Wigan dad's memory lives on as wife helps others to lose weight and prevent serious illness
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Sam Fowler says her husband Adrian had been overweight for many years, was a heavy smoker and had a sedentary lifestyle – three of the leading contributory factors in ill health.
And as she continues to come to terms with his death six years ago, she is supporting other men to shed the pounds and hopefully prevent them developing cancer or other life-limiting conditions.
Sam, 56, said: “Adrian had been having problems with his stomach for quite a while and the doctor kept dismissing it as IBS. He had lost quite a bit of weight, which is a sign of cancer, but because he was so overweight, every time he went to the doctors he actually looked fit. He had lost five stone by the time he was diagnosed.”
Adrian was eventually sent for an ultrasound, which came back clear, but an MRI scan in 2016 then revealed he had stage four pancreatic cancer.
Sam said: “He was shocked. He was given a prognosis of two to four months.
"We didn’t expect anything so severe.”
It was a very aggressive form of cancer called adenocarcinoma, which was difficult to detect due to its position, and Sam believes the delays in the diagnosis meant it was more serious by the time it was found.
Adrian was given chemotherapy and even returned to his job in sales for a time, but the treatment stopped working and sadly he died on October 26, 2017.
He was 51 years old and was survived by his wife, his three children and two stepchildren.
Sam, who lives in Aspull, was devastated by his death.
She retired from her job in sales and admits she retreated into herself, not wanting to go out or speak to anyone, as she “just couldn’t be bothered with anyone or anything”.
"I just wanted to die myself,” she said.
"Your future has gone, everything you planned. I suppose most people expect to carry on working, retire, live your life and spend time with your children and grandchildren, and be together forever. Obviously you expect to die at some point, but not until you are old. But everything was stripped away and gone overnight.
"To a large extent, after the terminal diagnosis I started grieving, before he even passed away. You are always hoping and praying for a miracle, but in your brain you know it’s highly unlikely, it’s not going to happen.
"It’s absolutely devastating to live with and even now, six years later, I can’t believe it.”
Sadly, a friend who Sam had known since she was 15 took her own life in February 2018 and it was then that she decided to make a change.
Sam said: “I was still alive and Adrian was missing out on everything. I felt guilty for not living, because he was not alive and I was choosing to exist rather than live.”
She started spending time with her friends and decided to join one at a Slimming World meeting, where she could speak to other people, lose weight and have something else to focus on.
She lost three stone in total and even found herself a new career, after deciding to become a Slimming World consultant in April 2019 and help other people.
Sam said: “It forced me to get out and start speaking to people. Plus I knew obesity was linked to so many life-limiting conditions. I wanted to give back in some respect. We had really good service when Adrian was in hospital and we were treated well and I felt I wanted to give something back.
"You can never know if you have helped to save someone’s life or prevent somebody developing a life-limiting disease, but you hope that you are.”
Helping to prevent other people having cancer or other illnesses provides a huge motivation for Sam, who says she does not other wives, husbands, partners and families going through what she did.
She now has two groups – one on Mondays at Independent Methodist Church in Hindley and the other on Thursdays at St Cuthbert’s Social Club in Pemberton.
The majority of people – 93 per cent – who attend Slimming World groups are women and Sam wants more men to get involved and lose weight.
Just two men currently attend her two groups in Wigan, and she finds men often go along with their wife or partner or after being referred by a GP.
Sam said: “I think men think it’s just a women’s club. We do get the occasional man, but it is minimal.”
The first person in her group to reach target weight in October 2019 was a man and Sam hopes more men will consider joining.
She is currently supporting Andy Swift, whose doctor referred him to Slimming World in January as he was pre-diabetic. He has since lost five stone and his blood sugars are in the normal range, while his wife Anne has also got to her target weight.
She said: “I want men to know they can come. At the moment it is predominantly women, but men are very welcome.”
Sam says she has learned to live again thanks to Slimming World and is delighted to be supporting other people in memory of her husband.
"I think he would be proud I was living again,” she said. “He would be happy to know that I am helping people.
“I don’t think he would ever have joined though!”