Rugby says goodbye to brave Gail Dunkley who fought to help others while battling cancer

Gail Dunkley completed the Race for Life with her beloved dogs while she was ill
Gail Dunkley completed the Race for Life with her beloved dogs while she was ill

A brave and resilient woman who raised awareness of cancer while battling with the ‘evil disease’ has passed away.

Tributes have flooded in for Gail Dunkley, who was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer and secondary bone cancer in October 2014.

Gail Dunkley

Gail Dunkley

She knew her cancer couldn’t be cured but Gail was determined to raise awareness of the disease and raise vital funds in the hope of one day finding a cure.

Gail passed away peacefully on July 21 aged 43.

Speaking to the Advertiser in June, Gail said: “I don’t know if I will win the fight and I don’t know when the fight will end, but I’m determined to make the most of things and give something back.

“It’s important that people are aware of how this disease - the most evil thing in the world - can affect a person, not just them, but their whole world and everyone around them.”

She was a very brave lady and leaves us with heavy hearts but we have comfort from you all with your support

Gail’s family

Hundreds of people have paid tribute to Gail and her efforts to help others even during her own struggle.

Gail’s family said they had been ‘left with heavy hearts’ but were comforted by the overwhelming support.

“We are enormously saddened and heartbroken from the loss of our Gail, her fight was a short one and her life cut short too soon. We have comfort knowing that all that was possible was done for her and she passed peacefully with us by her side. She was a very brave lady and leaves us with heavy hearts but we have comfort from you all with your support – for this we thank you all so very much.”

Close friends had been helping Gail organise a Big Strawberry Tea Party on August 22 to raise money for Breast Cancer Care. The event will go ahead as planned and raise money in Gail’s honour.

Gail Dunkley

Gail Dunkley

The Big Strawberry Tea Party will be held at The Bull Inn, Clifton, from 2pm to 6pm but organisers hope it will continue into the evening.

The fundraiser is a ticket-only event and tickets cost £5 (including a raffle ticket) and can be purchased from The Bull Inn, Clifton Village Stores or Experience Hair Design in Sheep Street from Monday August 3. Organisers are printing 650 tickets only - 50 will be reserved for the day but guests are urged to buy their tickets in advance.

Anyone who would like to make a donation to Breast Cancer Care can go to www.justgiving.com/Caroline-Turner9/

Her family added: “This charity event will continue, the event that she started purely to raise awareness to others on the importance of acting early to breast change, has grown beyond her wildest beliefs.

Gail Dunkley

Gail Dunkley

“What was first planned as a small garden party with friends has been supported by so many others and expanded to something we never dreamed off.

“The awareness of this charity and the funds raised will go to help other people and their families and it would never have been possible without your support, generosity and kindness.

“For those of you that knew her, you will know Gail knew how to have fun and even though we may have tears for her now, this event will remind us of the fun and laughter she brought wherever she went, but above all it will support a great cause and help so many others.

“We would like to thank you all so very, very much, with special thanks to Caroline and Nickie for running the web page. You all have a special place in our hearts, and Gail and we are so very proud of all that has been donated and given for this event.”

One of Gail’s closest friends, Caroline Turner, said her smile was infectious.

“My friend was so much fun, she said it exactly as it was and I loved her for that.

Gail Dunkley

Gail Dunkley

“Gail was strong and independent. She loved her dogs and they loved her. She was a girlie girl, kind and full of laughter, her smile was infectious.

“She was a tough nut to crack but if you did, you made a friend for life.

“I miss her and she will be in my heart always.”

Gail was often fondly referred to as ‘bird’ by friends and colleagues at Nationwide Platforms in Lutterworth.

Emma Baalham, who worked with Gail, said: “What a lady. She had a wicked sense of humour and knew how to make you smile. Gail loved everyone ‘lots like jelly tots’ - sleep well, bird.”

Antonietta Di Giovanni Brigginshaw said: “Gail was my next door neighbour for 17 years and I could not have wished for a better person than Gail. A beautiful person inside and out, and she loved animals, especially her dogs. A true friend who cared for everyone, you’ve got the best, sacred angels, take care of our Gail. See you in my dreams my lovely.”

Stacey Ivey said: “Gail was a truly inspirational lady who we had the privilege to know through her sister and her love of dogs. We will always remember her for her kind, bubbly nature and the fun we had watching all our dogs play. Forever in our thoughts.”

Gail had also taken on the Race for Life with ‘Gail’s Girls’ and her beloved dogs in a bid to raise £100 for charity. So far her Just Giving page has reached £2,590, with more donations coming in.

Speaking to the Advertiser in June, Gail said: “It’s scary to think that one day the doctors will probably say that there’s nothing left to try, that’s why raising money for research is so important.

“I’ve had to accept that it is how it is and I need to make the most of each day.”

After appearing on the front page of the Advertiser on June 4, Gail’s inspiring story managed to save someone’s life.

A former Rugby resident, who did not wish to be named, had been experiencing chest pains and assumed it was related to her heart condition.

But after reading Gail’s story, she decided to take her advice and get checked over by her doctor.

Her GP discovered she had breast cancer and fortunately it was found early enough to be treated.

She said: “Gail saved my life. If it wasn’t for reading her story, I would have never considered that it could have been breast cancer. I am so glad I went when I did and it was all down to Gail being brave enough to stand up and tell her story.

“I hope others have been helped by Gail’s bravery.”

Gail’s funeral will be held at Rainsbrook Crematorium on Saturday August 1 at 10am.

An early tea will follow at the Bell Inn, High Street, Hillmorton, from 11-1pm where friends and family can share their memories of Gail.

She is being cared for by the Co-operative Funeral Service in Bilton Road and people can say goodbyes to her there by appointment only.

Gail Dunkley

Gail Dunkley