Sara’s star for her wonderful husband, Tony

Sara names a star for her late husband Tony who died, age 39, after being treated at The Royal Marsden for a glioma brain tumour.

Thanks to The Royal Marsden, Sara and her two children were able to have 19 more months with Tony and they’ve taken part in Celebrate a Life since he died in 2005. He passed away in December so it’s a particularly poignant time for their family. Tony used to look out of his window at the hospital, and now Sara and her children always look up at the same window every year during the service to see the other patients watching. 


“My children were quite little when Tony died. My oldest is Ben, he’s now 21 years old and Millie just turned 20. They started coming with me to Celebrate a Life when they were teenagers, and now it’s a real family occasion. It’s a time where we can feel really close and share each other’s grief more openly. We allow ourselves to talk about it and to celebrate all the wonderful things that Tony did for us and the wonderful person he was.

A bride with a white flowery veil and a groom in smart suit smiling on their wedding day
Sara and Tony

I would absolutely recommend to other people to take part in Celebrate a Life. It’s such a lovely and magical event – the twinkly lights and the children singing carols.

Every year that Millie has come along, she’s found Tony’s star on the tree which is really special. I’ve spoken to other supporters who have lost loved ones and it feels reassuring and supportive. You can feel everyone’s emotions."

A young person in a white woolly hat, scarf and coat holding a small gold star hanging on a large Christmas tree
Millie finding Tony’s star on the tree

Tony’s diagnosis and coming to The Royal Marsden 

"Tony was diagnosed in 2003, aged just 39, with a type of brain tumour called a brain stem glioma. He was really fit at the time, he used to run about eight to ten miles every morning – before I’d even got up!

It was during his runs when he started to notice that he was stumbling a little bit – these symptoms came on over the course of a couple of months. He went to the GP to get checked out and they tested to make sure he didn’t have any ear infections."

The back of a man in running gear jogging down a country road with a small toddler beside him
Tony running with his young son, Ben

"It wasn’t until an MRI scan when he got his cancer diagnosis. The news came like a bolt out of the blue and our world shattered in one moment.

We came to The Royal Marsden and Tony was put under the care of Professor Bradha who was really lovely. He underwent multiple treatments, including several weeks of radiotherapy, intravenous chemotherapy and temozolomide tablets. It was during the summer of 2005 when things began to change and Tony became weaker and weaker. In the end, Tony was admitted to Sobell House Hospice in Oxford and it was there he passed away.

Thankful for The Royal Marsden

After Tony died, Prof Bradha invited me to come back and talk to him about what had happened. I thought that was such a lovely thing for him to do, he bought me cakes and tea which was so sweet. It sounds strange, but I have such fond memories of taking Tony down to The Royal Marsden, I remember it being sunny and lovely. We would go and have his radiotherapy and then we’d go and have lunch together – we’d make a day of it. In some ways, although it was such a horrible time, those memories we have together are quite precious. It was time we had together, just the two of us.”

I found everyone at The Royal Marsden to be so kind and caring – I couldn’t have asked for anything more. Their ability to make you feel special, even though they’re caring for hundreds of other patients is really something.

“Tony was always so grateful to everyone, I used to hear him laughing with the radiographers and they’d really enjoy seeing him. That really put us at ease when he was having treatment. It meant so much to us knowing that the teams really cared and we put our trust in them all completely. That was so important."

A father sitting on a hammock in the garden with his two small children
Tony with young Ben and Millie

“I would always encourage anyone to donate to The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity as it’s such a fantastic charity that has done so much for us personally as a family, it’s made a huge difference to our lives. It’s a very worthy cause.” 


Celebrate a Life is a truly wonderful way to celebrate the lives of those who are deeply special to you. By naming a star for someone special and making a donation, you are making a vital difference to the lives of cancer patients and their families.

Who will be your shining star?