Beloved headteacher dies year after going to doctor with ‘stitch’
Ros Atkins passed away from cancer last October
An “inspirational headteacher” died after going to the doctors with a “stitch-like pain”. Ros Atkins passed away on October 3, 2022, one year after being diagnosed with stage-four terminal bowel cancer.
The 43-year-old had been on holiday with her husband John and their daughter Maggie, then six, in Scotland when she first started experiencing pain on the right side of her body, which felt like a stitch.
Ros, from Gateacre, Liverpool, thought she might have pulled a muscle while sleeping in different hotel beds at the time, but when the pain got worse on returning home, she booked an appointment to see her GP.
She then underwent a number of scans and tests, and after a colonoscopy at St Helens Hospital, Ros was diagnosed with stage-four terminal bowel cancer and told secondary cancer cells had also spread to her liver and lymph nodes.
It was at this time that Ros was told the devastating news at Whiston Hospital that she had between 18 months and five years to live, reports The Liverpool Echo.
Ros with her daughter, Maggie
Following her death, husband John, 42, told how his wife “was like a light that never goes out”.
He added: “She was a real beacon to us, to all our family and friends she’s an inspiration.
“Even though she’s not here, we still talk about her and celebrate her and remember her, and I don’t see that ever changing.
“We met at St Martin’s College and were together for 22 years, but we knew each other for 25.
“She lived in a girls’ flat above our lads’ flat, and from the first day we met we hung around in a big group; we stuck together from day one.”
The loving mum was also described by school governors as “a well-respected and much-loved headteacher” who “enriched the lives of many children with her caring nature, encouraging all to be the best version of themselves.”
As her health declined Ros was looked after by the Marie Curie Hospice in Woolton, and this year, on March 23, John, his friends and family, celebrated her life as part of the Marie Curie’s third National Day of Reflection.
Buildings across the city, including the majestic Liver and Cunard buildings, were illuminated in the charity’s signature bright yellow in memory of those who have died of cancer, while Weston Primary School pupils decorated their school gates with yellow ribbons.
Speaking ahead of the event, John said: “It’s been a difficult few months, but the Marie Curie appeal has given me something to focus on.
“We’re passionate about supporting them, and all our friends and family are supporting them in various ways, whether that’s running marathons, knitting, or holding business lunches.
“That’s why Thursday is such an important day for us. It’s a chance for us all to come together and remember Ros.”
Ros with daughter Maggie and husband John
John said he struggled with the thought of his wife in a hospice and had a misconception as to what it would be like
He added: “I never, ever wanted to set foot in Marie Curie.
“My misconception was that it was a place you’d never want to go to, but it’s an unbelievable place in many respects.
“While you’re in there they can’t do enough for you.
“Initially their priority was to manage Ros’ pain, and they were able to devote more time and care than she would’ve had in a normal hospital.
“There was nothing they wouldn’t try. That went not just for Ros, but anyone who went in there.
“What I’m most grateful for is the continuation of their support for Maggie and myself.
“That’s why we want to give something back. It’s important to us. It’s part of our life story now. I’d rather embrace it.
“One of the final things that made me in awe of them was that Ros would have turned 44 on October 11.
“She passed away on the 3rd, but the nurses knew what was coming and they suggested bringing her birthday forward to celebrate it.
“We had a little party, put the telly on, put some music on. Little things like that goes far beyond what a normal nurse would do.
“Even the day Ros passed, they went out of their way to go above and beyond for us. They’re all just amazing.
“We always had a little October holiday with our close friends, which we called Octoberfest.
“This year we’ve called it Rosfest, because that’s the power she had over our friendship group. “
John and Maggie will also feature in the BBC Lifeline Appeal on BBC1 at 12.05pm, Sunday, March 26, to show their support for the Marie Curie Hospice in Woolton, Liverpool, where Ros spent her final days.
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