”I’m just a normal bloke with cancer who runs a bit and not even very well!”
Ben Ashworth’s modest assessment of himself pales in comparison to what others say about him.
”Inspiring”, “legend” and “superhuman” were just some of the words used to describe the proud Prestonian as hundreds of friends and family gathered to celebrate his life.
“Many people have beaten bowel cancer because of Ben and that is a powerful legacy,” his dad Phil said. “He was determined to turn his situation into a positive and gave us the miracle of five years when doctors told him he only had six months to live.”
Ben’s drive, determination and infectious personality were the theme of last night as those touched by his ‘cancer adventure’ joined together at Blackburn Cathedral to celebrate the faith, life and love of the 37-year-old dad of three.
Having been diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2012, and given at most 12 months to live, Ben decided he wanted to make a difference and set up Ben’s Bowel Movements.
From there the Broadgate resident ran 24 marathons and countless other events raising awareness and more than £40,000 for various charities including Beating Bowel Cancer.
He shared his ‘adventure’ on Facebook and Twitter as well as in the media, seeing his story heard by thousands across the country.
And his brother Tom told stories of Ben’s fearlessness as a goalkeeper in early life. Something he said we all saw throughout his five years battling the disease.
“He was always a superhero to me,” Tom said. “Because he was my Ben and he was my brother.”
The service was organised by wife Louise alongside his three daughters Isobel, Heidi and Skye and saw everyone from running friends and work colleagues to friends and family attend.
There were even those who had never met Ben but had followed his story online.
Kath Sutton, who worked with Ben at a library in Blackburn for nine years, told a story of how he had been mistaken for a top journalist at a gig and said that showed what others already knew.
“I think they recognised his star quality,” Kath said. “A star quality which we saw his whole life.”
Others to speak included Ben’s mum Rachel, his friends, his ‘Indian uncle’ doctor Shabbir Susnerwala, Graham Liver from BBC Radio Lancashire, Mark Flannagan from Beating Bowel Cancer, television presenter Matthew Wright via video link and his “partner in crime” Fay Morne.
And in between speakers, Bishop of Blackburn Julian Henderson read ‘Ben’s words’ - a story of his ‘cancer adventure’ he had written to read to children at his old school.
The evening ended with Louise taking the stage.
“He did what he set out to achieve,” she said. “He made memories for me and the children to look back on.
“He was my husband and sometimes I was jealous because I didn’t want to share him with you all. But he had enough love to go around.”
The service ended, but not before one last selfie on Ben’s phone.
Louise shared the picture on Ben’s Bowel Movements Facebook page this morning with the message:‘Thank you Ben for everything you have given me. I am truly blessed that by some miracle our lives became inextricably intertwined. That through your love for all that is good, you have blessed me with all these family and friends to help keep you near.’