Tributes poured in yesterday to Jane Tomlinson, the tireless campaigner who raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for charity after being diagnosed with terminal cancer and who has died, seven years later, aged 43.
Mrs Tomlinson underwent a mastectomy in 1990, and in 2000 was told that her cancer was incurable and that she probably had just six months to live.
Instead of giving in to the illness, she put herself through a series of endurance tests, including marathons, triathlons and a 4,200-mile bike ride across the United States, raising a total of £1.75m for a variety of causes. She was awarded a CBE for charitable services earlier this year.
Her family announced yesterday that she had died in St Gemma's Hospital, Leeds, on Monday evening. Her husband, Mike, and children Suzanne, 21, Rebecca, 19, and Steven, 10, issued a statement promising to keep up the popular 10km race through Leeds that she inaugurated.
They said: "We are, as a family heartbroken at this loss, but we know this extends to all her family and friends. Jane has always said her family has been the greatest joy in life, and we feel honoured to have been blessed with such a wonderful person.
"The weight of this burden has been immense on all of us, but primarily Jane. We hope she is now at peace from the pain that has accompanied her for so long."
They added that it had come as a complete surprise to them when she took out gym membership soon after being told her condition was terminal. "It seemed, on the face of it, massively out of character. It is to her remarkable achievement that it became the norm."
One of her last public appearances was in June, when about 8,000 runners took part in the 10km charity run through Leeds. Though too ill to run the course, Mrs Tomlinson signalled the start of the event and waved each participant across the starting line.
She shocked some people by putting herself through events that would have been testing for people of her age even if they were fully fit. Her 63-day bike ride across America left her seriously ill, as she endured increasing pain from liver cancer. She was also disappointed that lack of interest from the US media meant she raised only £100,000, well short of what she had hoped for.
After she and her husband had completed the Great North Run in October 2002, it was announced that she would not run any more races, but concentrate on her medical treatment and spending time with the family. But the following year, she resumed her activities by cycling from John O'Groats to Land's End.
Friends and colleagues, charities and politicians joined the tributes. Leeds City Council announced that a book of condolence was being placed in the civic centre. Mark Harris, the council leader, said: "Very occasionally we are touched by an exceptional person. Somebody who in any other circumstances would be totally overwhelmed by the challenges they face. Jane Tomlinson was that sort of person. Words like 'inspiration' and 'brave' don't actually do justice to her life."
The Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, said: "Jane's mission in life was a simple one: to make the most of every day and to help others, and she not only achieved that several times over, but inspired millions of others along the way. We will remember her amazing spirit and strength and that exceptional charity work, and she will be a daily inspiration to our generation to fight on against the terrible scourge of cancer."
A public battle
May 2001: Completes 5km 'race for life' after months of chemotherapy
April 2002: Runs London marathon in 4 hours, 53 minutes
Aug 2002: First terminally ill person to complete a London triathlon
Oct 2002: Completes Great North Run in one hour, 51 minutes
March-April 2003: Cycles from John O'Groats to Land's End
April 2003: London marathon again
Aug 2003: Half Ironman triathlon: 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile cycle, 13-mile half marathon
June 2004: 2,500-mile ride from Rome to home in 36 days
Nov 2004: Full Ironman: 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile cycle, 26-mile marathon
Nov 2005: Finishes New York marathon in 5 hours 15 minutes
Summer 2006: Cycles from San Francisco to New York in 63 daysReuse content