Woman with cancer hosts her own wake: 'I wanted people to be able to say goodbye'

·5-min read
Heather Bone hosted her own wake after being told she only has months left to live. (SWNS)
Heather Bone hosted her own wake after being told she only has months left to live. (SWNS)

A woman with cancer decided to host her own wake so she could celebrate her life with her loved ones.

Heather Bone, 40, threw the party, which she named her “wake me up before you go-go”, to create long lasting good memories for her family, after being told she only has months left to live.

“I would hate to think people were having a party on my behalf without me - I want to join in the party," said the mum-of-two from Selsey, Sussex.

“I wanted people to be able to say goodbye. I hate it when you go to a funeral and you can't say goodbye.

“During COVID there were people who were dying and people couldn’t say goodbye to them so I just think I want to say goodbye to people and have a dance with them."

Read more: Four Symptoms GPs Want People To Get Checked Immediately

Heather Bone with her family, (L-R: Lewis, Heather, Marcus & Daniel). (SWNS)
Heather Bone with her family, (L-R: Lewis, Heather, Marcus and Daniel). (SWNS)

“I want people to be happy, I don’t want it to be a sad thing and I want people to have fun," Bone continued.

“It will give my kids some positivity, they're so young and I don’t want them to dwell on things. I want them to remember the good times.

"I'm not scared of dying but I'm scared of leaving my kids."

Bone first developed unusual swelling in her hand in 2019. At first doctors dismissed the symptom as nothing to worry about, but scans later revealed it was a symptom of cancer.

She said: ”They just sent me home and said to come back if it gets worse. I came back the next day as the swelling had gone up.

"They told me they couldn't find anything wrong."

Read more: Woman discovers 'weird' line on fingernail was actually a sign of cancer

She was given antibiotics but the swelling continued to worsen and eventually spread to her breast.

"I was sent for a two-week referral scan for breast cancer. By that time, my breast was massively swollen," she said.

"They found I had inflammatory breast cancer. I had my chemo, radiotherapy and surgery to remove the breast."

In 2018, Bone married her partner of 17 years, Daniel, at St Peter’s Church in Selsey, Sussex.

Having been given the all-clear in May 2020, she celebrated her 40th birthday during lockdown.

But by October, she was told that the cancer had come back but was now in her brain and she may only have months to live.

Instead of shrinking at the idea of her death, fun-loving Bone organised and attended her own wake which she called her "wake me up before I go-go."

Watch: Grandmother with terminal cancer witnesses granddaughter's wedding

Bone's whole family attended the "intimate" occasion which, thanks to the kindness of strangers, she barely paid a penny towards.

She appeared on ITV's This Morning where she won the 'dosh on your doorstep' competition of £1,000 which she put towards the wake.

Presenters Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield were so moved they donated another £1,000 from the show to add to the party.

What could have been a sombre occasion was a celebration of Bone's life and a chance to make memories with her family.

She was given two cakes, handmade by Bake-Off 2020 finalist Laura Adlington and cake-maker Cake Girl London.

Guests also enjoyed free drinks courtesy of Iceland, which gave Bone a £700 voucher, and a singer who offered his services for free.

Bone said she is an 'open book' and has fully explained the situation to her two sons, Lewis, 15, and Marcus, 16.

”They have known since day one. I tell them everything. I try to talk to them as much as I can," she said.

"My 16-year-old is doing his GCSEs this year. It's hard but they are doing alright."

After being diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer, Heather Bone had chemo, radiotherapy and surgery to remove the breast. (SWNS)
After being diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer, Heather Bone had chemo, radiotherapy and surgery to remove the breast. (SWNS)

The community has raised more than £9,000 for the family, which has gone towards Bone's bucket list.

In November 2020, when lockdown restrictions were lifted for the first time, the family visited The Shard and The Savoy Hotel in London, and watched The Royal Ballet.

"That was just amazing," said Bone. "It was really good to do something with the kids."

Despite suffering a seizure, Bone watched the England rugby team beat their Canadian rivals.

Bone, who has lived in Selsey for 17 years and used to work as a dinner lady at Seal Primary School, thanked the community for their support.

"People that I've never met have sent me flowers, beautiful messages and have really supported me. I want to say thank you to these people I've literally never met," she said.

"Some have taken me to hospital and turned up with gifts.

"A lady called Lucy, from Beauty Bake, did a cake sale, raising over £1,000.

"It's just been so lovely. I did not realise people were that nice. They've been amazing."

Heather Bone dressed as Wonder Woman during her cancer treatment. (SWNS)
Heather Bone dressed as Wonder Woman during her cancer treatment. (SWNS)

Inflammatory breast cancer is a rare and very aggressive disease in which cancer cells block lymph vessels in the skin of the breast, according to the National Cancer Institute.

This type of breast cancer is called 'inflammatory' because the breast often looks swollen and red, or inflamed.

Bone, who has been documenting her journey on social media, has encouraged people to "check yourself" adding: "If you know within your body that there is something wrong, don't let the doctors tell you otherwise.

"If I had accepted that they told me it was an infection, I probably would have been dead by now.

"About 1% to 5% of people who have breast cancer have Inflammatory breast cancer and it is the fastest growing type.

"Doctors don't know enough about inflammatory breast cancer unfortunately so it can be easily misdiagnosed.

"I also want to remind people to get insurance on yourself because I never did. In hindsight, I should have done."

Additional reporting SWNS

Watch: What Is inflammatory breast cancer?

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