'I wanted to prove to her I could make something of myself' - Young Horley woman made her dying mum proud

Still mourning the loss of her beloved mum, Emma Watson is thankful she had been able to make her mum proud before she died from cancer, aged just 59.

Wednesday, 18th August 2021, 12:52 pm

Twenty-nine-year-old Emma from Horley, Surrey, said: “When I was young I gave my mum a lot of grief. She used to say I would never get anywhere in my life.

“I wanted to prove to her I could make something of myself."

Jo Watson lived to see Emma attain a nursing degree and other qualifications to become a community matron.

Emma Watson on graduation day with her mum, Jo Watson

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Cancer Research UK's Race for Life returns to Crawley

Emma said: “She was over the moon. I am glad I made her proud. She was always very supportive of my career.”

Now, just a few months after losing her mum to skin cancer during the pandemic, Emma wants to raise awareness about melanoma.

She is also supporting Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life events which help fund scientists to find new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer.

Frankie and Emma Watson

Jo, who lived in Horley and worked as an accommodation manager for NHS staff at East Surrey Hospital, was first diagnosed with melanoma 18 years ago. She had gone to her GP concerned about a mole that was bleeding.

The mole was removed and after a follow up appointment five years later she was given the all-clear.

Emma said: “My mum used to be a sun worshipper. There was not the same awareness back then and she used to put cooking oil on her skin to go out in the sun!

“She was sun obsessed and used to travel around Europe in a VW camper van and even lived in France for a year”.

Early last year Jo started to suffer pains and then swelling in her lower abdomen. She was retaining fluid which had to be drained weekly.

A blood test suggested she may be suffering from ovarian cancer but a CT scan a few weeks later indicated she had cancer in the lining of her abdomen.

Emma said: “A consultant at East Surrey Hospital told mum she was dying.”

Jo was referred to the Royal Surrey Hospital in Guildford and, following a biopsy, she was given BRAF therapy. She responded well, with tests showing the tumours had shrunk.

Emma added: “She felt and looked much better again and not like someone who was battling cancer”.

But Jo’s health started to decline again last December and a scan confirmed the cancer had spread around her abdomen.

Further treatment didn’t work and doctors said there was nothing more they could do.

“It was January 20, a day after my birthday, I received an unexpected telephone call from her oncologist informing me that my beautiful, determined mum, had only a few short weeks left of her life.

“I will never forget those words for as long as I am alive. The few short weeks turned into a few short days and mum died under the amazing care of St Catherine's Hospice in Crawley, West Sussex.

“She didn’t want me to see how she was and she died just five days later”.

A vegetarian, Jo was a regular gym-goer, she didn’t smoke or drink and twice took part in the London marathon to raise money for charity.

Emma, who has a brother Paul, 30, who lives in Brighton, added: “Her heart was so strong because she was fit but the cancer couldn’t be stopped.

“Mum had worked throughout the Covid-19 pandemic until her last days.

“She was a selfless person who strived to ensure NHS staff under her care – many of whom had travelled from abroad to work in our amazing NHS – were looked after.

“She was the definition of a fighter and was determined to battle cancer. I will always be incredibly proud of her.

“I am sharing her story to raise awareness about melanoma and to encourage more diagnostic testing.

“I believe mole mapping should be offered on the NHS for early detection for future melanoma patients, to save precious lives - a life like my mums.

“Every day I wake up and think about her. I miss her.

“My four-year-old daughter Frankie waves up to the sky every morning. She also misses her. Mum used to look after Frankie one day a week. They were very close.

Jo split up with Emma’s dad when she was 8. However, the couple remained close and Jo died on his birthday.

The whole family support Cancer Research UK in a variety of ways. Jo supported the charity’s shops, Emma’s dad has just completed a 31 miles in 31 days challenge and Emma is supporting Race for Life.

Emma said: “My mum was a runner so hopefully she will be pushing me on!”

Every year around 52,100 people are diagnosed with cancer in the South East* and one in two people in the UK born after 1960 will get cancer in their lifetime.**  

Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life, which has been in partnership with Tesco for 20 years, is an inspiring series of 3K, 5K, 10K, Pretty Muddy and Pretty Muddy Kids event which raise millions of pounds every year to help beat cancer by funding crucial research. 

Money raised funds world-class research to help beat 200 types of cancer.  

The charity was able to spend more than £30 million in the South East last year on some of the UK’s leading scientific and clinical research.

Lynn Daly Cancer Research UK’s spokesperson for Surrey, said: “Race for Life offers the perfect opportunity for people to run, walk or jog and raise money for life-saving research.

People can visit raceforlife.org to enter *** or call 0300 123 0770.

Race for Life events take place at:

Horsham on 12 September - 3k and 5k.

Crawley Bumper Day on 18 September – 3k, 5k, 10k, Pretty Muddy and Pretty Muddy Kids.

Brighton Bumper Day on 19 September – 3k, 5k, 10k, Pretty Muddy and Pretty Muddy Kids.

Worthing on 26 September - 3k and 5k events

Hastings on 10 October - 3k, 5k and 10k events