Empty Chairs - Alison Williamson
Currently, thanks to advances in research and treatments, three out of four people diagnosed with blood cancer in Northern Ireland survive. But one doesn’t.
Alison Williamson, from Markethill in Armagh, is one of those people. She was diagnosed with Hepatosplenic T-cell Lymphoma in 2015 and died nine months later, leaving behind her husband Barry and two children, Rhys (9) and Mya (13).
Alison was a much-loved member of the community. A classroom assistant at Tandragee Primary School, she was well-known for her enthusiasm, energy, and mischievous sense of humour. She had a zest for life and was fiercely positive, no matter what challenge life threw at her.
Towards the end of 2014, Alison began to feel unwell. She saw her weight drop rapidly, closely followed by her energy levels. In August 2015, after numerous tests, she was diagnosed with Hepatosplenic T-cell Lymphoma, a rare and aggressive form of blood cancer.
After her diagnosis, Alison endured 50 days of chemotherapy, as well as a stem cell transplant. She moved from Craigavon Hospital, to Dublin, and finally City Hospital in Belfast. At one stage she was taking 53 tablets a day, but she never complained. It wasn’t in her nature. Alison was prepared to undergo any treatments available which would give her the chance to spend more time with her family.
On May 14th 2016, in the Intensive Care Unit of City Hospital and nine months after her initial diagnosis, Alison died. She is sorely missed by those close to her, who hold the memory of her love, her smile and shining personality in their hearts. She showed amazing courage throughout her illness and was an inspiration to many people.
Since Alison’s death, her husband Barry has embarked on an extensive fundraising mission to keep her memory alive. It began with a ‘Night at the Races’ evening in the Armagh Rugby Club, and then in October last year Barry, along with his two brothers, cousin and friends, climbed the four highest mountains in the UK within a 48 hour period to raise awareness. Most recently, Barry and three friends completed 54 miles across the Scottish Highlands in just 24 hours.
Barry will continue to fundraise to celebrate Alison’s life and by doing so, help others suffering from blood cancer.
Three out of four people now survive blood cancer. But for that one in four, there’s still a lot to do. Funds raised by Leukaemia & Lymphoma NI pay for the pioneering work of a team of researchers in Belfast. Blood cancer treatment is their only focus.
Alison’s story is the last in our #EmptyChairs series. Throughout this year we have shared the stories of nine people who have survived blood cancer, alongside three who didn’t, represented by a series of poignant empty chairs.
We’d love it if you shared Alison’s story, spread the word and help support our work. Together, we can help reduce the number of empty chairs created by blood cancer.