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Rob Dawson

20 March 2018

Rob Dawson collage

Rob wrote the following blog post in July last year, three days before he lost his mum, Carole, to ovarian cancer.  While her loss has been devastating, Rob has tried to channel his energy into fundraising for our research projects, paying tribute to the amazing woman who always supported him and let him be himself.

“Cancer is unfair. It's the worst kind of thief — one that laughs at your possessions but finds who you care about most of all and steals her instead.

Cancer is: 

  • Secretly recording your mum talking because you know you're going to lose her and you want to keep her voice.
  • Crying on a crowded train with people staring strangely and wanting to shout to tell them why but having to stare out of the window until it stops instead. 
  • Finding someone you can talk to about death, because we don't talk about death. 
  • Looking at friends who have been through this in a whole new way. 
  • Talking about holidays you know you won't have because treatment has stopped working and hope is all that's left. 
  • Making a playlist called 'Mum' that's full of sad songs even though she is the person who made you happiest of all.
  • Hearing her tell you that she has devoted herself to you and your brother and is most sad that she won't witness any more of your life and what you will become.
  • The lump in the back of your throat almost stopping you from breathing because you've been trying not to cry for so long.
  • Watching her fight for over two years without the physical strength because the tumours were so big they caused a stroke as well. 

But even with the pain and the anger, when I think of her and everything she did — not only for me but for the other kids she helped and who call her mum too — I can still smile. 

When I was in my first year of sixth form and still figuring out what being gay was, a friend asked me to go to a drag club for his birthday. I went home and told Mum I was going to London to a club... dressed as a woman. She looked at me and I could see that she was worried. But she took a breath, smiled and said, "what about Cher?" She even found me some shoes. No matter what I did she was there by my side saying, "I love you."

We went through several of those moments as she watched her little boy present her with challenges she could never have prepared for.

And every time she responded with a perfect balance of caring for my safety while letting me be myself. I always knew she was there if anything happened or if I needed to talk. She checked in constantly. 

I remember feeling shocked when I found out that other people's parents abandoned them because they were gay or different. It was such a non-issue for me it felt alien that someone might try to stop you from being yourself. I was allowed to be me, learn from my mistakes and get support when I needed it. 

"I never felt afraid of being different, I never felt like the ugly duckling because my mother was a swan. "

Rob Dawson

She had the biggest heart. 

I didn't need a guardian angel because she was there. A bird looking after her fledgling.

When I was afraid of new challenges - like a frightened chick at the edge of the nest needing encouragement to jump - she'd always say, "It'll be OK".

And if I took that leap into the unknown I always knew she was there next to me whispering, "you got this". 

Buy most importantly, when I was ready, she watched me sail into the world and didn't hold me back. Didn't judge or question. Just gave me everything I needed to follow the stars and the strength to stay aloft, "It'll be OK. You got this."

I made a lot of wrong turns. A lot. But she taught me that I would never discover my place in the world if I followed formation with the other birds. And so I never felt afraid of being different, I never felt like the ugly duckling because my mother was a swan.  

I've sat with her, the last two years, with her broken wings. Sat in our nest wanting so hard to give her back some of that strength. To lift her wings and whisper, "it'll be OK, you got this."

As much as I knew this day would come I pushed it as far to the back of mind as I could. She would NEVER fly away. 

Watching her fade into the distance is the hardest thing that has ever happened to me. It hurts like you can't imagine. Physically hurts. Like someone has their hand around your heart and is squeezing everything out. Everything you ever had.

I've never had to fly without her and I don't know if I can. She always lifted me. Always. 

But I promise you Mum. I will stand at the edge of the nest again. I promise to fly into this new unknown. I promise to sail higher than you've ever seen to make you proud. Because deep down I know that you are still there and you will still catch me if I fall.

I'm sure you left during Pride on purpose so the world was full of rainbows to lift our spirits. 

The most beautiful swan of them all. I don't want you to go.


In 2017, I completed 12 fundraising challenges for Ovarian Cancer Action, including: going sober for a month, shaving my head, running, cycling, and taking part in Walk In Her Name and Box2Beat Cancer events.

I'd watched Mum fighting ovarian cancer and realised that even 12 challenges was nothing compared to what she was going through. Nothing compared to having to cope mentally and physically with a cancer that was found too late to help her. 

We've raised nearly £5k now to help scientists find new ways of defeating ovarian cancer. 

Her name is now on the wall of the Ovarian Cancer Research Centre helping to make sure fewer families have to go through what we have.

Getting her name on the wall made every one of the challenges so worthwhile."

Find out how you can add a loved one's name to the Tribute Wall at the Ovarian Cancer Action Research Centre