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Grandmother, 90, ‘cheated death’ for 21 years after husband kept terminal cancer diagnosis secret

Rosie Gamp and husband Melvin (Supplied )
Rosie Gamp and husband Melvin (Supplied )

A London grandmother “cheated death” for two decades after her husband kept a terminal cancer diagnosis secret.

Rosie Gamp, 90, was able to enjoy 21 precious years watching her family grow up in blissful ignorance due to Melvin’s act of love.

Mrs Gamp, from Edgware, knew she had cancer - but would have been “petrified” finding out she was dying after it killed four sisters and a close friend.

When she passed away, her death certificate recorded kidney disease in April 1, 2021.

But Mr Gamp, her husband of 67 years, only told their children, six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren the truth in a heartfelt eulogy at the funeral of his “Jewish Princess”, MailOnline first reported.

He told the Standard: “Rosie was delighted with the long life she eventually lived.

“She didn’t know she was supposed to have died - and that was the whole point. She was my princess.

“It came as a surprise to everyone else when I told them. I didn’t tell the adult children. Why mess up their lives with worry?”

Shorthand typist Mrs Gamp was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999 - a month after alerting medics to a small lump under her right armpit found while on a beach in Portugal.

After a biopsy, a specialist rang the family home to break the news it was terminal.

Mr Gamp, who knew her four sisters were all struck down by cancer, took the call, adding: “The specialist said: ‘I’m sorry Melvin, I can’t do any more for you. I’ll get on to your surgery and arrange palliative care’.

“The ground almost gave way under me. Rosie was in close proximity to me in the kitchen. But I couldn’t have a conversation with the guy because I didn’t want her to hear.

“The doctor actually knew Rosie had already lost four sisters to breast cancer. One of her best friends died of lung cancer. She was petrified of even the mention of the word cancer.

Rosie Gamp and husband Melvin (Supplied)
Rosie Gamp and husband Melvin (Supplied)

“Before the results, I said to the specialist, ‘You must tell me first’ and he said, ‘I quite understand’.”

When Mrs Gamp did ask her husband who had been on the phone, he replied truthfully but merely told her specialists didn’t have results yet.

Under medical guidelines, doctors should ask for consent before disclosing personal information about any patient, including someone’s spouse.

Mrs Gamp was offered radiotherapy and chemotherapy for her cancer but not knowing it was terminal, she refused.

Using a computer gifted as a birthday present, Mr Gamp began researching medical trials across the world.

He found one a 30-minute drive from his home - Middlesex Hospital’s anastrozole experiment spearheaded by Dr Jeffrey Tobias, a renowned breast cancer oncologist. It is now credited with prolonging the life of Mrs Gamp.

Trials have shown anastrozole, first approved for use in Britain in 2006, is even more effective than wonder drug tamoxifen and has fewer side effects.

Anastrozole, branded as Arimidex, is a hormone therapy given to women who have been diagnosed with early breast cancer and can reduce the risk of it coming back.

In November, the NHS announced some 289,000 post-menopausal women at risk of breast cancer would be offered anastrozole to drastically cut their chances of developing the disease.

NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard said at the time: “It’s fantastic that this vital risk-reducing option could now help thousands of women and their families avoid the distress of a breast cancer diagnosis.

“Allowing more women to live healthier lives, free of breast cancer is truly remarkable, and we hope that licensing anastrozole for a new use today represents the first step to ensuring this risk-reducing option can be accessed by all who could benefit from it.

“This is the first drug to be repurposed though a world-leading new programme to help us realise the full potential of existing medicines in new uses to save and improve more lives on the NHS.

“Thanks to this initiative, we hope that greater access to anastrozole could enable more women to take risk-reducing steps if they’d like to, helping them live without fear of breast cancer.”