Asbestos victims are remembered
Victims of asbestos cancer were remembered at a special service at Leicester Cathedral yesterday.
The service was held as part of the national Action Mesothelioma Day to raise awareness of the cancer and the dangers of exposure to asbestos.
Among those at the service was Pamela Howkins, whose husband, Jim, died from mesothelioma in January 2011.
Mrs Howkins, from Wigston, said: "I lost the best thing in my life – Jim – and if I can help save just one more life, by helping raise awareness of this disease, I feel I will have made a difference."
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Mr Howkins, who had been a joiner in the prison service, was 70 when he died.
He had been diagnosed with mesothelioma five earlier.
Mrs Howkins said: "We had just had a party in July to celebrate our 70th birthdays when Jim developed a slight cough.
"A few days later he really wasn't well and went to the doctor who thought he had a bit of fluid on his lungs."
At the beginning of August, following an examination by experts at Leicester's Glenfield Hospital, the family heard the devastating diagnosis that Mr Howkins had mesothelioma.
"I have never been so gob-smacked," said Mrs Howkins. "I'd never even heard the word mesothelioma. And it was downhill from there.
"By November, Jim could hardly walk, but he was determined we should take our two youngest grand-daughters, who were three and four, to Disneyland Paris, and we managed it, even though he was in a wheelchair.
"Jim died in January last year. We were very close, we had known each other for 50 years and were married for 47 of them."
Mrs Howkins attended last year's mesothelioma service at Leicester Cathedral and a similar event in Derby.
She said: "I hope that by raising awareness about the dangers of exposure to asbestos we can help save lives."
More than 140 people were remembered at the service.
Lynda Thornton, from Countesthorpe, has been organising Action Mesothelioma Day since 2006. Her husband, Roger, died on July 3, 2004.
She said: "It's an important day and, in Roger's memory, it is important to raise awareness about mesothelioma."
Speakers at the service, led by the Rev Maggie Sharpe, included the Lord Mayor of Leicester, Councillor Abdul Osman, Professor Dean Fennell, from the University of Leicester, Joanne Gordon, from the Derbyshire Asbestos Support Team and Liz Darlison, from Mesothelioma UK.
People at the event were invited to write messages which were then hung on "reflection trees" in the cathedral.