Wigan man’s decision to donate his body leaves a lasting legacy

Warren Shaw and wife Teresa in their last photograph together, at Nottingham's Christmas market in November 2016
Warren Shaw and wife Teresa in their last photograph together, at Nottingham's Christmas market in November 2016

A Wigan man who travelled the world will make a real difference through a lasting legacy after his death.

Warren Shaw, 45, died on Boxing Day, just weeks after returning to the UK from his home in Thailand as he battled malignant melanoma.

Warren Shaw with friend and running partner Annie Smith at the end of Hua Hin Run 2015

Warren Shaw with friend and running partner Annie Smith at the end of Hua Hin Run 2015

He had decided to donate his body for medical education and research to help other people.

His wife Teresa, 46, said: “We have always been organ donors and we found out that the cancer had spread - once you have got cancer that’s not localised, you can’t be an organ donor anymore.

“We are not religious. He would say to people he was an atheist and he didn’t believe there’s anything after death, so they could have his organs.

“But when he realised he couldn’t donate his organs, he wondered what to do with his body. He had wanted to be cremated, but why burn it if it could be of use?”

He didn’t want a funeral. He wanted to celebrate the memories of his life, not have everyone standing around crying because he had died

Teresa Shaw

Teresa is also working to create a legacy in memory of her husband.

She is raising money to establish the Warren Shaw Memorial Scholarship at Stamford International University in Thailand, where Warren worked as a lecturer, and for Hogarth ward at Nottingham City Hospital, where he spent his last 11 days.

Teresa said: “The support has been fantastic. I thought if we raise £1,000, I would give £500 to the hospital and £500 to start the scholarship, and I would do more fund-raising for the scholarship once I had found out what was possible.

“It’s up to £2,500 already and we still have friends and family around the world sending in donations.

Warren Shaw and wife Teresa celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary in New Zealand in 2015

Warren Shaw and wife Teresa celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary in New Zealand in 2015

“We may be able to fund more than one scholarship the way it’s going.”

Warren was born on Prestbury Avenue, Highfield, in 1971 to Derek and Joyce Shaw and attended The Deanery CE High School.

He did karate as a child and was the youngest black belt in the UK at the age of nine.

He also enjoyed running and took part in cross country races.

He left Wigan in 1991 when he was 19 to work in the Foreign And Commonwealth Office in London as a junior diplomat.

It was there he met his future wife in 1992 and the couple were married in St Lucia in 1995.

They moved to Teresa’s home city of Nottingham in 1993 and Warren worked for HM Revenue And Customs for 12 years, before spending two years working for the NHS.

The couple enjoyed travelling and visited many countries.

And after Warren’s mother died in 2005, they decided to take a break from their jobs and travel the world.

Teresa said: “We had always wanted to travel and talked about retiring early and travelling. When his mum passed away, she was still below retirement age and it made us assess whether we wanted to wait until we were 50. We thought, what if we could pay our mortgage off and go travelling?

“Initially it was planned as a gap year, to go travelling and take a year off work. So in 2008 the plan was to take a year off, we did some volunteering in India, some teaching in Beijing, China, more volunteering in Vietnam, and travelling and volunteering in Thailand.

“By the end of it we decided maybe we quite liked the travelling and working life so we did come back to the UK for a month or maybe two and decided to go back to Thailand.

“The plan was to go there, work for a year and maybe travel a bit more and every time we needed some money, pick up a job wherever we were.”

But the couple liked Thailand and stayed there, volunteering and working.

Warren worked as training and quality manager at a hotel and a lecturer in English and hospitality.

The couple continued to travel, including going to most of the countries in south-east Asia.

However, after returning from a trip to Australia in 2011, Warren noticed changes to a mole on his arm.

Both Warren and Teresa had worked in cancer care for the NHS, so he knew to have the mole checked by a doctor.

It was removed and he was told it was malignant melanoma.

Teresa said: “We decided we wanted to stay in Thailand. We were enjoying the life. We knew the cancer could come back but we hoped he was one of the lucky ones.”

But he discovered a lump under his arm in July last year. The lump and lymph nodes under his arms were removed and he underwent radiotherapy treatment.

However, in October a scan revealed lesions of the cancer in his pancreas, bones, adrenal glands and his brain.

Warren received radiotherapy and the couple returned to the UK in November to be near their family and friends.

He was admitted to Nottingham City Hospital last month and died on Monday, December 26, leaving his wife, father and brother Phil.

He did not want a funeral and decided to give his body to the National Repository Centre in Nottingham, for medical research and training by qualified doctors.

Teresa said: “He didn’t want a funeral. He wanted to celebrate the memories of his life, not have everyone standing around crying because he had died.

“It’s comforting for me to know he got all of his last wishes.

“Hopefully there will be new, better techniques, new, better treatments and hopefully some research because he donated.”

Teresa hopes other people will consider following in her husband’s footsteps by donating their body.

She said: “I didn’t even know whether it was a legitimate option. I’m definitely going to do it myself now.

“I know other people who said they didn’t know you could do that.

“It was sold to us that when you die there are three options - burial, cremation or donation of the body. You think of the first two options but not the donation side, except maybe as an organ donor.”

She also urged people to have any skin issues checked in case they are symptoms of cancer. Teresa said: “I think a lot of people may have ignored that changing of the mole but because he worked in cancer care and had the awareness, he got it checked out.

“If he had left it longer, it could have spread five years ago. Warren had five more years because he picked it up early.”

To make a donation in memory of Warren, go to www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/teresa-shaw.

Find out more about body donation at www.nuh.nhs.uk/bodydonation and about skin cancer at www.skcin.org