Mind over Marathon and I knew I had to do it.

It was awful to witness. I’ve seen so much. Lung cancer doesn’t discriminate and when you’re in those chemo bays, it is so humbling

Jo was at her mum’s side through her diagnosis

Training has been tough and hit a major issue in October when I damaged my cartilage racing my son on a scooter in Center Parcs. Six weeks rest – devastated! I’ve been rebuilding slowly and taking lots of advice from the right people (I hope!).

Losing mum made me realise life is too short for things that don’t challenge or excite you so I decided to retrain as a semi-permanent make-up artist; I had been an accountant for nearly 20 years. It also included the husband; he had to go after 20 years together too! There’s only so much you can put up with!

Now I’m concentrating on me. Lung cancer devastates lives in such a short amount of time. Mum’s death turned my world upside down. I’ll certainly never be the same again but I want to do everything so someone else doesn’t have to witness what I did and what my mum endured.”