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.

I can’t believe two years have passed already. Life has gone on, however there isn’t a day where something doesn’t remind me of my brother Toby.

It’s important to mention that the death of a close family member affects everybody differently. My brother’s death has shaped me in many different ways, mainly changing my outlook on life as a whole, 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.

Although the past two years have had huge challenges and a great deal of sadness and heartbreak, I try to use it to drive me to succeed and get what I want out of my life, as I now see how precious it is. 

I know I am not the same as I was before, it has all definitely made me more sensitive, and my emotions can rise a lot quicker to the surface, but this is something I am still navigating my way through. 

I do believe that time will continue to help. 

Toby Brooker during treatment

I cope better when I am busy, so I try to focus on new hobbies that make me feel good, whether that’s going to the gym, getting outdoors or baking. 

I even found focusing hard on exams and my A levels very helpful at the time, as it was a good escape for my mind. 

It is also very healthy to allow yourself to feel sad and grieve properly at times, so I never tried to push these feelings away. Instead I confronted them and talked to someone. 

There are many things that I do to remember my brother by. Within my family, we still talk about him plenty and laugh at all of the silly things he used to do. Every time we see something he would have laughed at or enjoyed, we point it out. 

We also keep photos and videos we have of him, with fond memories that make us smile. 

Keeping certain traditions has been beneficial to my family and me 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. 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. 

As time progresses, things do get easier, but there’s no doubt that Toby will always be part of my life, and traditions like these uphold that. He is in my thoughts daily.