Ella and Toby Brooker

There isn't a day where I'm not reminded of him

Ella Brooker


Ella knows that cancer doesn’t just affect the person who’s diagnosed – it affects the whole family. Her brother Toby was treated for lung cancer on our Cambridge unit, but sadly died in 2018. She tells us how they remember Toby as life changes without him.

4 years ago in 2018, when I was 17 years old, my older brother Toby passed away from lung cancer when he was aged 21- the same age I am now. My brother’s death has shaped me in many ways, mainly changing my outlook on life, and giving me a new perspective. I now cherish the things that I once took for granted so much more, such as my health, my ability to live and grow old, and the people around me. We still celebrate Toby every single day.

Within my family, we still talk about him plenty and laugh at all the silly things he used to do. Every time we see something he would have laughed at or enjoyed; we point it out. 

Keeping certain traditions has been beneficial to my family and I in remembering Toby. Firstly, on his birthday, the 14th of July, we celebrate by still having his favourite chocolate cake which he had every single year. He loved his food, as many young men do, so every time we have a Sunday roast, we peel a few extra potatoes as roasties were his favourite part. We also sign every card we write as a family with a ’T’ for Toby, so as not to erase him. Little things like this help us to remember him and celebrate his life.

Toby Brooker during treatment



Before Toby passed away, he achieved so much. For his 21st birthday, which we sadly knew would probably be his last, we hosted a huge party with all our friends and family at our house.Our grandparents even surprised him by flying over from abroad to attend. As an extra surprise our Grandad had shaved his head to ‘match’ Toby’s which was brilliant.

We all danced the whole night with Toby centre of the crowd. A memorable moment for everyone there was when the song Wonderwall by Oasis played at the end of the night- Toby was lifted onto the shoulders of his two best friends and everyone gathered round to sing along. He looked on top of the world.

Now, for me and many of our loved ones, whenever we hear that song, it reminds us of him. For Toby, every day of his life was a celebration. He had the most positive outlook on everything and was always so bubbly and happy despite everything he was going through. He turned even the most mundane days into something fun. I know this outlook inspired so many people around him and continues to do so.

Talk about dying

There are lots of complicated questions and issues when a young person is told that they will die from their cancer. Here you can find more stories and information about how Teenage Cancer Trust staff and people treated on our wards have negotiated some of the challenges that come about.