When Andrew Pike’s partner Sue was diagnosed with cancer, she urged him to keep running. He tells SARAH SINGLETON about the loss of the woman he planned to marry, and his ambition to run the London Marathon in her honour

Andrew Pike was on an evening out at a Swindon nightclub, 13 years ago, when a woman pushed in front of him at the bar.

“I said, sarcastically, ‘please carry on’,” he recalls. “But we got talking. Although she always denied this, later she dragged me on to the dance floor.”

Sue Jones lived in Cheltenham and was visiting friends in Swindon when this chance encounter brought them together. But this meeting marked the beginning of a journey together, through weight loss, running, a long battle with cancer, and Sue’s tragic death at the end of 2016.

Now Andrew, 53, from Haydon, is in training for the London Marathon in memory of the woman he wanted to be his wife – but who died before they had a chance to marry.

“This will be the hardest thing that I have ever done, but still nothing to the battle that cancer sufferers have every day both from the physical and mental aspects, so whatever it takes, I will finish, and I know that Sue will be with me, pushing me every step of the way,” Andrew says.

Andrew is Swindon born and bred, and works for Honda. As his relationship with Sue blossomed, he used to visit her in Cheltenham at the weekends.

“It was a slow burner, but we started living together in Swindon,” he describes. “She got a job at Ochresoft Technologies as an office manager. When she started working there, she would stay with me a few nights, but in 2013 she made the jump and moved in permanently. All was going swimmingly well.”

The following year, both Sue and Andrew decided they needed to lose weight.

“I’d always been a bit overweight,” Andrew recalls. “After we’d made the decision, we started off rather stupidly by eating just bread and soup for two weeks – we didn’t really research it. Then I got an app that helped us count calories, and we started cutting out rubbish, and the weight started to fall off.”

Sue lost an incredible three and a half stone in a year – but Andrew lost more than six stone in nine months, falling from 18st 7lbs to around 12st. It changed his life – and his wardrobe.

“I felt fantastic,” he says. “To be able to wear nice clothes instead of just practical clothes. And I’d started running by that time, following an off the cuff remark from someone that I’d have to check out the couch to 5k training. I thought I would give it a go!”

Andrew had never done any running in his life – he says he even avoided it at school, bunking off whenever it was time for cross-country. But he followed the couch to 5k training, which starts off very gently, and by the end of nine weeks, he could run for half an hour. Then there was no stopping him.

But everything was about to change.

In November, the couple went to a Morrissey concert at the O2 in London. What should have been a treat turned out badly, because Sue did not feel well. She went to the doctor’s the following week, then went to hospital. After an ultrasound and an MRI scan, it was discovered she had a large tumour on her ovaries, and smaller tumours in her stomach lining.

“First of all, we thought it was probably nothing to worry about, and she went on her own to the scan. But the diagnosis was a hell of a shock,” Andrew says. “She took it well. She wouldn’t tell anyone until after Christmas, because she didn’t want to spoil it for people.”

Sue had three sessions of chemotherapy, then a major operation to remove the tumours, and three more sessions of chemo.

“It used to drain her, and she lost more weight. She lost her hair,” he says. “At the end the results were good, and she went back to work. But at the three-month check-up, they found the tumours had come back.

“She took the attitude that she would fight it again. She had more chemotherapy, and she had to stay in hospital for several weeks. I was running through all of this. She said to do it. It meant getting up at 4.30am and running before work, so I could go to the hospital and see her after work. I have to say they were fantastic at the Great Western Hospital.”

Andrew did the Swindon Half Marathon in 2015, and the Two Castles run with Sue’s sister Trish Eel. But Sue was not improving and on November 17, treatment was stopped, and she was moved to Prospect Hospice.

“She insisted on telling everyone herself – she was incredibly brave, treating it as a matter of fact,” he says. “She said, the treatment is stopping, and I am going to die.

“We were told she might have a few weeks, and we agreed we would get married. But she died on November 20, 2016. It was peaceful in the end.”

Andrew ran several events during 2017 to raise funds for Prospect, including a mountain run in Portugal, the Swindon and Cheltenham half marathons and a few 10km runs. And in memory of Sue, the organisers of each event allowed him to run with the race number, 1605 – which was Sue’s date of birth.

“As my running progressed, Sue wanted to see me run in the ultimate race and encouraged me to enter the London Marathon. Unfortunately, I never made it through the ballot for Sue to support me – so this year I decided to accept a charity place offered to me by the Openwork Foundation, who provide care for children both in this country and abroad,” Andrew says.

He is raising money for Cares4Kids, through the Zurich Community Trust and has a target of at least £1400. Training is well underway, and he is already running 25 to 30 miles a week, which will build up to 45 miles a week nearer the time of the race, in April.

Andrew said his daughter Daisy, who is studying to be a nurse at Southampton University, was also proud of his achievement.

“I enjoy running. I know how much it benefits me. It makes me healthier – and I can eat a bit more without worrying so much. My whole lifestyle has changed. Running becomes part of normal life. It enables you to do so much, to meet people – it’s amazing.”

He says: “The last year without Sue has been very difficult, but with the support of my many friends I am coping with the loss.”

And the bereavement has changed his own attitude to life: “Losing Sue shows how cruel and how short life can be, so you have to get on and do what you want to do.”

Andrew recently travelled to Los Angeles to see a concert, and said he was determined to make the most of all the time he has.

“If I want to run in another race somewhere around the world, I will do it,” he says.

“Sue had a cracking sense of humour, and she was the most sarcastic person you would wish to meet. She was bubbly and always positive.

“She didn’t like confrontation, and she’d had her struggles in life, but she was such a glass half full type of person and a damned hard worker.”

To sponsor Andrew, visit: mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/andrewpike1.